By LOUIS ANTOINE FAUVELET DE BOURRIENNE
His Private Secretary
Edited by R. W. Phipps
Colonel, Late Royal Artillery
Notes and Introduction
Chapter I. to Chapter IV., 1797
In introducing the present edition of M. de Bourrienne's Memoirs to the public we are bound, as Editors, to say a few Words on the subject. Agreeing, however, with Horace Walpole that an editor should not dwell for any length of time on the merits of his author, we shall touch but lightly on this part of the matter. We are the more ready to abstain since the great success in England of the former editions of these Memoirs, and the high reputation they have acquired on the European Continent, and in every part of the civilised world where the fame of Bonaparte has ever reached, sufficiently establish the merits of M. de Bourrienne as a biographer. These merits seem to us to consist chiefly in an anxious desire to be impartial, to point out the defects as well as the merits of a most wonderful man; and in a peculiarly graphic power of relating facts and anecdotes. With this happy faculty Bourrienne would have made the life of almost any active individual interesting; but the subject of which the most favourable circumstances permitted him to treat was full of events and of the most extraordinary facts. The hero of his story was such a being as the world has produced only on the rarest occasions, and the complete counterpart to whom has, probably, never existed; for there are broad shades of difference between Napoleon and Alexander, Caesar, and Charlemagne; neither will modern history furnish more exact parallels, since Gustavus Adolphus, Frederick the Great, Cromwell, Washington, or Bolivar bear but a small resemblance to Bonaparte either in character, fortune, or extent of enterprise. For fourteen years, to say nothing of his projects in the East, the history of Bonaparte was the history of all Europe!
With the copious materials he possessed, M. de Bourrienne has produced a work which, for deep interest, excitement, and amusement, can scarcely be paralleled by any of the numerous and excellent memoirs for which the literature of France is so justly celebrated.
M. de Bourrienne shows us the hero of Marengo and Austerlitz in his night-gown and slippers—with a 'trait de plume' he, in a hundred instances, places the real man before us, with all his personal habits and peculiarities of manner, temper, and conversation.
The friendship between Bonaparte and Bourrienne began in boyhood, at the school of Brienne, and their unreserved intimacy continued during the most brilliant part of Napoleon's career. We have said enough, the motives for his writing this work and his competency for the task will be best explained in M. de Bourrienne's own words, which the reader will find in the Introductory Chapter.
M. de Bourrienne says little of Napoleon after his first abdication and retirement to Elba in 1814: we have endeavoured to fill up the chasm thus left by following his hero through the remaining seven years of his life, to the "last scenes of all" that ended his "strange, eventful history," —to his deathbed and alien grave at St. Helena. A completeness will thus be given to the work which it did not before possess, and which we hope will, with the other additions and improvements already alluded to, tend to give it a place in every well-selected library, as one of the most satisfactory of all the lives of Napoleon.
The Memoirs of the time of Napoleon may be divided into two classes— those by marshals and officers, of which Suchet's is a good example, chiefly devoted to military movements, and those by persons employed in the administration and in the Court, giving us not only materials for history, but also valuable details of the personal and inner life of the great Emperor and of his immediate surroundings. Of this latter class the Memoirs of Bourrienne are among the most important.
Long the intimate and personal friend of Napoleon both at school and from the end of the Italian campaigns in 1797 till 1802—working in the same room with him, using the same purse, the confidant of most of his schemes, and, as his secretary, having the largest part of all the official and private correspondence of the time passed through his hands, Bourrienne occupied an invaluable position for storing and recording materials for history. The Memoirs of his successor, Meneval, are more those of an esteemed private secretary; yet, valuable and interesting as they are, they want the peculiarity of position which marks those of Bourrienne, who was a compound of secretary, minister, and friend. The accounts of such men as Miot de Melito, Raederer, etc., are most valuable, but these writers were not in that close contact with Napoleon enjoyed by Bourrienne. Bourrienne's position was simply unique, and we can only regret that he did not occupy it till the end of the Empire. Thus it is natural that his Memoirs should have been largely used by historians, and to properly understand the history of the time, they must be read by all students. They are indeed full of interest for every one. But they also require to be read with great caution. When we meet with praise of Napoleon, we may generally believe it, for, as Thiers (Consulat., ii. 279) says, Bourrienne need be little suspected on this side, for although he owed everything to Napoleon, he has not seemed to remember it. But very often in passages in which blame is thrown on Napoleon, Bourrienne speaks, partly with much of the natural bitterness of a former and discarded friend, and partly with the curious mixed feeling which even the brothers of Napoleon display in their Memoirs, pride in the wonderful abilities evinced by the man with whom he was allied, and jealousy at the way in which he was outshone by the man he had in youth regarded as inferior to himself. Sometimes also we may even suspect the praise. Thus when Bourrienne defends Napoleon for giving, as he alleges, poison to the sick at Jaffa, a doubt arises whether his object was to really defend what to most Englishmen of this day, with remembrances of the deeds and resolutions of the Indian Mutiny, will seem an act to be pardoned, if not approved; or whether he was more anxious to fix the committal of the act on Napoleon at a time when public opinion loudly blamed it. The same may be said of his defence of the massacre of the prisoners of Jaffa.
Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne was born in 1769, that is, in the same year as Napoleon Bonaparte, and he was the friend and companion of the future Emperor at the military school of Brienne-le-Chateau till 1784, when Napoleon, one of the sixty pupils maintained at the expense of the State, was passed on to the Military School of Paris. The friends again met in 1792 and in 1795, when Napoleon was hanging about Paris, and when Bourrienne looked on the vague dreams of his old schoolmate as only so much folly. In 1796, as soon as Napoleon had assured his position at the head of the army of Italy, anxious as ever to surround himself with known faces, he sent for Bourrienne to be his secretary. Bourrienne had been appointed in 1792 as secretary of the Legation at Stuttgart, and had, probably wisely, disobeyed the orders given him to return, thus escaping the dangers of the Revolution. He only came back to Paris in 1795, having thus become an emigré. He joined Napoleon in 1797, after the Austrians had been beaten out of Italy, and at once assumed the office of secretary which he held for so long. He had sufficient tact to forbear treating the haughty young General with any assumption of familiarity in public, and he was indefatigable enough to please even the never-resting Napoleon. Talent Bourrienne had in abundance; indeed he is careful to hint that at school if any one had been asked to predict greatness for any pupil, it was Bourrienne, not Napoleon, who would have been fixed on as the future star. He went with his General to Egypt, and returned with him to France. While Napoleon was making his formal entry into the Tuilleries, Bourrienne was preparing the cabinet he was still to share with the Consul. In this cabinet—our cabinet, as he is careful to call it—he worked with the First Consul till 1802.
During all this time the pair lead lives on terms of equality and friendship creditable to both. The secretary neither asked for nor received any salary: when he required money, he simply dipped into the cash-box of the First Consul. As the whole power of the State gradually passed into the hands of the Consul, the labours of the secretary became heavier. His successor broke down under a lighter load, and had to receive assistance; but, perhaps borne up by the absorbing interest of the work and the great influence given by his post, Bourrienne stuck to his place, and to all appearance might, except for himself, have come down to us as the companion of Napoleon during his whole life. He had enemies, and one of them—[Boulay de la Meurthe.]—has not shrunk from describing their gratification at the disgrace of the trusted secretary. Any one in favour, or indeed in office, under Napoleon was the sure mark of calumny for all aspirants to place; yet Bourrienne might have weathered any temporary storm raised by unfounded reports as successfully as Meneval, who followed him. But Bourrienne's hands were not clean in money matters, and that was an unpardonable sin in any one who desired to be in real intimacy with Napoleon. He became involved in the affairs of the House of Coulon, which failed, as will be seen in the notes, at the time of his disgrace; and in October 1802 he was called on to hand over his office to Meneval, who retained it till invalided after the Russian campaign.
As has been said, Bourrienne would naturally be the mark for many accusations, but the conclusive proof of his misconduct—at least for any one acquainted with Napoleon's objection and dislike to changes in office, whether from his strong belief in the effects of training, or his equally strong dislike of new faces round him—is that he was never again employed near his old comrade; indeed he really never saw the Emperor again at any private interview, except when granted the naval official reception in 1805, before leaving to take up his post at Hamburg, which he held till 1810. We know that his re-employment was urged by Josephine and several of his former companions. Savary himself says he tried his advocacy; but Napoleon was inexorable to those who, in his own phrase, had sacrificed to the golden calf.
Sent, as we have said, to Hamburg in 1805, as Minister Plenipotentiary to the Duke of Brunswick, the Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and to the Hanse towns, Bourrienne knew how to make his post an important one. He was at one of the great seats of the commerce which suffered so fearfully from the Continental system of the Emperor, and he was charged to watch over the German press. How well he fulfilled this duty we learn from Metternich, who writes in 1805: "I have sent an article to the newspaper editors in Berlin and to M. de Hofer at Hamburg. I do not know whether it has been accepted, for M. Bourrienne still exercises an authority so severe over these journals that they are always submitted to him before they appear, that he may erase or alter the articles which do not please him."
His position at Hamburg gave him great opportunities for both financial and political intrigues. In his Memoirs, as Meneval remarks, he or his editor is not ashamed to boast of being thanked by Louis XVIII. at St. Ouen for services rendered while he was the minister of Napoleon at Hamburg. He was recalled in 1810, when the Hanse towns were united, or, to use the phrase of the day, re-united to the Empire. He then hung about Paris, keeping on good terms with some of the ministers—Savary, not the most reputable of them, for example. In 1814 he was to be found at the office of Lavallette, the head of the posts, disguising, his enemies said, his delight at the bad news which was pouring in, by exaggerated expressions of devotion. He is accused of a close and suspicious connection with Talleyrand, and it is odd that when Talleyrand became head of the Provisional Government in 1814, Bourrienne of all persons should have been put at the head of the posts. Received in the most flattering manner by Louis XVIII, he was as astonished as poor Beugnot was in 1815, to find himself on 13th May suddenly ejected from office, having, however, had time to furnish post-horses to Manbreuil for the mysterious expedition, said to have been at least known to Talleyrand, and intended certainly for the robbery of the Queen of Westphalia, and probably for the murder of Napoleon.
In the extraordinary scurry before the Bourbons scuttled out of Paris in 1814, Bourrienne was made Prefet of the Police for a few days, his tenure of that post being signalised by the abortive attempt to arrest Fouché, the only effect of which was to drive that wily minister into the arms of the Bonapartists.
He fled with the King, and was exempted from the amnesty proclaimed by Napoleon. On the return from Ghent he was made a Minister of State without portfolio, and also became one of the Council. The ruin of his finances drove him out of France, but he eventually died in a madhouse at Caen.
When the Memoirs first appeared in 1829 they made a great sensation. Till then in most writings Napoleon had been treated as either a demon or as a demi-god. The real facts of the case were not suited to the tastes of either his enemies or his admirers. While the monarchs of Europe had been disputing among themselves about the division of the spoils to be obtained from France and from the unsettlement of the Continent, there had arisen an extraordinarily clever and unscrupulous man who, by alternately bribing and overthrowing the great monarchies, had soon made himself master of the mainland. His admirers were unwilling to admit the part played in his success by the jealousy of his foes of each other's share in the booty, and they delighted to invest him with every great quality which man could possess. His enemies were ready enough to allow his military talents, but they wished to attribute the first success of his not very deep policy to a marvellous duplicity, apparently considered by them the more wicked as possessed by a parvenu emperor, and far removed, in a moral point of view, from the statecraft so allowable in an ancient monarchy. But for Napoleon himself and his family and Court there was literally no limit to the really marvellous inventions of his enemies. He might enter every capital on the Continent, but there was some consolation in believing that he himself was a monster of wickedness, and his Court but the scene of one long protracted orgie.
There was enough against the Emperor in the Memoirs to make them comfortable reading for his opponents, though very many of the old calumnies were disposed of in them. They contained indeed the nearest approximation to the truth which had yet appeared. Metternich, who must have been a good judge, as no man was better acquainted with what he himself calls the "age of Napoleon," says of the Memoirs: "If you want something to read, both interesting and amusing, get the Memoires de Bourrienne. These are the only authentic Memoirs of Napoleon which have yet appeared. The style is not brilliant, but that only makes them the more trustworthy." Indeed, Metternich himself in his own Memoirs often follows a good deal in the line of Bourrienne: among many formal attacks, every now and then he lapses into half involuntary and indirect praise of his great antagonist, especially where he compares the men he had to deal with in aftertimes with his former rapid and talented interlocutor. To some even among the Bonapartists, Bourrienne was not altogether distasteful. Lucien Bonaparte, remarking that the time in which Bourrienne treated with Napoleon as equal with equal did not last long enough for the secretary, says he has taken a little revenge in his Memoirs, just as a lover, after a break with his mistress, reveals all her defects. But Lucien considers that Bourrienne gives us a good enough idea of the young officer of the artillery, of the great General, and of the First Consul. Of the Emperor, says Lucien, he was too much in retirement to be able to judge equally well. But Lucien was not a fair representative of the Bonapartists; indeed he had never really thought well of his brother or of his actions since Lucien, the former "Brutus" Bonaparte, had ceased to be the adviser of the Consul. It was well for Lucien himself to amass a fortune from the presents of a corrupt court, and to be made a Prince and Duke by the Pope, but he was too sincere a republican not to disapprove of the imperial system. The real Bonapartists were naturally and inevitably furious with the Memoirs. They were not true, they were not the work of Bourrienne, Bourrienne himself was a traitor, a purloiner of manuscripts, his memory was as bad as his principles, he was not even entitled to the de before his name. If the Memoirs were at all to be pardoned, it was because his share was only really a few notes wrung from him by large pecuniary offers at a time when he was pursued by his creditors, and when his brain was already affected.
The Bonapartist attack on the Memoirs was delivered in full form, in two
volumes, 'Bourrienne et ses Erreurs, Volontaires et Involontaires'
(Paris, Heideloff, 1830), edited by the Comte d'Aure, the Ordonnateur en
Chef of the Egyptian expedition, and containing communications from
Joseph Bonaparte, Gourgaud, Stein, etc.'
—[In the notes in this present edition these volumes are referred
to in brief 'Erreurs'.]—
Where he fails, or where the Bonapartist fire is most telling, is in the account of the Egyptian expedition. It may seem odd that he should have forgotten, even in some thirty years, details such as the way in which the sick were removed; but such matters were not in his province; and it would be easy to match similar omissions in other works, such as the accounts of the Crimea, and still more of the Peninsula. It is with his personal relations with Napoleon that we are most concerned, and it is in them that his account receives most corroboration.
It may be interesting to see what has been said of the Memoirs by other writers. We have quoted Metternich, and Lucien Bonaparte; let us hear Meneval, his successor, who remained faithful to his master to the end: "Absolute confidence cannot be given to statements contained in Memoirs published under the name of a man who has not composed them. It is known that the editor of these Memoirs offered to M. de Bourrienne, who had then taken refuge in Holstein from his creditors, a sum said to be thirty thousand francs to obtain his signature to them, with some notes and addenda. M. de Bourrienne was already attacked by the disease from which he died a few years latter in a maison de santé at Caen. Many literary men co-operated in the preparation of his Memoirs. In 1825 I met M. de Bourrienne in Paris. He told me it had been suggested to him to write against the Emperor. 'Notwithstanding the harm he has done me,' said he, 'I would never do so. Sooner may my hand be withered.' If M. de Bourrienne had prepared his Memoirs himself, he would not have stated that while he was the Emperor's minister at Hamburg he worked with the agents of the Comte de Lille (Louis XVIII.) at the preparation of proclamations in favour of that Prince, and that in 1814 he accepted the thanks of the King, Louis XVIII., for doing so; he would not have said that Napoleon had confided to him in 1805 that he had never conceived the idea of an expedition into England, and that the plan of a landing, the preparations for which he gave such publicity to, was only a snare to amuse fools. The Emperor well knew that never was there a plan more seriously conceived or more positively settled. M. de Bourrienne would not have spoken of his private interviews with Napoleon, nor of the alleged confidences entrusted to him, while really Napoleon had no longer received him after the 20th October 1802. When the Emperor, in 1805, forgetting his faults, named him Minister Plenipotentiary at Hamburg, he granted him the customary audience, but to this favour he did not add the return of his former friendship. Both before and afterwards he constantly refused to receive him, and he did not correspond with him "(Meneval, ii. 378-79). And in another passage Meneval says: "Besides, it would be wrong to regard these Memoirs as the work of the man whose name they bear. The bitter resentment M. de Bourrienne had nourished for his disgrace, the enfeeblement of his faculties, and the poverty he was reduced to, rendered him accessible to the pecuniary offers made to him. He consented to give the authority of his name to Memoirs in whose composition he had only co-operated by incomplete, confused, and often inexact notes, materials which an editor was employed to put in order." And Meneval (iii. 29-30) goes on to quote what he himself had written in the Spectateur Militaire, in which he makes much the same assertions, and especially objects to the account of conversations with the Emperor after 1802, except always the one audience on taking leave for Hamburg. Meneval also says that Napoleon, when he wished to obtain intelligence from Hamburg, did not correspond with Bourrienne, but deputed him, Meneval, to ask Bourrienne for what was wanted. But he corroborates Bourrienne on the subject of the efforts made, among others by Josephine, for his reappointment.
