By LOUIS ANTOINE FAUVELET DE BOURRIENNE
His Private Secretary
Edited by R. W. Phipps
Colonel, Late Royal Artillery
CHAPTER XI. to CHAPTER XVIII. 1807-1809
Abuse of military power—Defence of diplomatic rights—Marshal Brune —Army supplies—English cloth and leather—Arrest on a charge of libel—Dispatch from M. Talleyrand—A page of Napoleon's glory— Interview between the two Emperors at Tilsit,—Silesia restored to the Queen of Prussia—Unfortunate situation in Prussia— Impossibility of reestablishing Poland in 1807—Foundation of the Kingdom of Westphalia—The Duchy of Warsaw and the King of Saxony.
Meanwhile the internal affairs of the towns over which my diplomatic jurisdiction extended soon gave me more employment than ever. The greatest misfortune of the Empire was, perhaps, the abuse of the right arrogated by the wearers of epaulettes. My situation gave me an opportunity of observing all the odious character of a military government. Another in my place could not have done all that I did. I say this confidently, for my, situation was a distinct and independent one, as Bonaparte had told me: Being authorised to correspond directly with the Emperor; the military chiefs feared, if they did not yield to my just representations, that I would made private reports; this apprehension was wonderfully useful in enabling me to maintain the rights of the towns, which had adopted me as their first citizen.
A circumstance occurred in which I had to defend the rights of the diplomatic and commercial agents against the pretensions of military power. Marshal Brune during his government at Hamburg, went to Bremman. to watch the strict execution of the illusive blockade against England. The Marshal acting no doubt, in conformity with the instructions of Clarke, then Minister of War and Governor of Berlin, wished to arrogate the right of deciding on the captures made by our cruisers.
He attempted to prevent the Consul Lagau from selling the confiscated ships in order to sell them himself. Of this M. Lagau complained to me. The more I observed a disposition to encroach on the part of the military authorities, the more I conceived it necessary to maintain the rights of the consuls, and to favour their influence, without which they would have lost their consideration. To the complaints of M. Lagau I replied, "That to him alone belonged the right of deciding, in the first instance, on the fate of the ships; that he could not be deprived of that right without changing the law; that he was free to sell the confiscated Prussian ships; that Marshall Brune was at Bremen only for the execution of the decree respecting the blockade of England, and that he ought not to interfere in business unconnected with that decree." Lagau showed this letter to Brune, who then allowed him to do as he wished; but it was an affair of profit, and the Marshal for a long time owed me a grudge.
Bernadotte was exceedingly disinterested, but he loved to be talked about. The more the Emperor endeavoured to throw accusations upon him, the more he was anxious to give publicity to all his actions. He sent to me an account of the brilliant affair of Braunsburg, in which a division of the first corps had been particularly distinguished. Along with this narrative he sent me a note in the following terms:—"I send you, my dear. Minister, an account of the affair of Braunsburg. You will, perhaps, think proper to publish it. In that case I shall be obliged by your getting it inserted in the Hamburg journals," I did so. The injustice of the Emperor, and the bad way in which he spoke of Bernadotte, obliged the latter,—for the sake of his own credit, to make the truth known to the world.
I have already mentioned that I received an order from the Emperor to supply 50,000 cloaks for the army. With this order, which was not the only one I received of the same kind, some circumstances were connected which I may take the present opportunity of explaining.
The Emperor gave me so many orders for army clothing that all that could be supplied by the cities of Hamburg, Bremen, and Lubeck would have been insufficient for executing the commissions. I entered into a treaty with a house in Hamburg, which I authorised, in spite of the Berlin decree, to bring cloth and leather from England. Thus I procured these articles in a sure and cheap way. Our troops might have perished of cold had the Continental system and the absurd mass of inexecutable decrees relative to English merchandise been observed.
The Director of the Customs at Hamburg got angry, but I held firm: my cloths and my leather arrived; cloaks, coats; boots, all were promptly made, and our soldiers thus were sheltered from the severity of the season. To preserve peace with the Imperial Custom-house I wrote to M. Collie, then Director-General, that M. Eudel having wished to put in execution the law of the 10th Brumaire and complaints had been made on every side. Marshal Brune asked for my opinion on this matter, and I gave it to him. I declared to M. Collie that the full execution of the decree of 31st October 1796 was impracticable, injurious to France, and to the Hanseatic Towns, without doing harm to England. Indeed, what said article 5 of this law? "All goods imported from foreign countries, whatever may be their origin, are to be considered as coming from English manufacturers." According to this article France was a foreign country for the Hanseatic Towns, and none of the objects enumerated in this article ought to enter Hamburg! But the town received from England a large quantity of fine cloths, buttons; ironmongery, toys, china; and from France only clocks, bronzes, jewellery, ribbons, bonnets, gauzes and gloves. "Let," said I to M. Eudel, "the Paris Duane be asked what that town alone exports in matters of this sort and it will be seen how important it is not to stop a trade all the more profitable to France, as the workmanship forms the greatest part of the price of the goods which make up this trade. What would happen if the importation of these goods were absolutely prohibited in Hamburg? The consignments would cease, and one of the most productive sources of trade for France, and especially for Paris would be cut off."