Such are the statements of the Bonaparists pure; and the reader, as has been said, can judge for himself how far the attack is good. Bourrienne, or his editor, may well have confused the date of his interviews, but he will not be found much astray on many points. His account of the conversation of Josephine after the death of the Duc d'Eughien may be compared with what we know from Madame de Remusat, who, by the way, would have been horrified if she had known that he considered her to resemble the Empress Josephine in character.
We now come to the views of Savary, the Duc de Rovigo, who avowedly remained on good terms with Bourrienne after his disgrace, though the friendship of Savary was not exactly a thing that most men would have much prided themselves on. "Bourrienne had a prodigious memory; he spoke and wrote in several languages, and his pen ran as quickly as one could speak. Nor were these the only advantages he possessed. He knew the routine of public business and public law. His activity and devotion made him indispensable to the First Consul. I knew the qualities which won for him the unlimited confidence of his chief, but I cannot speak with the same assurance of the faults which made him lose it. Bourrienne had many enemies, both on account of his character and of his place" (Savary, i. 418-19).
Marmont ought to be an impartial critic of the Memoirs. He says, "Bourrienne . . . had a very great capacity, but he is a striking example of the great truth that our passions are always bad counsellors. By inspiring us with an immoderate ardour to reach a fixed end, they often make us miss it. Bourrienne had an immoderate love of money. With his talents and his position near Bonaparte at the first dawn of greatness, with the confidence and real good-will which Bonaparte felt for him, in a few years he would have gained everything in fortune and in social position. But his eager impatience mined his career at the moment when it might have developed and increased" (Marmont, i. 64). The criticism appears just. As to the Memoirs, Marmont says (ii. 224), "In general, these Memoirs are of great veracity and powerful interest so long as they treat of what the author has seen and heard; but when he speaks of others, his work is only an assemblage of gratuitous suppositions and of false facts put forward for special purposes."
The Comte Alexandre de Puymaigre, who arrived at Hamburg soon after Bourrienne had left it in 1810, says (page 135) of the part of the Memoirs which relates to Hamburg, "I must acknowledge that generally his assertions are well founded. This former companion of Napoleon has only forgotten to speak of the opinion that they had of him in this town.
"The truth is, that he was believed to have made much money there."
Thus we may take Bourrienne as a clever, able man, who would have risen to the highest honours under the Empire had not his short-sighted grasping after lucre driven him from office, and prevented him from ever regaining it under Napoleon.
In the present edition the translation has been carefully compared with the original French text. Where in the original text information is given which has now become mere matter of history, and where Bourrienne merely quotes the documents well enough known at this day, his possession of which forms part of the charges of his opponents, advantage has been taken to lighten the mass of the Memoirs. This has been done especially where they deal with what the writer did not himself see or hear, the part of the Memoirs which are of least value and of which Marmont's opinion has just been quoted. But in the personal and more valuable part of the Memoirs, where we have the actual knowledge of the secretary himself, the original text has been either fully retained, or some few passages previously omitted restored. Illustrative notes have been added from the Memoirs of the successor of Bourrienne, Meneval, Madame de Remusat, the works of Colonel Jung on 'Bonaparte et Son Temps', and on 'Lucien Bonaparte', etc., and other books. Attention has also been paid to the attacks of the 'Erreurs', and wherever these criticisms are more than a mere expression of disagreement, their purport has been recorded with, where possible, some judgment of the evidence. Thus the reader will have before him the materials for deciding himself how far Bourrienne's statements are in agreement with the facts and with the accounts of other writers.
At the present time too much attention has been paid to the Memoirs of Madame de Remusat. She, as also Madame Junot, was the wife of a man on whom the full shower of imperial favours did not descend, and, womanlike, she saw and thought only of the Court life of the great man who was never less great than in his Court. She is equally astonished and indignant that the Emperor, coming straight from long hours of work with his ministers and with his secretary, could not find soft words for the ladies of the Court, and that, a horrible thing in the eyes of a Frenchwoman, when a mistress threw herself into his arms, he first thought of what political knowledge he could obtain from her. Bourrienne, on the other hand, shows us the other and the really important side of Napoleon's character. He tells us of the long hours in the Cabinet, of the never-resting activity of the Consul, of Napoleon's dreams, no ignoble dreams and often realised, of great labours of peace as well as of war. He is a witness, and the more valuable as a reluctant one, to the marvellous powers of the man who, if not the greatest, was at least the one most fully endowed with every great quality of mind and body the world has ever seen.
The trading upon an illustrious name can alone have given birth to the multitude of publications under the titles of historical memoirs, secret memoirs, and other rhapsodies which have appeared respecting Napoleon. On looking into them it is difficult to determine whether the impudence of the writers or the simplicity of certain readers is most astonishing. Yet these rude and ill digested compilations, filled with absurd anecdotes, fabricated speeches, fictitious crimes or virtues, and disfigured by numerous anachronisms, instead of being consigned to just contempt and speedy oblivion, have been pushed into notice by speculators, and have found zealous partisans and enthusiastic apologists.
—[This Introduction has been reprinted as bearing upon the character of the work, but refers very often to events of the day at the time of its first appearance.]—
For a time I entertained the idea of noticing, one by one, the numerous errors which have been written respecting Napoleon; but I have renounced a task which would have been too laborious to myself, and very tedious to the reader. I shall therefore only correct those which come within the plan of my work, and which are connected with those facts, to a more accurate knowledge of which than any other person can possess I may lay claim. There are men who imagine that nothing done by Napoleon will ever be forgotten; but must not the slow but inevitable influence of time be expected to operate with respect to him? The effect of that influence is, that the most important event of an epoch soon sinks, almost imperceptibly and almost disregarded, into the immense mass of historical facts. Time, in its progress, diminishes the probability as well as the interest of such an event, as it gradually wears away the most durable monuments.
I attach only a relative importance to what I am about to lay before the public. I shall give authentic documents. If all persons who have approached Napoleon, at any time and in any place, would candidly record what they saw and heard, without passion, the future historian would be rich in materials. It is my wish that he who may undertake the difficult task of writing the history of Napoleon shall find in my notes information useful to the perfection of his work. There he will at least find truth. I have not the ambition to wish that what I state should be taken as absolute authority; but I hope that it will always be consulted.
I have never before published anything respecting Napoleon. That malevolence which fastens itself upon men who have the misfortune to be somewhat separated from the crowd has, because there is always more profit in saying ill than good, attributed to me several works on Bonaparte; among others, 'Les Memoires secrets d'un Homme qui ne l'a pas quitté', par M. B———-, and 'Memoires secrets sur Napoleon Bonaparte, par M. de B———, and 'Le Precis Historique sur Napoleon'. The initial of my name has served to propagate this error. The incredible ignorance which runs through those memoirs, the absurdities and inconceivable silliness with which they abound, do not permit a man of honour and common sense to allow such wretched rhapsodies to be imputed to him. I declared in 1816, and at later periods in the French and foreign journals, that I had no hand in those publications, and I here formally repeat this declaration.
But it may be said to me, Why should we place more confidence in you than in those who have written before you?
My reply shall be plain. I enter the lists one of the last. I have read all that my predecessors have published confident that all I state is true. I have no interest in deceiving, no disgrace to fear, no reward to expect. I neither wish to obscure nor embellish his glory. However great Napoleon may have been, was he not also liable to pay his tribute to the weakness of human nature? I speak of Napoleon such as I have seen him, known him, frequently admired and sometimes blamed him. I state what I saw, heard, wrote, and thought at the time, under each circumstance that occurred. I have not allowed myself to be carried away by the illusions of the imagination, nor to be influenced by friendship or hatred. I shall not insert a single reflection which did not occur to me at the very moment of the event which gave it birth. How many transactions and documents were there over which I could but lament!—how many measures, contrary to my views, to my principles, and to my character!—while the best intentions were incapable of overcoming difficulties which a most powerful and decided will rendered almost insurmountable.
I also wish the future historian to compare what I say with what others have related or may relate. But it will be necessary for him to attend to dates, circumstances, difference of situation, change of temperament, and age,—for age has much influence over men. We do not think and act at fifty as at twenty-five. By exercising this caution he will be able to discover the truth, and to establish an opinion for posterity.
The reader must not expect to find in these Memoirs an uninterrupted series of all the events which marked the great career of Napoleon; nor details of all those battles, with the recital of which so many eminent men have usefully and ably occupied themselves. I shall say little about whatever I did not see or hear, and which is not supported by official documents.
Perhaps I shall succeed in confirming truths which have been doubted, and in correcting errors which have been adopted. If I sometimes differ from the observations and statements of Napoleon at St. Helena, I am far from supposing that those who undertook to be the medium of communication between him and the public have misrepresented what he said. I am well convinced that none of the writers of St. Helena can be taxed with the slightest deception; disinterested zeal and nobleness of character are undoubted pledges of their veracity. It appears to me perfectly certain that Napoleon stated, dictated, or corrected all they have published. Their honour is unquestionable; no one can doubt it. That they wrote what he communicated must therefore be believed; but it cannot with equal confidence be credited that what he communicated was nothing but the truth. He seems often to have related as a fact what was really only an idea,—an idea, too, brought forth at St. Helena, the child of misfortune, and transported by his imagination to Europe in the time of his prosperity. His favourite phrase, which was every moment on his lips, must not be forgotten—"What will history say—what will posterity think?" This passion for leaving behind him a celebrated name is one which belongs to the constitution of the human mind; and with Napoleon its influence was excessive. In his first Italian campaign he wrote thus to General Clarke: "That ambition and the occupation of high offices were not sufficient for his satisfaction and happiness, which he had early placed in the opinion of Europe and the esteem of posterity." He often observed to me that with him the opinion of posterity was the real immortality of the soul.
It may easily be conceived that Napoleon wished to give to the documents which he knew historians would consult a favourable colour, and to direct, according to his own views, the judgment of posterity on his actions: But it is only by the impartial comparison of periods, positions, and age that a well founded decision will be given. About his fortieth year the physical constitution of Napoleon sustained considerable change; and it may be presumed that his moral qualities were affected by that change. It is particularly important not to lose sight of the premature decay of his health, which, perhaps, did not permit him always to possess the vigour of memory otherwise consistent enough with his age. The state of our organisation often modifies our recollections, our feelings, our manner of viewing objects, and the impressions we receive. This will be taken into consideration by judicious and thinking men; and for them I write.
What M. de Las Casas states Napoleon to have said in May 1816 on the manner of writing his history corroborates the opinion I have expressed. It proves that all the facts and observations he communicated or dictated were meant to serve as materials. We learn from the Memorial that M. de Las Casas wrote daily, and that the manuscript was read over by Napoleon, who often made corrections with his own hand. The idea of a journal pleased him greatly. He fancied it would be a work of which the world could afford no other example. But there are passages in which the order of events is deranged; in others facts are misrepresented and erroneous assertions are made, I apprehend, not altogether involuntarily.
I have paid particular attention to all that has been published by the noble participators of the imperial captivity. Nothing, however, could induce me to change a word in these Memoirs, because nothing could take from me my conviction of the truth of what I personally heard and saw. It will be found that Napoleon in his private conversations often confirms what I state; but we sometimes differ, and the public must judge between us. However, I must here make one observation.
When Napoleon dictated or related to his friends in St. Helena the facts which they have reported he was out of the world,—he had played his part. Fortune, which, according to his notions, had conferred on him all his power and greatness, had recalled all her gifts before he sank into the tomb. His ruling passion would induce him to think that it was due to his glory to clear up certain facts which might prove an unfavourable escort if they accompanied him to posterity. This was his fixed idea. But is there not some ground for suspecting the fidelity of him who writes or dictates his own history? Why might he not impose on a few persons in St. Helena, when he was able to impose on France and Europe, respecting many acts which emanated from him during the long duration of his power? The life of Napoleon would be very unfaithfully written were the author to adopt as true all his bulletins and proclamations, and all the declarations he made at St. Helena. Such a history would frequently be in contradiction to facts; and such only is that which might be entitled, 'The History of Napoleon, written by Himself'.
I have said this much because it is my wish that the principles which have guided me in the composition of these Memoirs may be understood. I am aware that they will not please every reader; that is a success to which I cannot pretend. Some merit, however, may be allowed me on account of the labour I have undergone. It has neither been of a slight nor an agreeable kind. I made it a rule to read everything that has been written respecting Napoleon, and I have had to decipher many of his autograph documents, though no longer so familiar with his scrawl as formerly. I say decipher, because a real cipher might often be much more readily understood than the handwriting of Napoleon. My own notes, too, which were often very hastily made, in the hand I wrote in my youth, have sometimes also much embarrassed me.
My long and intimate connection with Bonaparte from boyhood, my close relations with him when General, Consul, and Emperor, enabled me to see and appreciate all that was projected and all that was done during that considerable and momentous period of time. I not only had the opportunity of being present at the conception and the execution of the extraordinary deeds of one of the ablest men nature ever formed, but, notwithstanding an almost unceasing application to business, I found means to employ the few moments of leisure which Bonaparte left at my disposal in making notes, collecting documents, and in recording for history facts respecting which the truth could otherwise with difficulty be ascertained; and more particularly in collecting those ideas, often profound, brilliant, and striking, but always remarkable, to which Bonaparte gave expression in the overflowing frankness of confidential intimacy.
The knowledge that I possessed much important information has exposed me to many inquiries, and wherever I have resided since my retirement from public affairs much of my time has been spent in replying to questions. The wish to be acquainted with the most minute details of the life of a man formed on an unexampled model [?? D.W.] is very natural; and the observation on my replies by those who heard them always was, "You should publish your Memoirs!"
I had certainly always in view the publication of my Memoirs; but, at the same time, I was firmly resolved not to publish them until a period should arrive in which I might tell the truth, and the whole truth. While Napoleon was in the possession of power I felt it right to resist the urgent applications made to me on this subject by some persons of the highest distinction. Truth would then have sometimes appeared flattery, and sometimes, also, it might not have been without danger. Afterwards, when the progress of events removed Bonaparte to a far distant island in the midst of the ocean, silence was imposed on me by other considerations,-by considerations of propriety and feeling.
After the death of Bonaparte, at St. Helena, reasons of a different nature retarded the execution of my plan. The tranquillity of a secluded retreat was indispensable for preparing and putting in order the abundant materials in my possession. I found it also necessary to read a great number of works, in order to rectify important errors to which the want of authentic documents had induced the authors to give credit. This much-desired retreat was found. I had the good fortune to be introduced, through a friend, to the Duchesse de Brancas, and that lady invited me to pass some time on one of her estates in Hainault. Received with the most agreeable hospitality, I have there enjoyed that tranquillity which could alone have rendered the publication of these volumes practicable.
The Editor of the 1836 edition had added to the Memoirs several chapters taken from or founded on other works of the time, so as to make a more complete history of the period. These materials have been mostly retained, but with the corrections which later publications have made necessary. A chapter has now been added to give a brief account of the part played by the chief historical personages during the Cent Jours, and another at the end to include the removal of the body of Napoleon from St. Helena to France.
Two special improvements have, it is hoped, been made in this edition. Great care has been taken to get names, dates, and figures rightly given,—points much neglected in most translations, though in some few cases, such as Davoust, the ordinary but not strictly correct spelling has been followed to suit the general reader. The number of references to other works which are given in the notes will, it is believed, be of use to any one wishing to continue the study of the history of Napoleon, and may preserve them from many of the errors too often committed. The present Editor has had the great advantage of having his work shared by Mr. Richard Bentley, who has brought his knowledge of the period to bear, and who has found, as only a busy man could do, the time to minutely enter into every fresh detail, with the ardour which soon seizes any one who long follows that enticing pursuit, the special study of an historical period.
R. W. P.
Authentic date of Bonaparte's birth—His family ruined by the
Jesuits—His taste for military amusements—Sham siege at the
College of Brienne—The porter's wife and Napoleon—My intimacy with
Bonaparte at college—His love for the mathematics, and his dislike
of Latin—He defends Paoli and blames his father—He is ridiculed by
his comrades—Ignorance of the monks—Distribution of prizes at
Brienne—Madame de Montesson and the Duke of Orleans—Report of M.
Keralio on Bonaparte—He leaves Brienne.
NAPOLEON BONAPARTE was born at Ajaccio, in Corsica, on the 15th of August 1769; the original orthography of his name was Buonaparte, but he suppressed the u during his first campaign in Italy. His motives for so doing were merely to render the spelling conformable with the pronunciation, and to abridge his signature. He signed Buonaparte even after the famous 13th Vendemiaire.
It has been affirmed that he was born in 1768, and that he represented himself to be a year younger than he really was. This is untrue. He always told me the 9th of August was his birthday, and, as I was born on the 9th of July 1769, our proximity of age served to strengthen our union and friendship when we were both at the Military College of Brienne.
The false and absurd charge of Bonaparte having misrepresented his age, is decidedly refuted by a note in the register of M. Berton, sub- principal of the College of Brienne, in which it is stated that M. Napoleon de Buonaparte, écuyer, born in the city of Ajaccio, in Corsica, on the 15th of August 1769, left the Royal Military College of Brienne on the 17th October 1784.
The stories about his low extraction are alike devoid of foundation. His family was poor, and he was educated at the public expense, an advantage of which many honourable families availed themselves. A memorial addressed by his father, Charles Buonaparte, to the Minister of War states that his fortune had been reduced by the failure of some enterprise in which he had engaged, and by the injustice of the Jesuits, by whom he had been deprived of an inheritance. The object of this memorial was to solicit a sub-lieutenant's commission for Napoleon, who was then fourteen years of age, and to get Lucien entered a pupil of the Military College. The Minister wrote on the back of the memorial, "Give the usual answer, if there be a vacancy;" and on the margin are these words—"This gentleman has been informed that his request is inadmissible as long as his second son remains at the school of Brienne. Two brothers cannot be placed at the same time in the military schools." When Napoleon was fifteen he was sent to Paris until he should attain the requisite age for entering the army. Lucien was not received into the College of Brienne, at least not until his brother had quitted the Military School of Paris.
Bonaparte was undoubtedly a man of good family. I have seen an authentic account of his genealogy, which he obtained from Tuscany. A great deal has been said about the civil dissensions which forced his family to quit Italy and take refuge in Corsica. On this subject I shall say nothing.
Many and various accounts have been given of Bonaparte's youth.
—[The following interesting trait of Napoleon's childhood is derived from the 'Memoirs of the Duchesse d'Arbranes':—"He was one day accused by one of his sisters of having eaten a basketful of grapes, figs, and citrons, which had come from the garden of his uncle the Canon. None but those who were acquainted with the Bonaparte family can form any idea of the enormity of this offence. To eat fruit belonging to the uncle the Canon was infinitely more criminal than to eat grapes and figs which might be claimed by anybody else. An inquiry took place. Napoleon denied the fact, and was whipped. He was told that if he would beg pardon he should be forgiven. He protested that he was innocent, but he was not believed. If I recollect rightly, his mother was at the time on a visit to M. de Marbeuf, or some other friend. The result of Napoleon's obstinacy was, that he was kept three whole days on bread and cheese, and that cheese was not 'broccio'. However, he would not cry: he was dull, but not sulky. At length, on the fourth day of his punishment a little friend of Marianne Bonaparte returned from the country, and on hearing of Napoleon's disgrace she confessed that she and Marianne had eaten the fruit. It was now Marianne's turn to be punished. When Napoleon was asked why he had not accused his sister, he replied that though he suspected that she was guilty, yet out of consideration to her little friend, who had no share in the falsehood, he had said nothing. He was then only seven years of age" (vol. i. p. 9, edit. 1883).]—
He has been described in terms of enthusiastic praise and exaggerated condemnation. It is ever thus with individuals who by talent or favourable circumstances are raised above their fellow-creatures. Bonaparte himself laughed at all the stories which were got up for the purpose of embellishing or blackening his character in early life. An anonymous publication, entitled the 'History of Napoleon Bonaparte', from his Birth to his last abdication, contains perhaps the greatest collection of false and ridiculous details about his boyhood. Among other things, it is stated that he fortified a garden to protect himself from the attacks of his comrades, who, a few lines lower down, are described as treating him with esteem and respect. I remember the circumstances which, probably, gave rise to the fabrication inserted in the work just mentioned; they were as follows.
During the winter of 1783-84, so memorable for heavy falls of snow, Napoleon was greatly at a loss for those retired walks and outdoor recreations in which he used to take much delight. He had no alternative but to mingle with his comrades, and, for exercise, to walk with them up and down a spacious hall. Napoleon, weary of this monotonous promenade, told his comrades that he thought they might amuse themselves much better with the snow, in the great courtyard, if they would get shovels and make hornworks, dig trenches, raise parapets, cavaliers, etc. "This being done," said he, "we may divide ourselves into sections, form a siege, and I will undertake to direct the attacks." The proposal, which was received with enthusiasm, was immediately put into execution. This little sham war was carried on for the space of a fortnight, and did not cease until a quantity of gravel and small stones having got mixed with the snow of which we made our bullets, many of the combatants, besiegers as well as besieged, were seriously wounded. I well remember that I was one of the worst sufferers from this sort of grapeshot fire.
It is almost unnecessary to contradict the story about the ascent in the balloon. It is now very well known that the hero of that headlong adventure was not young Bonaparte, as has been alleged, but one of his comrades, Dudont de Chambon, who was somewhat eccentric. Of this his subsequent conduct afforded sufficient proofs.
Bonaparte's mind was directed to objects of a totally different kind. He turned his attention to political science. During some of his vacations he enjoyed the society of the Abby Raynal, who used to converse with him on government, legislation, commercial relations, etc.
On festival days, when the inhabitants of Brienne were admitted to our amusements, posts were established for the maintenance of order. Nobody was permitted to enter the interior of the building without a card signed by the principal, or vice-principal. The rank of officers or sub- officers was conferred according to merit; and Bonaparte one day had the command of a post, when the following little adventure occurred, which affords an instance of his decision of character.
The wife of the porter of the school,
—[This woman, named Haute, was afterwards placed at Malmaison, with her husband. They both died as concierges of Malmaison. This shows that Napoleon had a memory.—Bourrienne.]—
who was very well known, because she used to sell milk, fruit, etc., to the pupils, presented herself one Saint Louis day for admittance to the representation of the 'Death of Caesar, corrected', in which I was to perform the part of Brutus. As the woman had no ticket, and insisted on being admitted without one, some disturbance arose. The serjeant of the post reported the matter to the officer, Napoleon Bonaparte, who in an imperious tone of voice exclaimed: "Send away that woman, who comes here with her camp impudence." This was in 1782.
Bonaparte and I were eight years of age when our friendship commenced. It speedily became very intimate, for there was a certain sympathy of heart between us. I enjoyed this friendship and intimacy until 1784, when he was transferred from the Military College of Brienne to that of Paris. I was one among those of his youthful comrades who could best accommodate themselves to his stern character. His natural reserve, his disposition to meditate on the conquest of Corsica, and the impressions he had received in childhood respecting the misfortunes of his country and his family, led him to seek retirement, and rendered his general demeanour, though in appearance only, somewhat unpleasing. Our equality of age brought us together in the classes of the mathematics and 'belles lettres'. His ardent wish to acquire knowledge was remarkable from the very commencement of his studies. When he first came to the college he spoke only the Corsican dialect, and the Sieur Dupuis,
—[He afterwards filled the post of librarian to Napoleon at
who was vice-principal before Father Berton, gave him instructions in the French language. In this he made such rapid progress that in a short time he commenced the first rudiments of Latin. But to this study he evinced such a repugnance that at the age of fifteen he was not out of the fourth class. There I left him very speedily; but I could never get before him in the mathematical class, in which he was undoubtedly the cleverest lad at the college. I used sometimes to help him with his Latin themes and versions in return for the aid he afforded me in the solution of problems, at which he evinced a degree of readiness and facility which perfectly astonished me.
When at Brienne, Bonaparte was remarkable for the dark color of his complexion (which, subsequently, the climate of France somewhat changed), for his piercing and scrutinising glance, and for the style of his conversation both with his masters and comrades. His conversation almost always bore the appearance of ill-humour, and he was certainly not very amiable. This I attribute to the misfortunes his family had sustained and the impressions made on his mind by the conquest of his country.
The pupils were invited by turns to dine with Father Berton, the head of the school. One day, it being Bonaparte's turn to enjoy this indulgence, some of the professors who were at table designedly made some disrespectful remarks on Paoli, of whom they knew the young Corsican was an enthusiastic admirer. "Paoli," observed Bonaparte, "was a great man; he loved his country; and I will never forgive my father, who was his adjutant, for having concurred in the union of Corsica with France. He ought to have followed Paoli's fortune, and have fallen with him."
—[The Duchesse d'Abrantes, speaking of the personal characteristics of Bonaparte in youth and manhood, says, "Saveria told me that Napoleon was never a pretty boy, as Joseph was, for example: his head always appeared too large for his body, a defect common to the Bonaparte family. When Napoleon grew up, the peculiar charm of his countenance lay in his eye, especially in the mild expression it assumed in his moments of kindness. His anger, to be sure, was frightful, and though I am no coward, I never could look at him in his fits of rage without shuddering. Though his smile was captivating, yet the expression of his mouth when disdainful or angry could scarcely be seen without terror. But that forehead which seemed formed to bear the crowns of a whole world; those hands, of which the most coquettish women might have been vain, and whose white skin covered muscles of iron; in short, of all that personal beauty which distinguished Napoleon as a young man, no traces were discernible in the boy. Saveria spoke truly when she said, that of all the children of Signora Laetitia, the Emperor was the one from whom future greatness was least to be prognosticated" (vol. i. p. 10, edit. 1883)]—
Generally speaking, Bonaparte was not much liked by his comrades at Brienne. He was not social with them, and rarely took part in their amusements. His country's recent submission to France always caused in his mind a painful feeling, which estranged him from his schoolfellows. I, however, was almost his constant companion. During play-hours he used to withdraw to the library, where he read with deep interest works of history, particularly Polybius and Plutarch. He was also fond of Arrianus, but did not care much for Quintus Gurtius. I often went off to play with my comrades, and left him by himself in the library.
The temper of the young Corsican was not improved by the teasing he frequently experienced from his comrades, who were fond of ridiculing him about his Christian name Napoleon and his country. He often said to me, "I will do these French all the mischief I can;" and when I tried to pacify him he would say, "But you do not ridicule me; you like me."
Father Patrauld, our mathematical professor, was much attached to Bonaparte. He was justly proud of him as a pupil. The other professors, in whose classes he was not distinguished, took little notice of him. He had no taste for the study of languages, polite literature, or the arts. As there were no indications of his ever becoming a scholar, the pedants of the establishment were inclined to think him stupid. His superior intelligence was, however, sufficiently perceptible, even through the reserve under which it was veiled. If the monks to whom the superintendence of the establishment was confided had understood the organisation of his mind, if they had engaged more able mathematical professors, or if we had had any incitement to the study of chemistry, natural philosophy, astronomy, etc., I am convinced that Bonaparte would have pursued these sciences with all the genius and spirit of investigation which he displayed in a career, more brilliant it is true, but less useful to mankind. Unfortunately, the monks did not perceive this, and were too poor to pay for good masters. However, after Bonaparte left the college they found it necessary to engage two professors from Paris, otherwise the college would have fallen to nothing. These two new professors, MM. Durfort and Desponts, finished my education; and I regretted that they did not come sooner. The often- repeated assertion of Bonaparte having received a careful education at Brienne is therefore untrue. The monks were incapable of giving it him; and, for my own part, I must confess that the extended information of the present day is to me a painful contrast with the limited course of education I received at the Military College. It is only surprising that the establishment should have produced a single able man.
Though Bonaparte had no reason to be satisfied with the treatment he received from his comrades, yet he was above complaining of it; and when he had the supervision of any duty which they infringed, he would rather go to prison than denounce the criminals.
I was one day his accomplice in omitting to enforce a duty which we were appointed to supervise. He prevailed on me to accompany him to prison, where we remained three days. We suffered this sort of punishment several times, but with less severity.
In 1783 the Duke of Orleans and Madame de Montesson visited Brienne; and, for upwards of a month, the magnificent chateau of the Comte de Brienne was a Versailles in miniature. The series of brilliant entertainments which were given to the august travellers made them almost forget the royal magnificence they had left behind them.
The Prince and Madame de Montesson expressed a wish to preside at the distribution of the prizes of our college. Bonaparte and I won the prizes in the class of mathematics, which, as I have already observed, was the branch of study to which he confined his attention, and in which he excelled. When I was called up for the seventh time Madame de Montesson said to my mother, who had come from Sens to be present at the distribution, "Pray, madame, crown your son this time; my hands are a- weary."
There was an inspector of the military schools, whose business it was to make an annual report on each pupil, whether educated at the public expense or paid for by his family. I copied from the report of 1784 a note which was probably obtained surreptitiously from the War Office. I wanted to purchase the manuscript, but Louis Bonaparte bought it. I did not make a copy of the note which related to myself, because I should naturally have felt diffident in making any use of it. It would, however, have served to show how time and circumstances frequently reversed the distinctions which arise at school or college. Judging from the reports of the inspector of military schools, young Bonaparte was not, of all the pupils at Brienne in 1784, the one most calculated to excite prognostics of future greatness and glory.
The note to which I have just alluded, and which was written by M. de Keralio, then inspector of the military schools, describes Bonaparte in the following terms:
INSPECTION OF MILITARY SCHOOLS
REPORT MADE FOR HIS MAJESTY BY M. DE KERALIO.
M. de Buonaparte (Napoleon), born 15th August 1769, height 4 feet 10 inches 10 lines, is in the fourth class, has a good constitution, excellent health, character obedient, upright, grateful, conduct very regular; has been always distinguished by his application to mathematics. He knows history and geography very passably. He is not well up in ornamental studies or in Latin in which he is only in the fourth class. He will be an excellent sailor. He deserves to be passed on to the Military School of Paris.
Father Berton, however, opposed Bonaparte's removal to Paris, because he had not passed through the fourth Latin class, and the regulations required that he should be in the third. I was informed by the vice- principal that a report relative to Napoleon was sent from the College of Brienne to that of Paris, in which he was described as being domineering, imperious, and obstinate.
—[Napoleon remained upwards of five years at Brienne, from April 1779 till the latter end of 1784. In 1783 the Chevalier Keralio, sub-inspector of the military schools, selected him to pass the year following to the military school at Paris, to which three of the best scholars were annually sent from each of the twelve provincial military schools of France. It is curious as well as satisfactory to know the opinion at this time entertained of him by those who were the best qualified to judge. His old master, Le Guille, professor of history at Paris, boasted that, in a list of the different scholars, he had predicted his pupil's subsequent career. In fact, to the name of Bonaparte the following note is added: "a Corsican by birth and character—he will do something great, if circumstances favour him." Menge was his instructor in geometry, who also entertained a high opinion of him. M. Bauer, his German master, was the only one who saw nothing in him, and was surprised at being told he was undergoing his examination for the artillery.— Hazlitt.]—
I knew Bonaparte well; and I think M. de Keralio's report of him was exceedingly just, except, perhaps, that he might have said he was very well as to his progress in history and geography, and very backward in Latin; but certainly nothing indicated the probability of his being an excellent seaman. He himself had no thought of the navy.