At this time neither Hamburg nor its territory had any manufacture of cloth. All woollen stuffs were prohibited, according to M. Eudel, and still my duty was to furnish, and I had furnished, 50,000 cloaks for the Grand Army. In compliance with a recent Imperial decree I had to have made without delay 16,000 coats, 37,000 waistcoats, and the Emperor required of me 200,000 pairs of boots, besides the 40,000 pairs I had sent in. Yet M. Eudel said that tanned and worked leather ought not to enter Hamburg! If such a ridiculous application of the law of 1796 had been made it would have turned the decree of 21st November 1796 against France, without fulfilling its object.
These reflections, to which I added other details, made the Government conclude that I was right, and I traded with England to the great advantage of the armies, which were well clothed and shod. What in the world can be more ridiculous than commercial laws carried out to one's own detriment?
At the beginning of 1807 my occupations at Hamburg were divided between the furnishing of supplies for the army and the inspection of the emigrants, whom Fouche pretended to dread in order to give greater importance to his office.
I never let slip an opportunity of mitigating the rigour of Fouche's orders, which, indeed, were sometimes so absurd that I did not attempt to execute them. Of this an instance occurs to my recollection. A printer at Hamburg had been arrested on the charge of having printed a libel in the German language. The man was detained in prison because, very much to his honour, he would not disclose the name of the writer of the pamphlet. I sent for him and questioned him. He told me, with every appearance of sincerity, that he had never but once seen the man who had brought him the manuscript. I was convinced of the truth of what he said, and I gave an order for his liberation. To avoid irritating the susceptibility of the Minister of Police I wrote to him the following few lines:—"The libel is the most miserable rhapsody imaginable. The author, probably with the view of selling his pamphlet in Holstein, predicts that Denmark will conquer every other nation and become the greatest kingdom in the world. This alone will suffice to prove to you how little clanger there is in rubbish written in the style of the Apocalypse."
After the battle of Eylau I received a despatch from M. de Talleyrand, to which was added an account in French of that memorable battle, which was more fatal to the conqueror than to the other party,—I cannot say the conquered in speaking of the Russians, the more especially when I recollect the precautions which were then taken throughout Germany to make known the French before the Russian version. The Emperor was exceedingly anxious that every one should view that event as he himself viewed it. Other accounts than his might have produced an unfavourable impression in the north. I therefore had orders to publish that account. I caused 2000 copies of it to be issued, which were more than sufficient for circulation in the Hanse Towns and their territories.
The reader will perhaps complain that I have been almost silent with respect to the grand manoeuvres of the French army from the battle of Eylau to that of Friedland, where, at all events, our success was indisputable. There was no necessity for printing favourable versions of that event, and, besides, its immense results were soon felt throughout Europe. The interview at Tilsit is one of the culminating points of modern history, and the waters of the Niemen reflected the image of Napoleon at the height of his glory. The interview between the two Emperors at Tilsit, and the melancholy situation of the King of Prussia, are generally known. I was made acquainted with but few secret details relative to those events, for Rapp had gone to Dantzic, and it was he who most readily communicated to me all that the Emperor said and did, and all that was passing around him.—
—[Savory gives the following account of the interview between
Napoleon and Alexander at Tilsit.
"The Emperor Napoleon, whose courtesy was manifest in all his actions, ordered a large raft to be floated in the middle of the river, upon which was constructed a room well covered in and elegantly decorated having two doors on opposite aides, each of which opened into an antechamber. The work could not have been better executed in Paris. The roof was surmounted by two weathercocks: one displaying the eagle of Russia, and the other the eagle of France. The two outer doors were also surmounted by the eagles of the two countries.
"The raft was precisely in the middle of the river, with the two doors of the salon facing the two opposite banks.
"The two sovereigns appeared on the banks of the river, and embarked at the same moment But the Emperor Napoleon having a good boat, manned by marines of the Guard, arrived first on the raft, entered the room, and went to the opposite door, which he opened, and then stationed himself on the edge of the raft to receive the Emperor Alexander, who had not yet arrived, not having each good rowers as the Emperor Napoleon.
"The two Emperors met in the most amicable way, et least to all appearance. They remained together for a considerable time, and then took leave of each other with as friendly an air as that with which they had met.
"Next day the Emperor of Russia established himself at Tilsit with a battalion of his Guard. Orders were given for evacuating that part of the town where he and his battalion were to be quartered; and, though we were very much pressed for room, no encroachment on the space allotted to the Russians was thought of.
"On the day the Emperor Alexander, entered Tilsit the whole army was under arms. The Imperial Guard was drawn out in two lines of three deep from the landing-place to the Emperor Napoleon's quarters, and from thence to the quarters of the Emperor of Russia. A salute of 100 guns was fired the moment Alexander stepped ashore on the spot where the Emperor Napoleon was waiting to receive him. The latter carried his attention to his visitor so far as to send from his quarters the furniture for Alexander's bedchamber. Among the articles sent was a camp-bed belonging to the Emperor, which he presented to Alexander, who appeared much pleased with the gift.
"This meeting; the first which history records of the same kind and of equal importance, attracted visitors to Tilsit from 100 leagues round. M. de Talleyrand arrived, and after the observance of the usual ceremonies business began to be discussed." (Memoirs of the Due de Rovigo, tome iii. p. 117).