—[Bourrienne is certainly wrong as to Bonaparte having no thought of the navy. In a letter of 1784 to the Minister of War his father says of Napoleon that, "following the advice of the Comte de Marbeuf, he has turned his studies towards the navy; and so well has he succeeded that he was intended by M. de Keralio for the school of Paris, and afterwards for the department of Toulon. The retirement of the former professor (Keralio) has changed the fate of my son." It was only on the failure of his intention to get into the navy that his father, on 15th July 1784 applied for permission for him to enter the artillery; Napoleon having a horror of the infantry, where he said they did nothing. It was on the success of this application that he was allowed to enter the school of Paris (Jung, tome i. pp. 91-103). Oddly enough, in later years, on 30th August 1792, having just succeeded in getting himself reinstated as captain after his absence, overstaying leave, he applied to pass into the Artillerie de la Marine. "The application was judged to be simply absurd, and was filed with this note, 'S. R.' ('sans reponse')" (Jung, tome ii. p. 201)]—
In consequence of M. de Keralio's report, Bonaparte was transferred to the Military College of Paris, along with MM. Montarby de Dampierre, de Castres, de Comminges, and de Laugier de Bellecourt, who were all, like him, educated at the public expense, and all, at least, as favorably reported.
What could have induced Sir Walter Scott to say that Bonaparte was the pride of the college, that our mathematical master was exceedingly fond of him, and that the other professors in the different sciences had equal reason to be satisfied with him? What I have above stated, together with the report of M. de Keralio, bear evidence of his backwardness in almost every branch of education except mathematics. Neither was it, as Sir Walter affirms, his precocious progress in mathematics that occasioned him to be removed to Paris. He had attained the proper age, and the report of him was favourable, therefore he was very naturally included among the number of the five who were chosen in 1784.
In a biographical account of Bonaparte I have read the following anecdote:—When he was fourteen years of age he happened to be at a party where some one pronounced a high eulogium on Turenne; and a lady in the company observed that he certainly was a great man, but that she should like him better if he had not burned the Palatinate. "What signifies that," replied Bonaparte, "if it was necessary to the object he had in view?"
This is either an anachronism or a mere fabrication. Bonaparte was fourteen in the year 1783. He was then at Brienne, where certainly he did not go into company, and least of all the company of ladies.
Bonaparte enters the Military College of Paris—He urges me to
embrace the military profession—His report on the state of the
Military School of Paris—He obtains a commission—I set off for
Vienna—Return to Paris, where I again meet Bonaparte—His singular
plans for raising money—Louis XVI, with the red cap on his head—
The 10th of August—My departure for Stuttgart—Bonaparte goes to
Corsica—My name inscribed on the list of emigrants—Bonaparte at
the siege of Toulon—Le Souper de Beaucaire—Napoleon's mission to
Genoa—His arrest—His autographical justification
—Duroc's first connection with Bonaparte.
Bonaparte was fifteen years and two months old when he went to the
Military College of Paris.
—[Madame Junot relates some interesting particulars connected with Napoleon's first residence in Paris: "My mother's first care," says she, "on arriving in Paris was to inquire after Napoleon Bonaparte. He was at that time in the military school at Paris, having quitted Brienne in the September of the preceding year.
"My uncle Demetrius had met him just after he alighted from the coach which brought him to town; 'And truly.' said my uncle, 'he had the appearance of a fresh importation. I met him in the Palais Royal, where he was gaping and staring with wonder at everything he saw. He would have been an excellent subject for sharpers, if, indeed, he had had anything worth taking!' My uncle invited him to dine at his house; for though my uncle was a bachelor, he did not choose to dine at a 'traiteur' (the name 'restaurateur' was not then introduced). He told my mother that Napoleon was very morose. 'I fear,' added he, 'that that young man has more self-conceit than is suitable to his condition. When he dined with me he began to declaim violently against the luxury of the young men of the military school. After a little he turned the conversation on Mania, and the present education of the young Maniotes, drawing a comparison between it and the ancient Spartan system of education. His observations on this head he told me he intended to embody in a memorial to be presented to the Minister of War. All this, depend upon it, will bring him under the displeasure of his comrades; and it will be lucky if he escape being run through.' A few days afterwards my mother saw Napoleon, and then his irritability was at its height. He would scarcely bear any observations, even if made in his favour, and I am convinced that it is to this uncontrollable irritability that he owed the reputation of having been ill-tempered in his boyhood, and splenetic in his youth. My father, who was acquainted with almost all the heads of the military school, obtained leave for him sometimes to come out for recreation. On account of an accident (a sprain, if I recollect rightly) Napoleon once spent a whole week at our house. To this day, whenever I pass the Quai Conti, I cannot help looking up at a 'mansarde' at the left angle of the house on the third floor. That was Napoleon's chamber when he paid us a visit, and a neat little room it was. My brother used to occupy the one next to it. The two young men were nearly of the same age: my brother perhaps had the advantage of a year or fifteen months. My mother had recommended him to cultivate the friendship of young Bonaparte; but my brother complained how unpleasant it was to find only cold politeness where he expected affection. This repulsiveness on the part of Napoleon was almost offensive, and must have been sensibly felt by my brother, who was not only remarkable for the mildness of his temper and the amenity and grace of his manner, but whose society was courted in the most distinguished circles of Paris on account of his accomplishments. He perceived in Bonaparte a kind of acerbity and bitter irony, of which he long endeavoured to discover the cause. 'I believe,' said Albert one day to my mother, 'that the poor young man feels keenly his dependent situation.'" ('Memoirs of the Duchesse d'Abrantes, vol. i. p. 18, edit. 1883).]—
I accompanied him in a carriole as far as Nogent Sur Seine, whence the coach was to start. We parted with regret, and we did not meet again till the year 1792. During these eight years we maintained an active correspondence; but so little did I anticipate the high destiny which, after his elevation, it was affirmed the wonderful qualities of his boyhood plainly denoted, that I did not preserve one of the letters he wrote to me at that period, but tore them up as soon as they were answered.
—[I remember, however, that in a letter which I received from him about a year after his arrival in Paris he urged me to keep my promise of entering the army with him. Like him, I had passed through the studies necessary for the artillery service; and in 1787 I went for three months to Metz, in order to unite practice with theory. A strange Ordinance, which I believe was issued in 1778 by M. de Segur, required that a man should possess four quarterings of nobility before he could be qualified to serve his king and country as a military officer. My mother went to Paris, taking with her the letters patent of her husband, who died six weeks after my birth. She proved that in the year 1640 Louis XIII. had, by letters patent, restored the titles of one Fauvelet de Villemont, who in 1586 had kept several provinces of Burgundy subject to the king's authority at the peril of his life and the loss of his property; and that his family had occupied the first places in the magistracy since the fourteenth century. All was correct, but it was observed that the letters of nobility had not been registered by the Parliament, and to repair this little omission, the sum of twelve thousand francs was demanded. This my mother refused to pay, and there the matter rested.]—
On his arrival at the Military School of Paris, Bonaparte found the establishment on so brilliant and expensive a footing that he immediately addressed a memorial on the subject to the Vice-Principal Berton of Brienne.
—[A second memoir prepared by him to the same effect was intended for the Minister of War, but Father Berton wisely advised silence to the young cadet (Jung, tome i. p. 122). Although believing in the necessity of show and of magnificence in public life, Napoleon remained true to these principles. While lavishing wealth on his ministers and marshals, "In your private life," said be, "be economical and even parsimonious; in public be magnificent" (Meneval, tome i. p. 146).]—
He showed that the plan of education was really pernicious, and far from being calculated to fulfil the object which every wise government must have in view. The result of the system, he said, was to inspire the pupils, who were all the sons of poor gentlemen, with a love of ostentation, or rather, with sentiments of vanity and self-sufficiency; so that, instead of returning happy to the bosom of their families, they were likely to be ashamed of their parents, and to despise their humble homes. Instead of the numerous attendants by whom they were surrounded, their dinners of two courses, and their horses and grooms, he suggested that they should perform little necessary services for themselves, such as brushing their clothes, and cleaning their boots and shoes; that they should eat the coarse bread made for soldiers, etc. Temperance and activity, he added, would render them robust, enable them to bear the severity of different seasons and climates, to brave the fatigues of war, and to inspire the respect and obedience of the soldiers under their command. Thus reasoned Napoleon at the age of sixteen, and time showed that he never deviated from these principles. The establishment of the military school at Fontainebleau is a decided proof of this.
As Napoleon was an active observer of everything passing around him, and pronounced his opinion openly and decidedly, he did not remain long at the Military School of Paris. His superiors, who were anxious to get rid of him, accelerated the period of his examination, and he obtained the first vacant sub-lieutenancy in a regiment of artillery.
I left Brienne in 1787; and as I could not enter the artillery,
I proceeded in the following year to Vienna, with a letter of
recommendation to M. de Montmorin, soliciting employment in the French
Embassy at the Court of Austria.
I remained two months at Vienna, where I had the honour of twice seeing the Emperor Joseph. The impression made upon me by his kind reception, his dignified and elegant manners, and graceful conversation, will never be obliterated from my recollection. After M. de Noailles had initiated me in the first steps of diplomacy, he advised me to go to one of the German universities to study the law of nations and foreign languages. I accordingly repaired to Leipsic, about the time when the French Revolution broke out.
I spent some time at Leipsic, where I applied myself to the study of the law of nations, and the German and English languages. I afterwards travelled through Prussia and Poland, and passed a part of the winter of 1791 and 1792 at Warsaw, where I was most graciously received by Princess Tyszicwiez, niece of Stanislaus Augustus, the last King of Poland, and the sister of Prince Poniatowski. The Princess was very well informed, and was a great admirer of French literature. At her invitation I passed several evenings in company with the King in a circle small enough to approach to something like intimacy. I remember that his Majesty frequently asked me to read the Moniteur; the speeches to which he listened with the greatest pleasure were those of the Girondists. The Princess Tyszicwiez wished to print at Warsaw, at her own expense, a translation I had executed of Kotzebue's 'Menschenhass und Reue, to which I gave the title of 'L'Inconnu'.
—[A play known on the English stage as The Stranger.]—
I arrived at Vienna on the 26th of March 1792, when I was informed of the serious illness of the Emperor, Leopold II, who died on the following day. In private companies, and at public places, I heard vague suspicions expressed of his having been poisoned; but the public, who were admitted to the palace to see the body lie in state, were soon convinced of the falsehood of these reports. I went twice to see the mournful spectacle, and I never heard a word which was calculated to confirm the odious suspicion, though the spacious hall in which the remains of the Emperor were exposed was constantly thronged with people.
In the month of April 1792 I returned to Paris, where I again met
—[Bonaparte is said, on very doubtful authority, to have spent five or six weeks in London in 1791 or 1792, and to have "lodged in a house in George Street, Strand. His chief occupation appeared to be taking pedestrian exercise in the streets of London—hence his marvellous knowledge of the great metropolis which used to astonish any Englishmen of distinction who were not aware of this visit. He occasionally took his cup of chocolate at the 'Northumberland,' occupying himself in reading, and preserving a provoking taciturnity to the gentlemen in the room; though his manner was stern, his deportment was that of a gentleman." The story of his visit is probably as apocryphal as that of his offering his services to the English Government when the English forces were blockading the coast of Corsica,]—
and our college intimacy was fully renewed. I was not very well off, and adversity was hanging heavily on him; his resources frequently failed him. We passed our time like two young fellows of twenty-three who have little money and less occupation. Bonaparte was always poorer than I. Every day we conceived some new project or other. We were on the look- out for some profitable speculation. At one time he wanted me to join him in renting several houses, then building in the Rue Montholon, to underlet them afterwards. We found the demands of the landlords extravagant—everything failed.
At the same time he was soliciting employment at the War Office, and I at the office of Foreign Affairs. I was for the moment the luckier of the two.
While we were spending our time in a somewhat vagabond way,
—[It was before the 20th of June that in our frequent excursions around Paris we went to St. Cyr to see his sister Marianne (Elisa). We returned to dine alone at Trianon.—Bourrienne.]—
the 20th of June arrived. We met by appointment at a restaurateur's in the Rue St. Honore, near the Palais Royal, to take one of our daily rambles. On going out we saw approaching, in the direction of the market, a mob, which Bonaparte calculated at five or six thousand men. They were all in rags, ludicrously armed with weapons of every description, and were proceeding hastily towards the Tuilleries, vociferating all kinds of gross abuse. It was a collection of all that was most vile and abject in the purlieus of Paris. "Let us follow the mob," said Bonaparte. We got the start of them, and took up our station on the terrace of the banks of the river. It was there that he witnessed the scandalous scenes which took place; and it would be difficult to describe the surprise and indignation which they excited in him. When the King showed himself at the windows overlooking the garden, with the red cap, which one of the mob had put on his head, he could no longer repress his indignation. "Che coglione!" he loudly exclaimed. "Why have they let in all that rabble! They should sweep off four or five hundred of them with the cannon; the rest would then set off fast enough."
When we sat down to dinner, which I paid for, as I generally did, for I was the richer of the two, he spoke of nothing but the scene we had witnessed. He discussed with great good sense the causes and consequences of this unrepressed insurrection. He foresaw and developed with sagacity all that would ensue. He was not mistaken. The 10th of August soon arrived. I was then at Stuttgart, where I was appointed Secretary of Legation.
At St. Helena Bonaparte said, "On the news of the attack of the Tuilleries, on the 10th of August, I hurried to Fauvelet, Bourrienne's brother, who then kept a furniture warehouse at the Carrousel." This is partly correct. My brother was connected with what was termed an 'enterprise d'encan national', where persons intending to quit France received an advance of money, on depositing any effects which they wished to dispose of, and which were sold for them immediately. Bonaparte had some time previously pledged his watch in this way.
After the fatal 10th of August Bonaparte went to Corsica, and did not return till 1793. Sir Walter Scott says that after that time he never saw Corsica again. This is a mistake, as will be shown when I speak of his return from Egypt.
—[Sir Walter appears to have collected his information for the Life of Napoleon only from those libels and vulgar stories which gratified the calumnious spirit and national hatred. His work is written with excessive negligence, which, added to its numerous errors, shows how much respect he must have entertained for his readers. It would appear that his object was to make it the inverse of his novels, where everything is borrowed from history. I have been assured that Marshal Macdonald having offered to introduce Scott to some generals who could have furnished him with the most accurate information respecting military events, the glory of which they had shared, Sir Walter replied, "I thank you, but I shall collect my information from unprofessional reports."—Bourrienne.]—
Having been appointed Secretary of Legation to Stuttgart, I set off for that place on the 2d of August, and I did not again see my ardent young friend until 1795. He told me that my departure accelerated his for Corsica. We separated, as may be supposed, with but faint hopes of ever meeting again.
By a decree of the 28th of March of 1793, all French agents abroad were ordered to return to France, within three months, under pain of being regarded as emigrants. What I had witnessed before my departure for Stuttgart, the excitement in which I had left the public mind, and the well-known consequences of events of this kind, made me fear that I should be compelled to be either an accomplice or a victim in the disastrous scenes which were passing at home. My disobedience of the law placed my name on the list of emigrants.
It has been said of me, in a biographical publication, that "it was as remarkable as it was fortunate for Bourrienne that, on his return, he got his name erased from the list of emigrants of the department of the Yonne, on which it had been inscribed during his first journey to Germany. This circumstance has been interpreted in several different ways, which are not all equally favourable to M. de Bourrienne."
I do not understand what favourable interpretations can be put upon a statement entirely false. General Bonaparte repeatedly applied for the erasure of my name, from the month of April 1797, when I rejoined him at Leoben, to the period of the signature of the treaty of Campo-Formio; but without success. He desired his brother Louis, Berthier, Bernadotte, and others, when he sent them to the Directory, to urge my erasure; but in vain. He complained of this inattention to his wishes to Bottot, when he came to Passeriano, after the 18th Fructidor. Bottot, who was secretary to Barras, was astonished that I was not erased, and he made fine promises of what he would do. On his return to France he wrote to Bonaparte: "Bourrienne is erased." But this was untrue. I was not erased until November 1797, upon the reiterated solicitations of General Bonaparte.
It was during my absence from France that Bonaparte, in the rank of 'chef de bataillon', performed his first campaign, and contributed so materially to the recapture of Toulon. Of this period of his life I have no personal knowledge, and therefore I shall not speak of it as an eye- witness. I shall merely relate some facts which fill up the interval between 1793 and 1795, and which I have collected from papers which he himself delivered to me. Among these papers is a little production, entitled 'Le Souper de Beaucaire', the copies of which he bought up at considerable expense, and destroyed upon his attaining the Consulate. This little pamphlet contains principles very opposite to those he wished to see established in 1800, a period when extravagant ideas of liberty were no longer the fashion, and when Bonaparte entered upon a system totally the reverse of those republican principles professed in 'Le Souper de Beaucaire.
—[This is not, as Sir Walter says, a dialogue between Marat and a Federalist, but a conversation between a military officer, a native of Nismes, a native of Marseilles, and a manufacturer from Montpellier. The latter, though he takes a share in the conversation, does not say much. 'Le Souper de Beaucaire' is given at full length in the French edition of these Memoirs, tome i. pp. 319-347; and by Jung, tome ii. p. 354, with the following remarks: "The first edition of 'Le Souper de Beaucaire' was issued at the cost of the Public Treasury, in August 1793. Sabin Tournal, its editor, also then edited the 'Courrier d'Avignon'. The second edition only appeared twenty-eight years afterwards, in 1821, preceded by an introduction by Frederick Royou (Paris: Brasseur Aine, printer, Terrey, publisher, in octavo). This pamphlet did not make any sensation at the time it appeared. It was only when Napoleon became Commandant of the Army of Italy that M. Loubet, secretary and corrector of the press for M. Tournal, attached some value to the manuscript, and showed it to several persons. Louis Bonaparte, later, ordered several copies from M. Aurel. The pamphlet, dated 29th July 1793, is in the form of a dialogue between an officer of the army, a citizen of Nismes, a manufacturer of Montpellier, and a citizen of Marseilles. Marseilles was then in a state of insurrection against the Convention. Its forces had seized Avignon, but had been driven out by the army of Carteaux, which was about to attack Marseilles itself." In the dialogue the officer gives most excellent military advice to the representative of Marseilles on the impossibility of their resisting the old soldiers of Carteaux. The Marseilles citizen argues but feebly, and is alarmed at the officer's representations; while his threat to call in the Spaniards turns the other speakers against him. Even Colonel Jung says, tome ii. p. 372, "In these concise judgments is felt the decision of the master and of the man of war….. These marvellous qualities consequently struck the members of the Convention, who made much of Bonaparte, authorised him to have it published at the public expense, and made him many promises." Lanfrey, vol. i. pp. 201, says of this pamphlets "Common enough ideas, expressed in a style only remarkable for its 'Italianisms,' but becoming singularly firm and precise every time the author expresses his military views. Under an apparent roughness, we find in it a rare circumspection, leaving no hold on the writer, even if events change."]—
It may be remarked, that in all that has come to us from St. Helena, not a word is said of this youthful production. Its character sufficiently explains this silence. In all Bonaparte's writings posterity will probably trace the profound politician rather than the enthusiastic revolutionist.
Some documents relative to Bonaparte's suspension and arrest, by order of the representatives Albitte and Salicetti, serve to place in their true light circumstances which have hitherto been misrepresented. I shall enter into some details of this event, because I have seen it stated that this circumstance of Bonaparte's life has been perverted and misrepresented by every person who has hitherto written about him; and the writer who makes this remark, himself describes the affair incorrectly and vaguely. Others have attributed Bonaparte's misfortune to a military discussion on war, and his connection with Robespierre the younger.
—[It will presently be seen that all this is erroneous, and that Sir Walter commits another mistake when he says that Bonaparte's connection with Robespierre was attended with fatal consequences to him, and that his justification consisted in acknowledging that his friends were very different from what he had supposed them to be.— Bourrienne.]—
It has, moreover, been said that Albitte and Salicetti explained to the Committee of Public Safety the impossibility of their resuming the military operations unaided by the talents of General Bonaparte. This is mere flattery. The facts are these:
On the 13th of July 1794 (25th Messidor, year II), the representatives of the people with the army of Italy ordered that General Bonaparte should proceed to Genoa, there, conjointly with the French 'chargé d'affaires', to confer on certain subjects with the Genoese Government. This mission, together with a list of secret instructions, directing him to examine the fortresses of Genoa and the neighbouring country, show the confidence which Bonaparte, who was then only twenty-five, inspired in men who were deeply interested in making a prudent choice of their agents.
Bonaparte set off for Genoa, and fulfilled his mission. The 9th Thermidor arrived, and the deputies, called Terrorists, were superseded by Albitte and Salicetti. In the disorder which then prevailed they were either ignorant of the orders given to General Bonaparte, or persons envious of the rising glory of the young general of artillery inspired Albitte and Salicetti with suspicions prejudicial to him. Be this as it may, the two representatives drew up a resolution, ordering that General Bonaparte should be arrested, suspended from his rank, and arraigned before the Committee of Public Safety; and, extraordinary as it may appear, this resolution was founded in that very journey to Genoa which Bonaparte executed by the direction of the representatives of the people.
—[Madame Junot throws some light on this Persecution of Bonaparte by Salicetti. "One motive (I do not mean to say the only one)," remarks this lady, "of the animosity shown by Salicetti to Bonaparte, in the affair of Loano, was that they were at one time suitors to the same lady. I am not sure whether it was in Corsica or in Paris, but I know for a fact that Bonaparte, in spite of his youth, or perhaps I should rather say on account of his youth, was the favoured lover. It was the opinion of my brother, who was secretary to Salicetti, that Bonaparte owed his life to a circumstance which is not very well known. The fact is, that Salicetti received a letter from Bonaparte, the contents of which appeared to make a deep impression on him. Bonaparte's papers had been delivered into Salicetti's hands, who, after an attentive perusal of them, laid them aside with evident dissatisfaction. He then took them up again, and read them a second time. Salicetti declined my brother's assistance in the examination of the papers, and after a second examination, which was probably as unsatisfactory as the first, he seated himself with a very abstracted air. It would appear that he had seen among the papers some document which concerned himself. Another curious fact is, that the man who had the care of the papers after they were sealed up was an inferior clerk entirely under the control of Salicetti; and my brother, whose business it was to have charge of the papers, was directed not to touch them. He has often spoken to me of this circumstance, and I mention it here as one of importance to the history of the time. Nothing that relates to a man like Napoleon can be considered useless or trivial.
"What, after all, was the result of this strange business which might have cost Bonaparte his head?—for, had he been taken to Paris and tried by the Committee of Public Safety, there is little doubt that the friend of Robespierre the younger would have been condemned by Billaud-Varennes and Collot d'Herbois. The result was the acquittal of the accused. This result is the more extraordinary, since it would appear that at that time Salicetti stood in fear of the young general. A compliment is even paid to Bonaparte in the decree, by which he was provisionally restored to liberty. That liberation was said to be granted on the consideration that General Bonaparte might he useful to the Republic. This was foresight; but subsequently when measures were taken which rendered Bonaparte no longer an object of fear, his name was erased from the list of general officers, and it is a curious fact that Cambaceres, who was destined to be his colleague in the Consulate, was one of the persons who signed the act of erasure" (Memoirs of the Duchesse d'Abrantes, vol. i, p. 69, edit. 1843).]—
Bonaparte said at St. Helena that he was a short time imprisoned by order of the representative Laporte; but the order for his arrest was signed by Albitte, Salicetti, and Laporte.
—[Albitte and Laporte were the representatives sent from the
Convention to the army of the Alps, and Salicetti to the army of
Laporte was not probably the most influential of the three, for Bonaparte did not address his remonstrance to him. He was a fortnight under arrest.
Had the circumstance occurred three weeks earlier, and had Bonaparte been arraigned before the Committee of Public Safety previous to the 9th Thermidor, there is every probability that his career would have been at an end; and we should have seen perish on the scaffold, at the age of twenty-five, the man who, during the twenty-five succeeding years, was destined to astonish the world by his vast conceptions, his gigantic projects, his great military genius, his extraordinary good fortune, his faults, reverses, and final misfortunes.
It is worth while to remark that in the post-Thermidorian resolution just alluded to no mention is made of Bonaparte's association with Robespierre the younger. The severity with which he was treated is the more astonishing, since his mission to Genoa was the alleged cause of it. Was there any other charge against him, or had calumny triumphed over the services he had rendered to his country? I have frequently conversed with him on the subject of this adventure, and he invariably assured me that he had nothing to reproach himself with, and that his defence, which I shall subjoin, contained the pure expression of his sentiments, and the exact truth.
In the following note, which he addressed to Albitte and Salicetti, he makes no mention of Laporte. The copy which I possess is in the handwriting of Junot, with corrections in the General's hand. It exhibits all the characteristics of Napoleon's writing: his short sentences, his abrupt rather than concise style, sometimes his elevated ideas, and always his plain good sense.
You have suspended me from my duties, put me under arrest, and declared me to be suspected.
Thus I am disgraced before being judged, or indeed judged before being heard.
In a revolutionary state there are two classes, the suspected and the patriots.
When the first are aroused, general measures are adopted towards them for the sake of security.
The oppression of the second class is a blow to public liberty. The magistrate cannot condemn until after the fullest evidence and a succession of facts. This leaves nothing to arbitrary decision.
To declare a patriot suspected is to deprive him of all that he most highly values—confidence and esteem.
In what class am I placed?
Since the commencement of the Revolution, have I not always been attached to its principles?
Have I not always been contending either with domestic enemies or foreign foes?
I sacrificed my home, abandoned my property, and lost everything for the
I have since served with some distinction at Toulon, and earned a part of the laurels of the army of Italy at the taking of Saorgio, Oneille, and Tanaro.
On the discovery of Robespierre's conspiracy, my conduct was that of a man accustomed to look only to principles.
My claim to the title of patriot, therefore cannot be disputed.
Why, then, am I declared suspected without being heard, and arrested eight days after I heard the news of the tyrant's death?
I am declared suspected, and my papers are placed under seal.
The reverse of this course ought to have been adopted. My papers should first have been sealed; then I should have been called on for my explanation; and, lastly, declared suspected, if there was reason for coming to such a decision.
It is wished that I should go to Paris with an order which declares me suspected. It will naturally be presumed that the representatives did not draw up this decree without accurate information, and I shall be judged with the bias which a man of that class merits.
Though a patriot and an innocent and calumniated man, yet whatever measures may be adopted by the Committee I cannot complain.
If three men declare that I have committed a crime, I cannot complain of the jury who condemns me.
Salicetti, you know me; and I ask whether you have observed anything in my conduct for the last five years which can afford ground of suspicion?
Albitte, you do not know me; but you have received proof of no fact against me; you have not heard me, and you know how artfully the tongue of calumny sometimes works.
Must I then be confounded with the enemies of my country and ought the patriots inconsiderately to sacrifice a general who has not been useless to the Republic? Ought the representatives to reduce the Government to the necessity of being unjust and impolitic?
Hear me; destroy the oppression that overwhelms me, and restore me to the esteem of the patriots.
An hour after, if my enemies wish for my life, let them take it. I have often given proofs how little I value it. Nothing but the thought that I may yet be useful to my country makes me bear the burden of existence with courage.
It appears that this defence, which is remarkable for its energetic simplicity, produced an effect on Albitte and Salicetti. Inquiries more accurate, and probably more favourable to the General, were instituted; and on the 3d Fructidor (20th August 1794) the representatives of the people drew up a decree stating that, after a careful examination of General Bonaparte's papers, and of the orders he had received relative to his mission to Genoa, they saw nothing to justify any suspicion of his conduct; and that, moreover, taking into consideration the advantage that might accrue to the Republic from the military talents of the said General Bonaparte, it was resolved that he should be provisionally set at liberty.
—[With reference to the arrest of Bonaparte (which lasted thirteen days) see 'Bourrienne et ses Erreurs', tome i. pp. 16-28, and Jung, tome ii. pp. 443-457. Both, in opposition to Bourrienne, attribute the arrest to his connection with the younger Robespierre. Apparently Albitte and Salicetti were not acquainted with the secret plan of campaign prepared by the younger Robespierre and by Bonaparte, or with the real instructions given for the mission to Genoa. Jealousy between the representatives in the staff of the army of the Alps and those with the army of Italy, with which Napoleon was, also played a part in the affair. Jung looks on Salicetti as acting as the protector of the Bonapartes; but Napoleon does not seem to have regarded him in that light; see the letter given in Junot, vol. i. p. l06, where in 1795 he takes credit for not returning the ill done to him; see also the same volume, p. 89. Salicetti eventually became Minister of Police to Joseph, when King of Naples, in 1806; but when he applied to return to France, Napoleon said to Mathieu Dumas, "Let him know that I am not powerful enough to protect the wretches who voted for the death of Louis XVI. from the contempt and indignation of the public" (Dumas, tome iii. p. 318). At the same time Napoleon described Salicetti as worse than the lazzaroni.]—
Salicetti afterwards became the friend and confidant of young Bonaparte; but their intimacy did not continue after his elevation.
What is to be thought of the motives for Bonaparte's arrest and provisional liberation, when his innocence and the error that had been committed were acknowledged? The importance of the General's military talents, though no mention is made about the impossibility of dispensing with them, is a pretence for restoring him to that liberty of which he had been unjustly deprived.
It was not at Toulon, as has been stated, that Bonaparte took Duroc into the artillery, and made him his 'aide de camp'.
—[Michel Duroc (1773-1813) at first only aide de camp to Napoleon, was several times entrusted with special diplomatic missions (for example, to Berlin, etc.) On the formation of the Empire he became Grand Marechal du Palais, and Duc de Frioul. He always remained in close connection with Napoleon until he was killed in 1813. As he is often mentioned in contemporary memoirs under his abbreviated title of 'Marshal', he has sometimes been erroneously included in the number of the Marshals of the Empire—a military rank he never attained to.]—
The acquaintance was formed at a subsequent period, in Italy. Duroc's cold character and unexcursive mind suited Napoleon, whose confidence he enjoyed until his death, and who entrusted him with missions perhaps above his abilities. At St. Helena Bonaparte often declared that he was much attached to Duroc. I believe this to be true; but I know that the attachment was not returned. The ingratitude of princes is proverbial. May it not happen that courtiers are also sometimes ungrateful?—[It is only just to Duroc to add that this charge does not seem borne out by the impressions of those more capable than Bourrienne of judging in the matter.]
Proposal to send Bonaparte to La Vendee—He is struck off the list of general officers—Salicetti—Joseph's marriage with Mademoiselle Clary—Bonaparte's wish to go to Turkey—Note explaining the plan of his proposed expedition—Madame Bourrienne's character of Bonaparte, and account of her husband's arrest—Constitution of the year III— The 13th Vendemiaire—Bonaparte appointed second in command of the army of the interior—Eulogium of Bonaparte by Barras, and its consequences—St. Helena manuscript.
General Bonaparte returned to Paris, where I also arrived from Germany shortly after him. Our intimacy was resumed, and he gave me an account of all that had passed in the campaign of the south. He frequently alluded to the persecutions he had suffered, and he delivered to me the packet of papers noticed in the last chapter, desiring me to communicate their contents to my friends. He was very anxious, he said, to do away with the supposition that he was capable of betraying his country, and, under the pretence of a mission to Genoa, becoming a SPY on the interests of France. He loved to talk over his military achievements at Toulon and in Italy. He spoke of his first successes with that feeling of pleasure and gratification which they were naturally calculated to excite in him.
The Government wished to send him to La Vendee, with the rank of brigadier-general of infantry. Bonaparte rejected this proposition on two grounds. He thought the scene of action unworthy of his talents, and he regarded his projected removal from the artillery to the infantry as a sort of insult. This last was his most powerful objection, and was the only one he urged officially. In consequence of his refusal to accept the appointment offered him, the Committee of Public Safety decreed that he should be struck off the list of general officers.