"When," said Napoleon, "I was at Tilsit with the Emperor Alexander and the King of Prussia, I was the most ignorant of the three in military affairs. These two sovereigns, especially the King of Prussia, were completely 'au fait' as to the number of buttons there ought to be in front of a jacket, how many behind, and the manner in which the skirts ought to be cut. Not a tailor in the army knew better than King Frederick how many measures of cloth it took to make a jacket. In fact," continued he laughing, "I was nobody in comparison with them. They continually tormented me about matters belonging to tailors, of which I was entirely ignorant, although, in order not to affront them, I answered just as gravely as if the fate of an army depended upon the cut of a jacket. When I went to see the King of Prussia, instead of a library, I found that he had a large room, like an arsenal, furnished with shelves and pegs; on which were hung fifty or sixty jackets of different patterns. Every day he changed his fashion and put on a different one. He attached more importance to this than was necessary for the salvation of a kingdom." (O'Meara's Napoleon in Exile.)]—
I, however, learned one circumstance peculiarly worthy of remark which occurred in the Emperor's apartments at Tilsit the first time he received a visit from the King of Prussia. That unfortunate monarch, who was accompanied by Queen Louisa, had taken refuge in a mill beyond the town. This was his sole habitation, whilst the Emperors occupied the two portions of the town, which is divided by the Niemen. The fact I am about to relate reached me indirectly through the medium of an offices of the Imperial Guard, who was on duty in Napoleon's apartments and was an eye-witness of it. When the Emperor Alexander visited Napoleon they continued for a long time in conversation on a balcony below, where as immense crowd hailed their meeting with enthusiastic shouts. Napoleon commenced the conversation, as he did the year preceding with the Emperor of Austria, by speaking of the uncertain fate of war. Whilst they were conversing the King of Prussia was announced. The King's emotion was visible, and may easily be imagined; for as hostilities were suspended, and his territory in possession of the French, his only hope was in the generosity of the conqueror. Napoleon himself, it is said, appeared moved by his situation, and invited him, together with the Queen, to dinner. On sitting down to table Napoleon with great gallantry told the beautiful Queen that he would restore to her Silesia, a province which she earnestly wished should be retained in the new arrangements which were necessarily about to take place.
—[Las Cases mentions that at the time of the treaty of Tilsit
Napoleon wrote to the Empress Josephine as follows:
"'The Queen of Prussia is really a charming woman. She is fond of coquetting with me; but do not be jealous: I am like oilcloth, along which everything of this sort elides without penetrating. It would cost me too dear to play the gallant'
"On this subject an anecdote was related in the salon of Josephine.
It was said that the Queen of Prussia one day had a beautiful rose
in her hand, which the Emperor asked her to give him. The Queen
hesitated for a few moments, and then presented it to him, saying,
'Why should I so readily grant what you request, while you remain
deaf to all my entreaties?' (She alluded to the fortress of
Magdeburg, which she had earnestly solicited)." (Memorial de St.
The treaty of peace concluded at Tilsit between France and Russia, on the 7th of July, and ratified two days after, produced no less striking a change in the geographical division of Europe than had been effected the year preceding by the Treaty of Presburg. The treaty contained no stipulation dishonourable to Russia, whose territory was preserved inviolate; but how was Prussia treated? Some historians, for the vain pleasure of flattering by posthumous praises the pretended moderation of Napoleon, have almost reproached him for having suffered some remnants of the monarchy of the great Frederick to survive. There is, nevertheless, a point on which Napoleon has been wrongfully condemned, at least with reference to the campaign of 1807. It has been said that he should at that period have re-established the kingdom of Poland; and certainly there is every reason to regret, for the interests of France and Europe, that it was not re-established. But when a desire, even founded on reason, is not carried into effect, should we conclude that the wished- for object ought to be achieved in defiance of all obstacles? At that time, that is to say, during the campaign of Tilsit, insurmountable obstacles existed.
If, however, by the Treaty of Tilsit, the throne of Poland was not restored to serve as a barrier between old Europe and the Empire of the Czars, Napoleon founded a Kingdom of Westphalia, which he gave to the young 'ensigne de vaisseau' whom he had scolded as a schoolboy, and whom he now made a King, that he might have another crowned prefect under his control. The Kingdom of Westphalia was composed of the States of Hesse- Cassel, of a part of the provinces taken from Prussia by the moderation of the Emperor, and of the States of Paderborn, Fulda, Brunswick, and a part of the Electorate of Hanover. Napoleon, at the same time, though he did not like to do things by halves, to avoid touching the Russian and Austrian provinces of old Poland, planted on the banks of the Vistula the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, which he gave to the King of Saxony, with the intention of increasing or destroying it afterwards as he might find convenient. Thus he allowed the Poles to hope better things for the future, and ensured to himself partisans in the north should the chances of fortune call him thither. Alexander, who was cajoled even more than his father had been by what I may call the political coquetry of Napoleon, consented to all these arrangements, acknowledged 'in globo' all the kings crowned by the Emperor, and accepted some provinces which had belonged to his despoiled ally, the King of Prussia, doubtless by way of consolation for not having been able to get more restored to Prussia. The two Emperors parted the best friends in the world; but the Continental system was still in existence.
Effect produced at Altona by the Treaty of Tilsit—The Duke of
Mecklenburg-Schwerin's departure from Hamburg—English squadron in
the Sound—Bombardment of Copenhagen—Perfidy of England—Remark of
Bonaparte to M. Lemercier—Prussia erased from the map—Napoleon's
return to Paris—Suppression of the Tribunate—Confiscation of
English merchandise—Nine millions gained to France—M. Caulaincourt
Ambassador to Russia—Repugnance of England to the intervention of
Russia—Affairs of Portugal—Junot appointed to command the army—
The Prince Regent's departure for the Brazils—The Code Napoleon—
Introduction of the French laws into Germany—Leniency of Hamburg
Juries—The stolen cloak and the Syndic Doormann.
The Treaty of Tilsit, as soon as it was known at Altona, spread consternation amongst the emigrants. As to the German Princes, who were awaiting the issue of events either at Altolna or Hamburg, when they learned that a definitive treaty of peace had been signed between France and Russia, and that two days after the Treaty of Tilsit the Prussian monarchy was placed at the mercy of Napoleon, every courier that arrived threw them into indescribable agitation. It depended on the Emperor's will whether they were to be or not to be. The Duke of Mecklenburg- Schwerin had not succeeded in getting himself re-established in his states, by an exceptional decision, like the Duke of Weimar; but at length he obtained the restitution of his territory at the request of the Emperor Alexander, and on the 28th of July he quitted Hamburg to return to his Duchy.
The Danish charge d'affaires communicated to me about the same time an official report from his Government. This report announced that on Monday, the 3d of August, a squadron consisting of twelve ships of the line and twelve frigates, commanded by Admiral Gambier, had passed the Sound. The rest of the squadron was seen in the Categat. At the same time the English troops which were in the island of Rugen had reembarked. We could not then conceive what enterprise this considerable force had been sent upon. But our uncertainty was soon at an end. M. Didelot, the French Ambassador at Copenhagen, arrived at Hamburg, at nine o'clock in the evening of the 12th of August. He had been fortunate enough to pass through the Great Belt, though in sight of the English, without being stopped. I forwarded his report to Paris by an extraordinary courier.
The English had sent 20,000 men and twenty-seven vessels into the Baltic; Lord Cathcart commanded the troops. The coast of Zealand was blockaded by ninety vessels. Mr. Jackson, who had been sent by England to negotiate with Denmark, which she feared would be invaded by the French troops, supported the propositions he was charged to offer to Denmark by a reference to this powerful British force. Mr. Jackson's proposals had for their object nothing less than to induce the King of Denmark to place in the custody of England the whole of his ships and naval stores. They were, it is true, to be kept in deposit, but the condition contained the words, "until the conclusion of a general peace," which rendered the period of their restoration uncertain. They were to be detained until such precautions should be no longer necessary. A menace and its execution followed close upon this demand. After a noble but useless resistance, and a terrific bombardment, Copenhagen surrendered, and the Danish fleet was destroyed. It would be difficult to find in history a more infamous and revolting instance of the abuse of power against weakness.
Sometime after this event a pamphlet entitled "Germania" appeared, which I translated and sent to the Emperor. It was eloquently written, and expressed the indignation which the conduct of England had excited in the author as in every one else.
—["That expedition," said Napoleon at St. Helena, "showed great energy on the part of your Ministers: but setting aside the violation of the laws of, nations which you committed—for in fact it was nothing but a robbery—I think that it was; injurious to your interests, as it made the Danish nation irreconcilable enemies to you, and in fact shut you out of the north for three years. When I heard of it I said, I am glad of it, as it will embroil England irrecoverably with the Northern Powers. The Danes being able to join me with sixteen sail of the line was of but little consequence. I had plenty of ships, and only wanted seamen, whom you did not take, and whom I obtained afterwards, while by the expedition your Ministers established their characters as faithless, and as persons with whom no engagements, no laws were binding." (Voice from St. Helena.)]—
I have stated what were the principal consequences of the Treaty of Tilsit; it is more than probable that if the bombardment of Copenhagen had preceded the treaty the Emperor would have used Prussia even worse than he did. He might have erased her from the list of nations; but he did not do so, out of regard to the Emperor Alexander. The destruction of Prussia was no new project with Bonaparte. I remember an observation of his to M. Lemercier upon that subject when we first went to reside at Malmaison. M. Lemercier had been reading to the First Consul some poem in which Frederick the Great was spoken of. "You seem to admire him greatly," said Bonaparte to M. Lemercier; "what do you find in him so astonishing? He is not equal to Turenne."—"General," replied M. Lemercier, "it is not merely the warrior that I esteem in Frederick; it is impossible to refrain from admiring a man who was a philosopher even on the throne." To this the First Consul replied, in a half ill-humoured tone, "Certainly, Lemercier; but Frederick's philosophy shall not prevent me from erasing his kingdom from the map of Europe." The kingdom of Frederick the Great was not, however, obliterated from the map, because the Emperor of Russia would not basely abandon a faithful ally who had incurred with him the chances of fortune. Prussia then bitterly had to lament the tergiversations which had prevented her from declaring herself against France during the campaign of Austerlitz.