—[This statement as to the proposed transfer of Bonaparte to the infantry, his disobedience to the order, and his consequent dismissal, is fiercely attacked in the 'Erreurs', tome i. chap. iv. It is, however, correct in some points; but the real truths about Bonaparte's life at this time seem so little known that it may be well to explain the whole matter. On the 27th of March 1795 Bonaparte, already removed from his employment in the south, was ordered to proceed to the army of the west to command its artillery as brigadier-general. He went as far as Paris, and then lingered there, partly on medical certificate. While in Paris he applied, as Bourrienne says, to go to Turkey to organise its artillery. His application, instead of being neglected, as Bourrienne says, was favourably received, two members of the 'Comité de Saint Public' putting on its margin most favorable reports of him; one, Jean Debry, even saying that he was too distinguished an officer to be sent to a distance at such a time. Far from being looked on as the half-crazy fellow Bourrienne considered him at that time, Bonaparte was appointed, on the 21st of August 1795, one of four generals attached as military advisers to the Committee for the preparation of warlike operations, his own department being a most important one. He himself at the time tells Joseph that he is attached to the topographical bureau of the Comité de Saint Public, for the direction of the armies in the place of Carnot. It is apparently this significant appointment to which Madame Junot, wrongly dating it, alludes as "no great thing" (Junot, vol. i, p. 143). Another officer was therefore substituted for him as commander of Hoches artillery, a fact made use of in the Erreurs (p. 31) to deny his having been dismissed—But a general re-classification of the generals was being made. The artillery generals were in excess of their establishment, and Bonaparte, as junior in age, was ordered on 13th June to join Hoche's army at Brest to command a brigade of infantry. All his efforts to get the order cancelled failed, and as he did not obey it he was struck off the list of employed general officers on the 15th of September 1795, the order of the 'Comité de Salut Public' being signed by Cambaceres, Berber, Merlin, and Boissy. His application to go to Turkey still, however, remained; and it is a curious thing that, on the very day he was struck off the list, the commission which had replaced the Minister of War recommended to the 'Comité de Saint Public' that he and his two aides de camp, Junot and Livrat, with other officers, under him, should be sent to Constantinople. So late as the 29th of September, twelve days later, this matter was being considered, the only question being as to any departmental objections to the other officers selected by him, a point which was just being settled. But on the 13th Vendemiaire (5th October 1795), or rather on the night before, only nineteen days after his removal, he was appointed second in command to Barras, a career in France was opened to him, and Turkey was no longer thought of.
Thiers (vol. iv, p. 326) and most writers, contemporary and otherwise, say that Aubry gave the order for his removal from the list. Aubry, himself a brigadier-general of artillery, did not belong to the 'Comité de Salut Public' at the time Bonaparte was removed from the south; and he had left the Comité early is August, that is, before the order striking Bonaparte off was given. Aubry was, however, on the Comité in June 1795, and signed the order, which probably may have originated from him, for the transfer of Bonaparte to the infantry. It will be seen that, in the ordinary military sense of the term, Napoleon was only in Paris without employment from the 15th of September to the 4th or 6th of October 1795; all the rest of the time in Paris he had a command which he did not choose to take up. The distress under which Napoleon is said to have laboured in pecuniary matters was probably shared by most officers at that time; see 'Erreurs', tome i. p. 32. This period is fully described in Jung, tome ii. p. 476, and tome iii. pp. 1-93.]—
Deeply mortified at this unexpected stroke, Bonaparte retired into private life, and found himself doomed to an inactivity very uncongenial with his ardent character. He lodged in the Rue du Mail, in an hotel near the Place des Victoires, and we recommenced the sort of life we had led in 1792, before his departure for Corsica. It was not without a struggle that he determined to await patiently the removal of the prejudices which were cherished against him by men in power; and he hoped that, in the perpetual changes which were taking place, those men might be superseded by others more favourable to him. He frequently dined and spent the evening with me and my elder brother; and his pleasant conversation and manners made the hours pass away very agreeably. I called on him almost every morning, and I met at his lodgings several persons who were distinguished at the time; among others Salicetti, with whom he used to maintain very animated conversations, and who would often solicit a private interview with him. On one occasion Salicetti paid him three thousand francs, in assignats, as the price of his carriage, which his straitened circumstances obliged him to dispose of.
—[Of Napoleon's poverty at this time Madame Junot says, "On Bonaparte's return to Paris, after the misfortunes of which he accused Salicetti of being the cause, he was in very destitute circumstances. His family, who were banished from Corsica, found an asylum at Marseilles; and they could not now do for him what they would have done had they been in the country whence they derived their pecuniary resources. From time to time he received remittances of money, and I suspect they came from his excellent brother Joseph, who had then recently married Mademoiselle Clary; but with all his economy these supplies were insufficient. Bonaparte was therefore in absolute distress. Junot often used to speak of the six months they passed together in Paris at this time. When they took an evening stroll on the Boulevard, which used to be the resort of young men, mounted on fine horses, and displaying all the luxury which they were permitted to show at that time, Bonaparte would declaim against fate, and express his contempt for the dandies with their whiskers and their 'orielles de chiene', who, as they rode past, were eulogising in ecstasy the manner in which Madame Scio sang. And it is on such beings as these,' he would say, 'that Fortune confers her favours. Grand Dieu! how contemptible is human nature!'" (Memoirs of the Duchesse d'Abrantes, vol. i. p. 80, edit. 1883.)]—
I could easily perceive that our young friend either was or wished to be initiated in some political intrigue; and I moreover suspected that Salicetti had bound him by an oath not to disclose the plans that were hatching.
He became pensive, melancholy, and anxious; and he always looked with impatience for Salicetti's daily visit.
—[Salicetti was implicated in the insurrection of the 20th May
1795, 1st Prairial, Year III., and was obliged to fly to Venice.]—
Sometimes, withdrawing his mind from political affairs, he would envy the happiness of his brother Joseph, who had just then married Mademoiselle Clary, the daughter of a rich and respectable merchant of Marseilles. He would often say, "That Joseph is a lucky rogue."
Meanwhile time passed away, and none of his projects succeeded—none of his applications were listened to. He was vexed by the injustice with which he was treated, and tormented by the desire of entering upon some active pursuit. He could not endure the thought of remaining buried in the crowd. He determined to quit France; and the favourite idea, which he never afterwards relinquished, that the East is a fine field for glory, inspired him with the wish to proceed to Constantinople, and to enter the service of the Grand Seignior. What romantic plans, what stupendous projects he conceived! He asked me whether I would go with him? I replied in the negative. I looked upon him as a half-crazy young fellow, who was driven to extravagant enterprises and desperate resolutions by his restless activity of mind, joined to the irritating treatment he had experienced, and, perhaps, it may be added, his want of money. He did not blame me for my refusal to accompany him; and he told me that Junot, Marmont, and some other young officers whom he had known at Toulon, would be willing to follow his fortunes.
He drew up a note which commenced with the words 'Note for . . .' It was addressed to no one, and was merely a plan. Some days after he wrote out another, which, however, did not differ very materially from the first, and which he addressed to Aubert and Coni. I made him a fair copy of it, and it was regularly forwarded. It was as follows:—
At a moment when the Empress of Russia has strengthened her union with the Emperor of Germany (Austria), it is the interest of France to do everything in her power to increase the military power of Turkey.
That power possesses a numerous and brave militia but is very backward in the scientific part of the art of war.
The organization and the service of the artillery, which, in our modern tactics, so powerfully facilitate the gaining of battles, and on which, almost exclusively, depend the attack and defence of fortresses, are especially the points in which France excels, and in which the Turks are most deficient.
They have several times applied to us for artillery officers, and we have sent them some; but the officers thus sent have not been sufficiently powerful, either in numbers or talent, to produce any important result.
General Bonaparte, who, from his youth, has served in the artillery, of which he was entrusted with the command at the siege of Toulon, and in the two campaigns of Italy, offers his services to proceed to Turkey, with a mission from the (French) Government.
He proposes to take along with him six or seven officers, of different kinds, and who may be, altogether, perfect masters of the military art.
He will have the satisfaction of being useful to his country in this new career, if he succeed in rendering the Turkish power more formidable, by completing the defence of their principal fortresses, and constructing new ones.
This note shows the error of the often-repeated assertion, that he proposed entering the service of the Turks against Austria. He makes no mention of such a thing; and the two countries were not at war.
—[The Scottish biographer makes Bonaparte say that it would be strange if a little Corsican should become King of Jerusalem. I never heard anything drop from him which supports the probability of such a remark, and certainly there is nothing in his note to warrant the inference of his having made it.—Bourrienne.]—
No answer was returned to this note. Turkey remained unaided, and Bonaparte unoccupied. I must confess that for the failure of this project, at least I was not sorry. I should have regretted to see a young man of great promise, and one for whom I cherished a sincere friendship, devote himself to so uncertain a fate. Napoleon has less than any man provoked the events which have favoured him; no one has more yielded to circumstances from which he was so skilful to derive advantages. If, however, a clerk of the War Office had but written on the note, "Granted," that little word would probably have changed the fate of Europe.
Bonaparte remained in Paris, forming schemes for the gratification of his ambition, and his desire of making a figure in the world; but obstacles opposed all he attempted.
Women are better judges of character than men. Madame de Bourrienne, knowing the intimacy which subsisted between us, preserved some notes which she made upon Bonaparte, and the circumstances which struck her as most remarkable, during her early connection with him. My wife did not entertain so favourable an opinion of him as I did; the warm friendship I cherished for him probably blinded me to his faults. I subjoin Madame de Bourrienne's notes, word for word:
On the day after our second return from Germany, which was in May 1795, we met Bonaparte in the Palais Royal, near a shop kept by a man named Girardin. Bonaparte embraced Bourrienne as a friend whom he loved and was glad to see. We went that evening to the Theatre Francais. The performance consisted of a tragedy; and 'Le Sourd, ou l'Auberge pleine'. During the latter piece the audience was convulsed with laughter. The part of Dasnieres was represented by Batiste the younger, and it was never played better. The bursts of laughter were so loud and frequent that the actor was several times obliged to stop in the midst of his part. Bonaparte alone (and it struck me as being very extraordinary) was silent, and coldly insensible to the humour which was so irresistibly diverting to everyone else. I remarked at this period that his character was reserved, and frequently gloomy. His smile was hypocritical, and often misplaced; and I recollect that a few days after our return he gave us one of these specimens of savage hilarity which I greatly disliked, and which prepossessed me against him. He was telling us that, being before Toulon, where he commanded the artillery, one of his officers was visited by his wife, to whom he had been but a short time married, and whom he tenderly loved. A few days after, orders were given for another attack upon the town, in which this officer was to be engaged. His wife came to General Bonaparte, and with tears entreated him to dispense with her husband's services that day. The General was inexorable, as he himself told us, with a sort of savage exaltation. The moment for the attack arrived, and the officer, though a very brave man, as Bonaparte himself assured us, felt a presentiment of his approaching death. He turned pale and trembled. He was stationed beside the General, and during an interval when the firing from the town was very heavy, Bonaparte called out to him, "Take care, there is a shell coming!" The officer, instead of moving to one side, stooped down, and was literally severed in two. Bonaparte laughed loudly while he described the event with horrible minuteness. At this time we saw him almost every day. He frequently came to dine with us. As there was a scarcity of bread, and sometimes only two ounces per head daily were distributed in the section, it was customary to request one's guests to bring their own bread, as it could not be procured for money. Bonaparte and his brother Louis (a mild, agreeable young man, who was the General's aide de camp) used to bring with them their ration bread, which was black, and mixed with bran. I was sorry to observe that all this bad bread fell to the share of the poor aide de camp, for we provided the General with a finer kind, which was made clandestinely by a pastrycook, from flour which we contrived to smuggle from Sens, where my husband had some farms. Had we been denounced, the affair might have cost us our heads.
We spent six weeks in Paris, and we went frequently with Bonaparte to the theatres, and to the fine concerts given by Garat in the Rue St. Marc. These were the first brilliant entertainments that took place after the death of Robespierre. There was always something original in Bonaparte's behaviour, for he often slipped away from us without saying a word; and when we were supposing he had left the theatre, we would suddenly discover him in the second or third tier, sitting alone in a box, and looking rather sulky.
Before our departure for Sens, where my husband's family reside, and which was fixed upon for the place of my first accouchement, we looked out for more agreeable apartments than we had in the Rue Grenier St. Lazare, which we only had temporarily. Bonaparte used to assist us in our researches. At last we took the first floor of a handsome new house, No. 19 Rue des Marais. Bonaparte, who wished to stop in Paris, went to look at a house opposite to ours. He had thoughts of taking it for himself, his uncle Fesch (afterwards Cardinal Fesch), and a gentleman named Patrauld, formerly one of his masters at the Military School. One day he said, "With that house over there, my friends in it, and a cabriolet, I shall be the happiest fellow in the world."
We soon after left town for Sens. The house was not taken by him, for other and great affairs were preparing. During the interval between our departure and the fatal day of Vendemiaire several letters passed between him and his school companion. These letters were of the most amiable and affectionate description. They have been stolen. On our return, in November of the same year, everything was changed. The college friend was now a great personage. He had got the command of Paris in return for his share in the events of Vendemiaire. Instead of a small house in the Rue des Marais, he occupied a splendid hotel in the Rue des Capucines; the modest cabriolet was converted into a superb equipage, and the man himself was no longer the same. But the friends of his youth were still received when they made their morning calls. They were invited to grand dejeuners, which were sometimes attended by ladies; and, among others, by the beautiful Madame Tallien and her friend the amiable Madame de Beauharnais, to whom Bonaparte had begun to pay attention. He cared little for his friends, and ceased to address them in the style of familiar equality.
After the 13th of Vendemiaire M. de Bourrienne saw Bonaparte only at distant periods. In the month of February 1796 my husband was arrested, at seven in the morning, by a party of men, armed with muskets, on the charge of being a returned emigrant. He was torn from his wife and his child, only six months old, being barely allowed time to dress himself. I followed him. They conveyed him to the guard-house of the Section, and thence I know not whither; and, finally, in the evening, they placed him in the lockup-house of the prefecture of police, which, I believe, is now called the central bureau. There he passed two nights and a day, among men of the lowest description, some of whom were even malefactors. I and his friends ran about everywhere, trying to find somebody to rescue him, and, among the rest, Bonaparte was applied to. It was with great difficulty he could be seen. Accompanied by one of my husband's friends, I waited for the commandant of Paris until midnight, but he did not come home. Next morning I returned at an early hour, and found him. I stated what had happened to my husband, whose life was then at stake. He appeared to feel very little for the situation of his friend, but, however, determined to write to Merlin, the Minister of Justice. I carried the letter according to its address, and met the Minister as he was coming downstairs, on his way to the Directory. Being in grand costume, he wore a Henri IV. hat, surmounted with a multitude of plumes, a dress which formed a singular contrast with his person. He opened the letter; and whether it was that he cared as little for the General as for the cause of M. de Bourrienne's arrest, he replied that the matter was no longer in his hands, and that it was now under the cognisance of the public administrators of the laws. The Minister then stepped into his carriage, and the writer was conducted to several offices in his hotel. She passed through them with a broken heart, for she met with none but harsh men, who told her that the prisoner deserved death. From them she learned that on the following day he would be brought before the judge of the peace for his Section, who would decide whether there was ground for putting him on his trial. In fact, this proceeding took place next day. He was conveyed to the house of the judge of the peace for the Section of Bondy, Rue Grange-sue-Belles, whose name was Lemaire. His countenance was mild; and though his manner was cold, he had none of the harshness and ferocity common to the Government agents of that time. His examination of the charge was long, and he several times shook his head. The moment of decision had arrived, and everything seemed to indicate that the termination would be to place the prisoner under accusation. At seven o'clock he desired me to be called. I hastened to him, and beheld a most heart rending scene. Bourrienne was suffering under a hemorrhage, which had continued since two o'clock, and had interrupted the examination. The judge of the peace, who looked sad, sat with his head resting on his hand. I threw myself at his feet and implored his clemency. The wife and the two daughters of the judge visited this scene of sorrow, and assisted me in softening him. He was a worthy and feeling man, a good husband and parent, and it was evident that he struggled between compassion and duty. He kept referring to the laws on the subject, and, after long researches said to me, "To-morrow is Decadi, and no proceedings can take place on that day. Find, madame, two responsible persons, who will answer for the appearance of your husband, and I will permit him to go home with you, accompanied by the two guardians." Next day two friends were found, one of whom was M. Desmaisons, counsellor of the court, who became bail for M. de Bourrienne. He continued under these guardians six months, until a law compelled the persons who were inscribed on the fatal list to remove to the distance of ten leagues from Paris. One of the guardians was a man of straw; the other was a knight of St. Louis. The former was left in the antechamber; the latter made, every evening, one of our party at cards. The family of M. de Bourrienne have always felt the warmest gratitude to the judge of the peace and his family. That worthy man saved the life of M. de Bourrienne, who, when he returned from Egypt, and had it in his power to do him some service, hastened to his house; but the good judge was no more!
The letters mentioned in the narrative were at this time stolen from me by the police officers.
Everyone was now eager to pay court to a man who had risen from the crowd in consequence of the part he had acted at an extraordinary crisis, and who was spoken of as the future General of the Army of Italy. It was expected that he would be gratified, as he really was, by the restoration of some letters which contained the expression of his former very modest wishes, called to recollection his unpleasant situation, his limited ambition, his pretended aversion for public employment, and finally exhibited his intimate relations with those who were, without hesitation, characterised as emigrants, to be afterwards made the victims of confiscation and death.