Napoleon returned to Paris about the end of July after an absence of ten months, the longest he had yet made since he had been at the head of the French Government, whether as Consul or Emperor. The interview at Tilsit, the Emperor Alexander's friendship, which was spoken of everywhere in terms of exaggeration, and the peace established on the Continent, conferred on Napoleon a moral influence in public opinion which he had not possessed since his coronation. Constant in his hatred of deliberative assemblies, which he had often termed collections of babblers, ideologists, and phrasemongers, Napoleon, on his return to Paris, suppressed the Tribunate, which had been an annoyance to him ever since the first day of his elevation. The Emperor, who was 'skillful above all men in speculating on the favourable disposition of opinion, availed himself at this conjuncture of the enthusiasm produced by his interview on the Niemen. He therefore discarded from the fundamental institutions of the government that which still retained the shadow of a popular character. But it was necessary that he should possess a Senate merely to vote men; a mute Legislative Body to vote money; that there should be no opposition in the one and no criticism in the other; no control over him of any description; the power of arbitrarily doing whatever he pleased; an enslaved press;—this was what Napoleon wished, and this be obtained. But the month of March 1814 resolved the question of absolute power!
In the midst of these great affairs, and while Napoleon was dreaming of universal monarchy, I beheld in a less extensive sphere the inevitable consequences of the ambition of a single man. Pillage and robbery were carried on in all parts over which my diplomatic jurisdiction extended. Rapine seemed to be legally authorised, and was perpetrated with such fury, and at the same time with such ignorance, that the agents were frequently unacquainted with the value of the articles which they seized. Thus, for example, the Emperor ordered the seizure at Hamburg, Bremen, and Lubeck of all English merchandise, whatever might be its nature or origin. The Prince of Neufchatel (Berthier) wrote to me from the Emperor that I must procure 10,000,000 francs from the Hanse Towns. M. Daru, the Intendant-General, whose business it was to collect this sort of levy, which Napoleon had learned to make in Egypt, wrote to urge me to obtain a prompt and favourable decision. The unfortunate towns which I was thus enjoined to oppress had already suffered sufficiently. I had obtained, by means of negotiation, more than was demanded for the ransom of the English merchandise, which had been seized according to order. Before I received the letters of M. Darn and the Prince of Neufchatel I had obtained from Hamburg 16,000,000 instead of 10,000,000, besides nearly 3,000,000 from Bremen and Lubeck. Thus I furnished the Government with 9,000,000 more than had been required, and yet I had so managed that those enormous sacrifices were not overoppressive to those who made them. I fixed the value of the English merchandise because I knew that the high price at which it sold on the Continent would not only cover the proposed ransom but also leave a considerable profit. Such was the singular effect of the Continental system that when merchandise was confiscated, and when afterwards the permission to sell it freely was given, the price fetched at the sale was so large that the loss was covered, and even great advantage gained.
Peace being concluded with Russia it was necessary to make choice of an Ambassador, not only to maintain the new relations of amity between Napoleon and Alexander, but likewise to urge on the promised intervention of Russia with England,—to bring about reconciliation and peace between the Cabinets of Paris and London. The Emperor confided this mission to Caulaincourt, with respect to whom there existed an unfounded prejudice relating to some circumstances which preceded the death of the Duc d'Enghien. This unfortunate and unjust impression had preceded Caulaincourt to St. Petersburg, and it was feared that he would not experience the reception due to the French Ambassador and to his own personal qualities. I knew at the time, from positive information, that after a short explanation with Alexander that monarch retained no suspicion unfavourable to our Ambassador, for whom he conceived and maintained great esteem and friendship.
Caulaincourt's mission was not, in all respects, easy of fulfilment, for the invincible repugnance and reiterated refusal of England to enter into negotiations with France through the medium of Russia was one of the remarkable circumstances of the period of which I am speaking. I knew positively that England was determined never to allow Napoleon to possess himself of the whole of the Continent,—a project which he indicated too undisguisedly to admit of any doubt respecting it. For two years he had indeed advanced with rapid strides; but England was not discouraged. She was too well aware of the irritation of the sovereigns and the discontent of the people not be certain that when she desired it, her lever of gold would again raise up and arm the Continent against the encroaching power of Napoleon. He, on his part, perceiving that all his attempts were fruitless, and that England would listen to no proposals, devised fresh plans for raising up new enemies against England.
It probably is not forgotten that in 1801 France compelled Portugal to make common cause with her against England. In 1807 the Emperor did again what the First Consul had done. By an inexplicable fatality Junot obtained the command of the troops which were marching against Portugal. I say against Portugal, for that was the fact, though France represented herself as a protector to deliver Portugal from the influence of England. Be that as it may, the choice which the Emperor made of a commander astonished everybody. Was Junot, a compound of vanity and mediocrity, the fit man to be entrusted with the command of an army in a distant country, and under circumstances in which great political and military talents were requisite? For my own part, knowing Junot's incapacity, I must acknowledge that his appointment astonished me. I remember one day, when I was speaking on the subject to Bernadotte, he showed me a letter he had received from Paris, in which it was said that the Emperor had sent Junot to Portugal only for the sake of depriving him of the government of Paris. Junot annoyed Napoleon by his bad conduct, his folly, and his incredible extravagance. He was alike devoid of dignity- either in feeling or conduct. Thus Portugal was twice the place of exile selected by Consular and Imperial caprice: first, when the First Consul wished to get rid of the familiarity of Lannes; and next, when the Emperor grew weary of the misconduct of a favourite.
The invasion of Portugal presented no difficulty. It was an armed promenade and not a war; but how many events were connected with the occupation of that country! The Prince Regent of Portugal, unwilling to act dishonourably to England, to which he was allied by treaties; and unable to oppose the whole power of Napoleon, embarked for Brazil, declaring that all defence was useless. At the same time he recommended his subjects to receive the French troops in a friendly manner, and said that he consigned to Providence the consequences of an invasion which was without a motive. He was answered in the Emperor's name that, Portugal being the ally of England, we were only carrying on hostilities against, the latter country by invading his dominions.
It was in the month of November that the code of French jurisprudence, upon which the most learned legislators had indefatigably laboured, was established as the law of the State, under the title of the Code Napoleon. Doubtless this legislative monument will redound to Napoleon's honour in history; but was it to be supposed that the same laws would be equally applicable throughout so vast an extent as that comprised within the French Empire? Impossible as this was, as soon as the Code Napoleon way promulgated I received orders to establish it in the Hanse Towns.
—[This great code of Civil Law was drawn up under Napoleon's orders and personal superintendence. Much had been prepared under the Convention, and the chief merits of it were due to the labours of such men as Tronchet; Partatis, Bigot de Preameneu, Maleville, Cambaceres, etc. But it was debated under and by Napoleon, who took a lively interest in it. It was first called the "Code Civil," but is 1807 was named "Code Napoleon," or eventually "Les Cinq Codes de Napoleon." When completed in 1810 it included five Codes—the Code Civil, decreed March 1803; Code de Procedure Civile, decreed April 1806; Code de Commerce, decreed September 1807; Code d'Instruction Criminelle, decreed November 1808; and the Code Penal, decreed February 1810. It had to be retained by the Bourbons, and its principles have worked and are slowly working their way into the law of every nation. Napoleon was justly proud of this work. The Introduction of the Code into the conquered countries was, as Bourrienne says, made too quickly. Puymaigre, who was employed in the administration of Hamburg after Bourrienne left, says, "I shall always remember the astonishment of the Hamburgers when they were invaded by this cloud of French officials, who, under every form, made researches is their houses, and who came to apply the multiplied demands of the fiscal system. Like Proteus, the administration could take any shape. To only speak of my department, which certainly was not the least odious one, for it was opposed to the habits of the Hamburgers and annoyed all the industries, no idea can be formed of the despair of the inhabitants, subjected to perpetual visits, and exposed to be charged with contraventions of the law, of which they knew nothing.
"Remembering their former laws, they used to offer to meet a charge of fraud by the proof of their oath, and could not imagine that such a guarantee could be repulsed. When they were independent they paid almost nothing, and such was the national spirit, that in urgent cases when money was wanted the senate taxed every citizen s certain proportion of his income, the tenth or twentieth. A donator presided over the recovery of this tax, which was done in a very strange manner. A box, covered with a carpet, received the offering of every citizen, without any person verifying the sum, and only on the simple moral guarantee of the honesty of the debtor, who himself judged the sum he ought to pay. When the receipt was finished the senate always obtained more than it had calculated on." (Puymaigre, pp, 181.)]—
The long and frequent conversations I had on this subject with the Senators and the most able lawyers of the country soon convinced me of the immense difficulty I should have to encounter, and the danger of suddenly altering habits and customs which had been firmly established by time.
The jury system gave tolerable satisfaction; but the severe punishments assigned to certain offences by the Code were disapproved of. Hence resulted the frequent and serious abuse of men being acquitted whose guilt was evident to the jury, who pronounced them not guilty rather than condemn them to a punishment which was thought too severe. Besides, their leniency had another ground, which was, that the people being ignorant of the new law were not aware of the penalties attached to particular offences. I remember that a man who was accused of stealing a cloak at Hamburg justified himself on the ground that he committed the offence in a fit of intoxication. M. Von Einingen, one of the jury, insisted that the prisoner was not guilty, because, as he said, the Syndic Doormann, when dining with him one day, having drunk more wine than usual, took away his cloak. This defence per Baccho was completely successful. An argument founded on the similarity between the conduct of the Syndic and the accused, could not but triumph, otherwise the little debauch of the former would have been condemned in the person of the latter. This trial, which terminated so whimsically, nevertheless proves that the best and the gravest institutions may become objects of ridicule when suddenly introduced into a country whose habits are not prepared to receive them.