The 13th of Vendemiaire (5th October 1795) was approaching. The National Convention had been painfully delivered of a new constitution, called, from the epoch of its birth, "the Constitution of Year III." It was adopted on the 22d of August 1795. The provident legislators did not forget themselves. They stipulated that two-thirds of their body should form part of the new legislature. The party opposed to the Convention hoped, on the contrary, that, by a general election, a majority would be obtained for its opinion. That opinion was against the continuation of power in the hands of men who had already so greatly abused it.
The same opinion was also entertained by a great part of the most influential Sections of Paris, both as to the possession of property and talent. These Sections declared that, in accepting the new constitution, they rejected the decree of the 30th of August, which required the re- election of two-thirds. The Convention, therefore, found itself menaced in what it held most dear—its power;—and accordingly resorted to measures of defence. A declaration was put forth, stating that the Convention, if attacked, would remove to Chalons-sur-Marne; and the commanders of the armed force were called upon to defend that body.
The 5th of October, the day on which the Sections of Paris attacked the Convention, is certainly one which ought to be marked in the wonderful destiny of Bonaparte.
With the events of that day were linked, as cause and effect, many great political convulsions of Europe. The blood which flowed ripened the seeds of the youthful General's ambition. It must be admitted that the history of past ages presents few periods full of such extraordinary events as the years included between 1795 and 1815. The man whose name serves, in some measure, as a recapitulation of all these great events was entitled to believe himself immortal.
Living retired at Sens since the month of July, I only learned what had occasioned the insurrection of the Sections from public report and the journals. I cannot, therefore, say what part Bonaparte may have taken in the intrigues which preceded that day. He was officially characterised only as secondary actor in the scene. The account of the affair which was published announces that Barras was, on that very day, Commander-in- chief of the Army of the Interior, and Bonaparte second in command. Bonaparte drew up that account. The whole of the manuscript was in his handwriting, and it exhibits all the peculiarity of his style and orthography. He sent me a copy.
Those who read the bulletin of the 13th Vendemiaire, cannot fail to observe the care which Bonaparte took to cast the reproach of shedding the first blood on the men he calls rebels. He made a great point of representing his adversaries as the aggressors. It is certain he long regretted that day. He often told me that he would give years of his life to blot it out from the page of his history. He was convinced that the people of Paris were dreadfully irritated against him, and he would have been glad if Barras had never made that Speech in the Convention, with the part of which, complimentary to himself, he was at the time so well pleased. Barras said, "It is to his able and prompt dispositions that we are indebted for the defence of this assembly, around which he had posted the troops with so much skill." This is perfectly true, but it is not always agreeable that every truth should be told. Being out of Paris, and a total stranger to this affair, I know not how far he was indebted for his success to chance, or to his own exertions, in the part assigned to him by the miserable Government which then oppressed France. He represented himself only as secondary actor in this sanguinary scene in which Barras made him his associate. He sent to me, as already mentioned, an account of the transaction, written entirely in his own hand, and distinguished by all the peculiarities of his style and orthography.
—[Joseph Bonaparte, in a note on this passage, insinuates that the account of the 13th Vendemiaire was never sent to Sens, but was abstracted by Bourrienne, with other documents, from Napoleon's Cabinet (Erreurs, tome i. p. 239).]—
"On the 13th," says Bonaparte, "at five o'clock in the morning, the representative of the people, Barras, was appointed Commander-in-chief of the Army of the Interior, and General Bonaparte was nominated second in command.
"The artillery for service on the frontier was still at the camp of Sablons, guarded solely by 150 men; the remainder was at Marly with 200 men. The depot of Meudon was left unprotected. There were at the Feuillans only a few four-pounders without artillerymen, and but 80,000 cartridges. The victualling depots were dispersed throughout Paris. In many Sections the drums beat to arms; the Section of the Theatre Francais had advanced posts even as far as the Pont Neuf, which it had barricaded.
"General Barras ordered the artillery to move immediately from the camp of Sablons to the Tuilleries, and selected the artillerymen from the battalions of the 89th regiment, and from the gendarmerie, and placed them at the Palace; sent to Meudon 200 men of the police legion whom he brought from Versailles, 50 cavalry, and two companies of veterans; he ordered the property which was at Marly to be conveyed to Meudon; caused cartridges to be brought there, and established a workshop at that place for the manufacture of more. He secured means for the subsistence of the army and of the Convention for many days, independently of the depots which were in the Sections.
"General Verdier, who commanded at the Palais National, exhibited great coolness; he was required not to suffer a shot to be fired till the last extremity. In the meantime reports reached him from all quarters acquainting him that the Sections were assembled in arms, and had formed their columns. He accordingly arrayed his troops so as to defend the Convention, and his artillery was in readiness to repulse the rebels. His cannon was planted at the Feuillans to fire down the Rue Honore. Eight-pounders were pointed at every opening, and in the event of any mishap, General Verdier had cannon in reserve to fire in flank upon the column which should have forced a passage. He left in the Carrousel three howitzers (eight-pounders) to batter down the houses from which the Convention might be fired upon. At four o'clock the rebel columns marched out from every street to unite their forces. It was necessary to take advantage of this critical moment to attack the insurgents, even had they been regular troops. But the blood about to flow was French; it was therefore for these misguided people, already guilty of rebellion, to embrue their hands in the blood of their countrymen by striking the first blow.
"At a quarter before five o'clock the insurgents had formed. The attack was commenced by them on all sides. They were everywhere routed. French blood was spilled: the crime, as well as the disgrace, fell this day upon the Sections.
"Among the dead were everywhere to be recognized emigrants, landowners, and nobles; the prisoners consisted for the most part of the 'chouans' of Charette.
"Nevertheless the Sections did not consider themselves beaten: they took refuge in the church of St. Roch, in the theatre of the Republic, and in the Palais Egalite; and everywhere they were heard furiously exciting the inhabitants to arms. To spare the blood which would have been shed the next day it was necessary that no time should be given them to rally, but to follow them with vigour, though without incurring fresh hazards. The General ordered Montchoisy, who commanded a reserve at the Place de la Resolution, to form a column with two twelve-pounders, to march by the Boulevard in order to turn the Place Vendôme, to form a junction with the picket stationed at headquarters, and to return in the same order of column.
"General Brune, with two howitzers, deployed in the streets of St. Nicaise and St. Honore. General Cartaux sent two hundred men and a four- pounder of his division by the Rue St. Thomas-du-Louvre to debouch in the square of the Palais Egalite. General Bonaparte, who had his horse killed under him, repaired to the Feuillans.
"The columns began to move, St. Roch and the theatre of the Republic were taken, by assault, when the rebels abandoned them, and retreated to the upper part of the Rue de la Loi, and barricaded themselves on all sides. Patrols were sent thither, and several cannon-shots were fired during the night, in order to prevent them from throwing up defences, which object was effectually accomplished.
"At daybreak, the General having learned that some students from the St. Genevieve side of the river were marching with two pieces of cannon to succour the rebels, sent a detachment of dragoons in pursuit of them, who seized the cannon and conducted them to the Tuilleries. The enfeebled Sections, however, still showed a front. They had barricaded the Section of Grenelle, and placed their cannon in the principal streets. At nine o'clock General Beruyer hastened to form his division in battle array in the Place Vendôme, marched with two eight-pounders to the Rue des Vieux- Augustins, and pointed them in the direction of the Section Le Pelletier. General Vachet, with a corps of 'tirailleurs', marched on his right, ready to advance to the Place Victoire. General Brune marched to the Perron, and planted two howitzers at the upper end of the Rue Vivienne. General Duvigier, with his column of six hundred men, and two twelve- pounders, advanced to the streets of St. Roch and Montmartre. The Sections lost courage with the apprehension of seeing their retreat cut off, and evacuated the post at the sight of our soldiers, forgetting the honour of the French name which they had to support. The Section of Brutus still caused some uneasiness. The wife of a representative had been arrested there. General Duvigier was ordered to proceed along the Boulevard as far as the Rue Poissonniere. General Beruyer took up a position at the Place Victoire, and General Bonaparte occupied the Pont- au-Change.
"The Section of Brutus was surrounded, and the troops advanced upon the Place de Greve, where the crowd poured in from the Isle St. Louis, from the Theatre Francais, and from the Palace. Everywhere the patriots had regained their courage, while the poniards of the emigrants, armed against us, had disappeared. The people universally admitted their error.
"The next day the two Sections of Le Pelletier and the Theatre Francais were disarmed."
The result of this petty civil war brought Bonaparte forward; but the party he defeated at that period never pardoned him for the past, and that which he supported dreaded him in the future. Five years after he will be found reviving the principles which he combated on the 5th of October 1795. On being appointed, on the motion of Barras, Lieutenant- General of the Army of the Interior, he established his headquarters in the Rue Neuve des Capucines. The statement in the 'Manuscrit de Sainte Helene, that after the 13th Brumaire he remained unemployed at Paris, is therefore obviously erroneous. So far from this, he was incessantly occupied with the policy of the nation, and with his own fortunes. Bonaparte was in constant, almost daily, communication with every one then in power, and knew how to profit by all he saw or heard.
To avoid returning to this 'Manuscrit de Sainte Helene', which at the period of its appearance attracted more attention than it deserved, and which was very generally attributed to Bonaparte, I shall here say a few words respecting it. I shall briefly repeat what I said in a note when my opinion was asked, under high authority, by a minister of Louis XVIII.
No reader intimately acquainted with public affairs can be deceived by the pretended authenticity of this pamphlet. What does it contain? Facts perverted and heaped together without method, and related in an obscure, affected, and ridiculously sententious style. Besides what appears in it, but which is badly placed there, it is impossible not to remark the omission of what should necessarily be there, were Napoleon the author. It is full of absurd and of insignificant gossip, of thoughts Napoleon never had, expressions unknown to him, and affectations far removed from his character. With some elevated ideas, more than one style and an equivocal spirit can be seen in it. Professed coincidences are put close to unpardonable anachronisms, and to the most absurd revelations. It contains neither his thoughts, his style, his actions, nor his life. Some truths are mixed up with an inconceivable mass of falsehoods. Some forms of expression used by Bonaparte are occasionally met with, but they are awkwardly introduced, and often with bad taste.
It has been reported that the pamphlet was written by M. Bertrand, formerly an officer of the army of the Vistula, and a relation of the Comte de Simeon, peer of France.
—['Manuscrit de Sainte Helene d'une maniere inconnue', London. Murray; Bruxelles, De Mat, 20 Avril 1817. This work merits a note. Metternich (vol, i. pp. 312-13) says, "At the time when it appeared the manuscript of St. Helena made a great impression upon Europe. This pamphlet was generally regarded as a precursor of the memoirs which Napoleon was thought to be writing in his place of exile. The report soon spread that the work was conceived and executed by Madame de Stael. Madame de Stael, for her part, attributed it to Benjamin Constant, from whom she was at this time separated by some disagreement. Afterwards it came to be known that the author was the Marquis Lullin de Chateauvieux, a man in society, whom no one had suspected of being able to hold a pen: Jomini (tome i. p. 8 note) says. "It will be remarked that in the course of this work [his life of Napoleon] the author has used some fifty pages of the pretended 'Manuscrit de Sainte Helene'. Far from wishing to commit a plagiarism, he considers he ought to render this homage to a clever and original work, several false points of view in which, however, he has combated. It would have been easy for him to rewrite these pages in other terms, but they appeared to him to be so well suited to the character of Napoleon that he has preferred to preserve them." In the will of Napoleon occurs (see end of this work): "I disavow the 'Manuscrit de Sainte Helene', and the other works under the title of Maxims, Sentences, etc., which they have been pleased to publish during the last six years. Such rules are not those which have guided my life: This manuscript must not be confused with the 'Memorial of Saint Helena'.]—
On my return to Paris I meet Bonaparte—His interview with Josephine —Bonaparte's marriage, and departure from Paris ten days after— Portrait and character of Josephine—Bonaparte's dislike of national property—Letter to Josephine—Letter of General Colli, and Bonaparte's reply—Bonaparte refuses to serve with Kellerman— Marmont's letters—Bonaparte's order to me to join the army—My departure from Sens for Italy—Insurrection of the Venetian States.
After the 13th Vendemiaire I returned to Paris from Sens. During the short time I stopped there I saw Bonaparte less frequently than formerly. I had, however, no reason to attribute this to anything but the pressure of public business with which he was now occupied. When I did meet him it was most commonly at breakfast or dinner. One day he called my attention to a young lady who sat opposite to him, and asked what I thought of her. The way in which I answered his question appeared to give him much pleasure. He then talked a great deal to me about her, her family, and her amiable qualities; he told me that he should probably marry her, as he was convinced that the union would make him happy. I also gathered from his conversation that his marriage with the young widow would probably assist him in gaining the objects of his ambition. His constantly-increasing influence with her had already brought him into contact with the most influential persons of that epoch. He remained in Paris only ten days after his marriage, which took place on the 9th of March 1796. It was a union in which great harmony prevailed, notwithstanding occasional slight disagreements. Bonaparte never, to my knowledge, caused annoyance to his wife. Madame Bonaparte possessed personal graces and many good qualities.
—["Eugene was not more than fourteen years of age when he ventured to introduce himself to General Bonaparte, for the purpose of soliciting his father's sword, of which he understood the General had become possessed. The countenance, air, and frank manner of Eugene pleased Bonaparte, and he immediately granted him the boon he sought. As soon as the sword was placed in the boy's hands he burst into tears, and kissed it. This feeling of affection for his father's memory, and the natural manner in which it was evinced, increased the interest of Bonaparte in his young visitor. Madame de Beauharnais, on learning the kind reception which the General had given her son, thought it her duty to call and thank him. Bonaparte was much pleased with Josephine on this first interview, and he returned her visit. The acquaintance thus commenced speedily led to their marriage."—Constant]—
—[Bonaparte himself, at St. Helena, says that he first met
Josephine at Barras' (see Jung's Bonaparte, tome iii. p. 116).]—
—["Neither of his wives had ever anything to complain of from
Napoleon's personal manners" (Metternich, vol. 1 p. 279).]—
—[Madame de Remusat, who, to paraphrase Thiers' saying on Bourrienne himself, is a trustworthy witness, for if she received benefits from Napoleon they did not weigh on her, says, "However, Napoleon had some affection for his first wife; and, in fact, if he has at any time been touched, no doubt it has been only for her and by her" (tome i. p. 113). "Bonaparte was young when he first knew Madame de Beauharnais. In the circle where he met her she had a great superiority by the name she bore and by the extreme elegance of her manners . . . . In marrying Madame de Beauharnais, Bonaparte believed he was allying himself to a very grand lady; thus this was one more conquest" (p. 114). But in speaking of Josephine's complaints to Napoleon of his love affairs, Madame de Remusat says, "Her husband sometimes answered by violences, the excesses of which I do not dare to detail, until the moment when, his new fancy having suddenly passed, he felt his tenderness for his wife again renewed. Then he was touched by her sufferings, replaced his insults by caresses which were hardly more measured than his violences and, as she was gentle and untenacious, she fell back into her feeling of security" (p. 206).]—
—[Miot de Melito, who was a follower of Joseph Bonaparte, says, "No woman has united so much kindness to so much natural grace, or has done more good with more pleasure than she did. She honoured me with her friendship, and the remembrance of the benevolence she has shown me, to the last moment of her too short existence, will never be effaced from my heart" (tome i. pp.101-2).]—
—[Meneval, the successor of Bourrienne is his place of secretary to Napoleon, and who remained attached to the Emperor until the end, says of Josephine (tome i. p. 227), "Josephine was irresistibly attractive. Her beauty was not regular, but she had 'La grace, plus belle encore que la beaute', according to the good La Fontaine. She had the soft abandonment, the supple and elegant movements, and the graceful carelessness of the creoles.—(The reader must remember that the term "Creole" does not imply any taint of black blood, but only that the person, of European family, has been born in the West Indies.)—Her temper was always the same. She was gentle and kind."]—
I am convinced that all who were acquainted with her must have felt bound to speak well of her; to few, indeed, did she ever give cause for complaint. In the time of her power she did not lose any of her friends, because she forgot none of them. Benevolence was natural to her, but she was not always prudent in its exercise. Hence her protection was often extended to persons who did not deserve it. Her taste for splendour and expense was excessive. This proneness to luxury became a habit which seemed constantly indulged without any motive. What scenes have I not witnessed when the moment for paying the tradesmen's bills arrived! She always kept back one-half of their claims, and the discovery of this exposed her to new reproaches. How many tears did she shed which might have been easily spared!