The Romans very wisely reserved in the Capitol a place for the gods of the nations they conquered. They wished to annex provinces and kingdoms to their empire. Napoleon, on the contrary, wished to make his empire encroach upon other states, and to realise the impossible Utopia of ten different nations, all having different customs and languages, united into a single State. Could justice, that safeguard of human rights, be duly administered in the Hanse Towns when those towns were converted into French departments? In these new departments many judges had been appointed who did not understand a word of German, and who had no knowledge of law. The presidents of the tribunals of Lilbeck, Stade, Bremerlehe, and Minden were so utterly ignorant of the German language that it was necessary to explain to them all the pleadings in the council-chamber. Was it not absurd to establish such a judicial system, and above all, to appoint such men in a country so important to France as Hamburg and the Hanse Towns? Add to this the impertinence of some favourites who were sent from Paris to serve official and legal apprenticeships in the conquered provinces, and it may be easily conceived what was the attachment of the people to Napoleon the Great.
Disturbed state of Spain—Godoy, Prince of the Peace—Reciprocal accusations between the King of Spain and his son—False promise of Napoleon—Dissatisfaction occasioned by the presence of the French troops—Abdication of Charles IV.—The Prince of the Peace made prisoner—Murat at Madrid—Important news transmitted by a commercial letter—Murat's ambition—His protection of Godoy— Charles IV, denies his voluntary abdication—The crown of Spain destined for Joseph—General disapprobation of Napoleon's conduct— The Bourbon cause apparently lost—Louis XVIII. after his departure from France—As Comte de Provence at Coblentz—He seeks refuge in Turin and Verona—Death of Louis XVII—Louis XVIII. refused an asylum in Austria, Saxony, and Prussia—His residence at Mittan and Warsaw—Alexander and Louis XVIII—The King's departure from Milan and arrival at Yarmouth—Determination of the King of England—M. Lemercier's prophecy to Bonaparte—Fouche's inquiries respecting Comte de Rechteren—Note from Josephine—New demands on the Hanse Towns—Order to raise 3000 sailors in Hamburg.
The disorders of Spain, which commenced about the close of the year 1807, in a short time assumed a most complicated aspect. Though far from the theatre of events I obtained an intimate knowledge of all the important facts connected with the extraordinary transactions in the Peninsula. However, as this point of history is one of the most generally, though I cannot say the best, known, I shall omit in my notes and memoranda many things which would be but repetitions to the reading portion of the public. It is a remarkable fact that Bonaparte, who by turns cast his eyes on all the States of Europe, never directed his attention to Spain as long as his greatness was confined to mere projects. Whenever he spoke of his future destiny he alluded to Italy, Germany, the East, and the destruction of the English power; but never to Spain. Consequently, when he heard of the first symptoms of disorder in the Peninsula he paid but little attention to the business, and some time elapsed before he took any part in events which subsequently had so great an influence on his fate.
Godoy reigned in Spain under the name of the imbecile Charles IV. He was an object of execration to all who were not his creatures; and even those whose fate depended upon him viewed him with the most profound contempt. The hatred of a people is almost always the just reward of favourites. What sentiments, therefore, must have been inspired by a man who, to the knowledge of all Spain, owed the favour of the king only to the favours of the queen!
—[Manuel Godoy, originally a private in the guards, became the paramour of Charles IV.'s Queen; then a grandee; and then the supreme ruler of the State.—Editor of 1836 edition.]—
Godoy's ascendancy over the royal family was boundless; his power was absolute: the treasures, of America were at his command, and he made the most infamous use of them. In short, he had made the Court of Madrid one of those places to which the indignant muse of Juvenal conducts the mother of Britanicus. There is no doubt that Godoy was one of the principal causes of all the misfortunes which have overwhelmed Spain under so many various forms.
The hatred of the Spaniards against the Prince of the Peace was general. This hatred was shared by the Prince the Asturias,—[Afterwards Ferdinand VII.]— who openly declared himself the enemy of Godoy. The latter allied himself with France, from which he hoped to obtain powerful protection against his enemies. This alliance gave rise to great dissatisfaction in Spain, and caused France to be regarded with an unfavourable eye. The Prince of the Asturias was encouraged and supported by the complaints of the Spaniards, who wished to see the overthrow of Godoy's power. Charles IV., on his part, regarded all opposition to the Prince of the Peace as directed against himself, and in November 1807 he accused his son of wishing to dethrone him.
The King of Spain did not confine himself to verbal complaints. He, or rather the Prince of the Peace, acting in his name, arrested the warmest partisans of the Prince of the Asturias. The latter, understanding the sentiments of his father, wrote to Napoleon, soliciting his support. Thus the father and son, at open war, were appealing one against another for the support of him who wished only to get rid of them both, and to put one of his brothers in their place, that he might have one junior more in the college of European kings: but, as I have already mentioned, this new ambition was not premeditated; and if he gave the throne of Spain to his brother Joseph it was only on the refusal of his brother Louis (King of Holland) to accept it.
The Emperor had promised to support Charles IV against his son; and, not wishing to take part in these family quarrels, he had not answered the first letters of the Prince of the Asturias. But finding that the intrigues of Madrid were taking a serious turn, he commenced provisionally by sending troops to Spain. This gave offence to the people, who were averse to the interference of France. In the provinces through which the French troops passed it was asked what was the object: of the invasion. Some attributed it to the Prince of the Peace, others to the Prince of the Asturias; but it excited general indignation, and troubles broke out at Madrid accompanied by all the violence peculiar to the Spanish character.