When fortune placed a crown on her head she told me that the event, extraordinary as it was, had been predicted: It is certain that she put faith in fortune-tellers. I often expressed to her my astonishment that she should cherish such a belief, and she readily laughed at her own credulity; but notwithstanding never abandoned it: The event had given importance to the prophecy; but the foresight of the prophetess, said to be an old negress, was not the less a matter of doubt.
Not long before the 13th of Vendemiaire, that day which opened for Bonaparte his immense career, he addressed a letter to me at Sens, in which, after some of his usually friendly expressions, he said, "Look out a small piece of land in your beautiful valley of the Yonne. I will purchase it as soon as I can scrape together the money. I wish to retire there; but recollect that I will have nothing to do with national property."
Bonaparte left Paris on the 21st of March 1796, while I was still with my guardians. He no sooner joined the French army than General Colli, then in command of the Piedmontese army, transmitted to him the following letter, which, with its answer, I think sufficiently interesting to deserve preservation:
GENERAL—I suppose that you are ignorant of the arrest of one of my officers, named Moulin, the bearer of a flag of truce, who has been detained for some days past at Murseco, contrary to the laws of war, and notwithstanding an immediate demand for his liberation being made by General Count Vital. His being a French emigrant cannot take from him the rights of a flag of truce, and I again claim him in that character. The courtesy and generosity which I have always experienced from the generals of your nation induces me to hope that I shall not make this application in vain; and it is with regret that I mention that your chief of brigade, Barthelemy, who ordered the unjust arrest of my flag of truce, having yesterday by the chance of war fallen into my hands, that officer will be dealt with according to the treatment which M. Moulin may receive.
I most sincerely wish that nothing may occur to change the noble and
humane conduct which the two nations have hitherto been accustomed
to observe towards each other. I have the honour, etc.,
CEVA. 17th April 1796.
Bonaparte replied as follows:
GENERAL—An emigrant is a parricide whom no character can render sacred. The feelings of honour, and the respect due to the French people, were forgotten when M. Moulin was sent with a flag of truce. You know the laws of war, and I therefore do not give credit to the reprisals with which you threaten the chief of brigade, Barthelemy. If, contrary to the laws of war, you authorise such an act of barbarism, all the prisoners taken from you shall be immediately made responsible for it with the most deplorable vengeance, for I entertain for the officers of your nation that esteem which is due to brave soldiers.
The Executive Directory, to whom these letters were transmitted, approved of the arrest of M. Moulin; but ordered that he should be securely guarded, and not brought to trial, in consequence of the character with which he had been invested.
About the middle of the year 1796 the Directory proposed to appoint General Kellerman, who commanded the army of the Alps, second in command of the army of Italy.
On the 24th of May 1796 Bonaparte wrote to Carnot respecting, this plan, which was far from being agreeable to him. He said, "Whether I shall be employed here or anywhere else is indifferent to me: to serve the country, and to merit from posterity a page in our history, is all my ambition. If you join Kellerman and me in command in Italy you will undo everything. General Kellerman has more experience than I, and knows how to make war better than I do; but both together, we shall make it badly. I will not willingly serve with a man who considers himself the first general in Europe."
Numbers of letters from Bonaparte to his wife have been published. I cannot deny their authenticity, nor is it my wish to do so. I will, however, subjoin one which appears to me to differ a little from the rest. It is less remarkable for exaggerated expressions of love, and a singularly ambitious and affected style, than most of the correspondence here alluded to. Bonaparte is announcing the victory of Arcola to Josephine.
VERONA, the 29th, noon.
At length, my adored Josephine, I live again. Death is no longer before me, and glory and honour are still in my breast. The enemy is beaten at Arcola. To-morrow we will repair the blunder of Vaubois, who abandoned Rivoli. In eight days Mantua will be ours, and then thy husband will fold thee in his arms, and give thee a thousand proofs of his ardent affection. I shall proceed to Milan as soon as I can: I am a little fatigued. I have received letters from Eugene and Hortense. I am delighted with the children. I will send you their letters as soon as I am joined by my household, which is now somewhat dispersed.
We have made five thousand prisoners, and killed at least six thousand of the enemy. Adieu, my adorable Josephine. Think of me often. When you cease to love your Achilles, when your heart grows cool towards him, you wilt be very cruel, very unjust. But I am sure you will always continue my faithful mistress, as I shall ever remain your fond lover ('tendre amie'). Death alone can break the union which sympathy, love, and sentiment have formed. Let me have news of your health. A thousand and a thousand kisses.
It is impossible for me to avoid occasionally placing myself in the foreground in the course of these Memoirs. I owe it to myself to answer, though indirectly, to certain charges which, on various occasions, have been made against me. Some of the documents which I am about to insert belong, perhaps, less to the history of the General-in-Chief of the army of Italy than to that of his secretary; but I must confess I wish to show that I was not an intruder, nor yet pursuing, as an obscure intriguer, the path of fortune. I was influenced much more by friendship than by ambition when I took a part on the scene where the rising glory of the future Emperor already shed a lustre on all who were attached to his destiny. It will be seen by the following letters with what confidence I was then honoured; but these letters, dictated by friendship, and not written for history, speak also of our military achievements; and whatever brings to recollection the events of that heroic period must still be interesting to many.
HEADQUARTERS AT MILAN, 20th Prairial, year IV. (8th June 1796).
The General-in-Chief has ordered me, my dear Bourrienne, to make known to you the pleasure he experienced on hearing of you, and his ardent desire that you should join us. Take your departure, then, my dear Bourrienne, and arrive quickly. You may be certain of obtaining the testimonies of affection which are your due from all who know you; and we much regret that you were not with us to have a share in our success. The campaign which we have just concluded will be celebrated in the records of history. With less than 30,000 men, in a state of almost complete destitution, it is a fine thing to have, in the course of less than two months, beaten, eight different times, an army of from 65 to 70,000 men, obliged the King of Sardinia to make a humiliating peace, and driven the Austrians from Italy. The last victory, of which you have doubtless had an account, the passage of the Mincio, has closed our labours. There now remain for us the siege of Mantua and the castle of Milan; but these obstacles will not detain us long. Adieu, my dear Bourrienne: I repeat General Bonaparte's request that you should repair hither, and the testimony of his desire to see you. Receive, etc., (Signed) MARMONT. Chief of Brigade (Artillery) and Aide de camp to the General-in-Chief.
I was obliged to remain at Sens, soliciting my erasure from the emigrant list, which I did not obtain, however, till 1797, and to put an end to a charge made against me of having fabricated a certificate of residence. Meanwhile I applied myself to study, and preferred repose to the agitation of camps. For these reasons I did not then accept his friendly invitation, notwithstanding that I was very desirous of seeing my young college friend in the midst of his astonishing triumphs. Ten months after, I received another letter from Marmont, in the following terms:—
HEADQUARTERS GORIZIA 2d Germinal, year V. (22d March 1797).
The General-in-Chief, my dear Bourrienne, has ordered me to express to you his wish for your prompt arrival here. We have all along anxiously desired to see you, and look forward with great pleasure to the moment when we shall meet. I join with the General, my dear Bourrienne, in urging you to join the army without loss of time. You will increase a united family, happy to receive you into its bosom. I enclose an order written by the General, which will serve you as a passport. Take the post route and arrive as soon as you can. We are on the point of penetrating into Germany. The language is changing already, and in four days we shall hear no more Italian. Prince Charles has been well beaten, and we are pursuing him. If this campaign be fortunate, we may sign a peace, which is so necessary for Europe, in Vienna. Adieu, my dear Bourrienne: reckon for something the zeal of one who is much attached to you. (Signed) MARMONT.
Headquarters, Gorizia, 2d Germinal, year V.
The citizen Bourrienne is to come to me on receipt
of the present order.
The odious manner in which I was then harassed, I know not why, on the part of the Government respecting my certificate of residence, rendered my stay in France not very agreeable. I was even threatened with being put on my trial for having produced a certificate of residence which was alleged to be signed by nine false witnesses. This time, therefore, I resolved without hesitation to set out for the army. General Bonaparte's order, which I registered at the municipality of Sens, answered for a passport, which otherwise would probably have been refused me. I have always felt a strong sense of gratitude for his conduct towards me on this occasion.
Notwithstanding the haste I made to leave Sens, the necessary formalities and precautions detained me some days, and at the moment I was about to depart I received the following letter:
HEADQUARTERS, JUDENBOURG, 19th Germinal, Year V. (8th April 1797).
The General-in-Chief again orders me, my dear Bourrienne, to urge you to come to him quickly. We are in the midst of success and triumphs. The German campaign begins even more brilliantly than did the Italian. You may judge, therefore, what a promise it holds out to us. Come, my dear Bourrienne, immediately—yield to our solicitations—share our pains and pleasures, and you will add to our enjoyments.
I have directed the courier to pass through Sens, that he may
deliver this letter to you, and bring me back your answer.
To the above letter this order was subjoined:
The citizen Fauvelet de Bourrienne is ordered to leave Sens, and
repair immediately by post to the headquarters of the army of Italy.
I arrived at the Venetian territory at the moment when the insurrection against the French was on the point of breaking out. Thousands of peasants were instigated to rise under the pretext of appeasing the troubles of Bergamo and Brescia. I passed through Verona on the 16th of April, the eve of the signature of the preliminaries of Leoben and of the revolt of Verona. Easter Sunday was the day which the ministers of Jesus Christ selected for preaching "that it was lawful, and even meritorious, to kill Jacobins." Death to Frenchmen!—Death to Jacobins! as they called all the French, were their rallying cries. At the time I had not the slightest idea of this state of things, for I had left Sens only on the 11th of April.
After stopping two hours at Verona, I proceeded on my journey without being aware of the massacre which threatened that city. When about a league from the town I was, however, stopped by a party of insurgents on their way thither, consisting, as I estimated, of about two thousand men. They only desired me to cry 'El viva Santo Marco', an order with which I speedily complied, and passed on. What would have become of me had I been in Verona on the Monday? On that day the bells were rung, while the French were butchered in the hospitals. Every one met in the streets was put to death. The priests headed the assassins, and more than four hundred Frenchmen were thus sacrificed. The forts held out against the Venetians, though they attacked them with fury; but repossession of the town was not obtained until after ten days. On the very day of the insurrection of Verona some Frenchmen were assassinated between that city and Vicenza, through which I passed on the day before without danger; and scarcely had I passed through Padua, when I learned that others had been massacred there. Thus the assassinations travelled as rapidly as the post.
I shall say a few words respecting the revolt of the Venetian States, which, in consequence of the difference of political opinions, has been viewed in very contradictory lights.
The last days of Venice were approaching, and a storm had been brewing for more than a year. About the beginning of April 1797 the threatening symptoms of a general insurrection appeared. The quarrel commenced when the Austrians entered Peschiera, and some pretext was also afforded by the reception given to Monsieur, afterwards Louis XVIII. It was certain that Venice had made military preparations during the siege of Mantua in 1796. The interests of the aristocracy outweighed the political considerations in our favour. On, the 7th of June 1796 General Bonaparte wrote thus to the Executive Directory:
The Senate of Venice lately sent two judges of their Council here to ascertain definitively how things stand. I repeated my complaints. I spoke to them about the reception given to Monsieur. Should it be your plan to extract five or six millions from Venice, I have expressly prepared this sort of rupture for you. If your intentions be more decided, I think this ground of quarrel ought to be kept up. Let me know what you mean to do, and wait till the favourable moment, which I shall seize according to circumstances; for we must not have to do with all the world at once.
The Directory answered that the moment was not favourable; that it was first necessary to take Mantua, and give Wurmser a sound beating. However, towards the end of the year 1796 the Directory began to give more credit to the sincerity of the professions of neutrality made on the part of Venice. It was resolved, therefore, to be content with obtaining money and supplies for the army, and to refrain from violating the neutrality. The Directory had not then in reserve, like Bonaparte, the idea of making the dismemberment of Venice serve as a compensation for such of the Austrian possessions as the French Republic might retain.
In 1797 the expected favourable moment had arrived. The knell of Venice was rung; and Bonaparte thus wrote to the Directory on the 30th of April: "I am convinced that the only course to be now taken is to destroy this ferocious and sanguinary Government." On the 3d of May, writing from Palma Nuova, he says: "I see nothing that can be done but to obliterate the Venetian name from the face of the globe."
Towards the end of March 1797 the Government of Venice was in a desperate state. Ottolini, the Podesta of Bergamo, an instrument of tyranny in the hands of the State inquisitors, then harassed the people of Bergamo and Brescia, who, after the reduction of Mantua, wished to be separated from Venice. He drew up, to be sent to the Senate, a long report respecting the plans of separation, founded on information given him by a Roman advocate, named Marcelin Serpini; who pretended to have gleaned the facts he communicated in conversation with officers of the French army. The plan of the patriotic party was, to unite the Venetian territories on the mainland with Lombardy, and to form of the whole one republic. The conduct of Ottolini exasperated the party inimical to Venice, and augmented the prevailing discontent. Having disguised his valet as a peasant, he sent him off to Venice with the report he had drawn up on Serpini's communications, and other information; but this report never reached the inquisitors. The valet was arrested, his despatches taken, and Ottolini fled from Bergamo. This gave a beginning to the general rising of the Venetian States. In fact, the force of circumstances alone brought on the insurrection of those territories against their old insular government. General La Hoz, who commanded the Lombard Legion, was the active protector of the revolution, which certainly had its origin more in the progress of the prevailing principles of liberty than in the crooked policy of the Senate of Venice. Bonaparte, indeed, in his despatches to the Directory, stated that the Senate had instigated the insurrection; but that was not quite correct, and he could not wholly believe his own assertion.
Pending the vacillation of the Venetian Senate, Vienna was exciting the population of its States on the mainland to rise against the French. The Venetian Government had always exhibited an extreme aversion to the French Revolution, which had been violently condemned at Venice. Hatred of the French had been constantly excited and encouraged, and religious fanaticism had inflamed many persons of consequence in the country. From the end of 1796 the Venetian Senate secretly continued its armaments, and the whole conduct of that Government announced intentions which have been called perfidious, but the only object of which was to defeat intentions still more perfidious. The Senate was the irreconcilable enemy of the French Republic. Excitement was carried to such a point that in many places the people complained that they were not permitted to arm against the French. The Austrian generals industriously circulated the most sinister reports respecting the armies of the Sambre-et-Meuse and the Rhine, and the position of the French troops in the Tyrol. These impostures, printed in bulletins, were well calculated to instigate the Italians, and especially the Venetians, to rise in mass to exterminate the French, when the victorious army should penetrate into the Hereditary States.
The pursuit of the Archduke Charles into the heart of Austria encouraged the hopes which the Venetian Senate had conceived, that it would be easy to annihilate the feeble remnant of the French army, as the troops were scattered through the States of Venice on the mainland. Wherever the Senate had the ascendency, insurrection was secretly fomented; wherever the influence of the patriots prevailed, ardent efforts were made to unite the Venetian terra firma to the Lombard Republic.
Bonaparte skillfully took advantage of the disturbances, and the massacres consequent on them, to adopt towards the Senate the tone of an offended conqueror. He published a declaration that the Venetian Government was the most treacherous imaginable. The weakness and cruel hypocrisy of the Senate facilitated the plan he had conceived of making a peace for France at the expense of the Venetian Republic. On returning from Leoben, a conqueror and pacificator, he, without ceremony, took possession of Venice, changed the established government, and, master of all the Venetian territory, found himself, in the negotiations of Campo Formio, able to dispose of it as he pleased, as a compensation for the cessions which had been exacted from Austria. After the 19th of May he wrote to the Directory that one of the objects of his treaty with Venice was to avoid bringing upon us the odium of violating the preliminaries relative to the Venetian territory, and, at the same time, to afford pretexts and to facilitate their execution.
At Campo Formio the fate of this republic was decided. It disappeared from the number of States without effort or noise. The silence of its fall astonished imaginations warmed by historical recollections from the brilliant pages of its maritime glory. Its power, however, which had been silently undermined, existed no longer except in the prestige of those recollections. What resistance could it have opposed to the man destined to change the face of all Europe?