In these fearful circumstances Godoy proposed that Charles IV. should remove to Seville, where he would be the better enabled to visit the factious with punishment. A proposition from Godoy to his master was, in fact, a command, and Charles IV. accordingly resolved to depart. The people now looked upon Godoy as a traitor. An insurrection broke out, the palace was, surrounded, and the, Prince of the Peace was on the point of being massacred in an upper apartment, where he had taken refuge.
—[French troops had appeared in again some months before, on their way to Portugal, the conquest of which country by Junot was to be aided by Godoy and a Spanish force of 27,000 men, according to a treaty (more disgraceful to the Court of Spain than to Bonaparte) which had been ratified at Fontainebleau on the 27th of October 1807. Charles IV. was little better than an idiot, and Godoy and the French made him believe that Bonaparte world give part, or the whole of Portugal, to Spain. At the time of Junot's march on Lisbon a reserve of 40,000 French troops were assembled at Bayonne— a pretty clear indication, though the factious infatuated Court of Madrid would not see it, that Bonaparte intended to seize the whole of the Peninsula.—Editor of 1838 edition.]—
One of the mob had the presence of mind to invoke in his favour the name of the Prince of the Asturias: this saved his life.
Charles IV. did not preserve his crown; he was easily intimidated, and advantage was taken of a moment of alarm to demand that abdication which he had not spirit to refuse. He surrendered up his rights to his son, and thus was overthrown the insolent power of the Prince of the Peace; the favourite was made prisoner, and the Spaniards, who, like all ignorant people, are easily excited, manifested their joy on the occasion with barbarous enthusiasm. Meanwhile the unfortunate King, who had escaped from imaginary rather than real dangers, and who was at first content with having exchanged the right of reigning for the right of living, no sooner found himself in safety than he changed, his mind. He wrote to the Emperor protesting against his abdication, and appealed. to him as the arbiter of his future fate.
During these internal dissensions the French army was continuing its march towards the Pyrenees. Those barriers were speedily crossed, and Murat entered Madrid in the beginning of April 1808. Before I received any despatch from our Government I learned that Murat's presence in Madrid, far from producing a good effect, had only increased the disorder. I obtained this information from a merchant of Lubeck who came to Hamburg on purpose to show me a letter he had received from his correspondent in Madrid. In this letter Spain was said to be a prey which Murat wished to appropriate to himself; and all that afterwards came to my knowledge served only to prove the accuracy of the writer's information. It was perfectly true that Murat wished to conquer Spain for himself, and it is not astonishing that the inhabitants of Madrid should have understood his designs, for he carried his indiscretion so far as openly to express his wish to become King of Spain. The Emperor was informed of this, and gave him to understand, in very significant terms, that the throne of Spain was not destined for him, but that he should not be forgotten in the disposal of other crowns.
However, Napoleon's remonstrances were not sufficient to restrain the imprudence of Murat; and if he did not gain the crown of Spain for himself he powerfully contributed to make Charles IV. lose it. That monarch, whom old habits attached to the Prince of the Peace, solicited the Emperor to liberate his favourite, alleging that he and his family would be content to live in any place of security provided Godoy were with them. The unfortunate Charles seemed to be thoroughly disgusted with greatness.
Both the King and Queen so earnestly implored Godoy's liberation that Murat, whose vanity was flattered by these royal solicitations, took the Prince of the Peace under his protection; but he at the same time declared that, in spite of the abdication of Charles IV., he would acknowledge none but that Prince as King of Spain until he should receive contrary orders from the Emperor. This declaration placed Murat in formal opposition to the Spanish people, who, through their hatred of Godoy, embraced the cause of the heir of the throne; in whose favour Charles IV. had abdicated.
It has been remarked that Napoleon stood in a perplexing situation in this conflict between the King and his son. This is not correct. King Charles, though he afterwards said that his abdication had been forced from him by violence and threats, had nevertheless tendered it. By this act Ferdinand was King, but Charles declared it was done against his will, and he retracted. The Emperor's recognition was wanting, and he, could give or withhold it as he pleased.
In this state of things Napoleon arrived at Bayonne. Thither Ferdinand was also invited to go, under pretence of arranging with the Emperor the differences between his father and himself. It was some time before he could form his determination, but at length his ill-advised friends prevailed on him to set off, and he was caught in the snare. What happened to him, as well as to his father, who repaired to Bayonne with his inseparable friend the Prince of the Peace is well known. Napoleon, who had undertaken to be arbiter between the father and son, thought the best way of settling the difference was to give the disputed throne to his brother Joseph, thus verifying the fable of the "Two Lawyers and the Oyster." The insurrection in Madrid on the 2d of May accelerated the fate of Ferdinand, who was accused of being the author of it; at least this suspicion fell on his friends and adherents.
Charles IV., it was said, would not return to Spain, and solicited an asylum in France. He signed a renunciation of his rights to the crown of Spain, which renunciation was also signed by the Infantas.
Napoleon now issued a decree, appointing "his dearly beloved brother Joseph Napoleon, King of Naples and Sicily, to the crowns of Spain and the Indies." By a subsequent decree, 15th of July, he appointed "his dearly-beloved cousin, Joachim Murat, Grand Duke of Berg, to the throne of Naples and Sicily, which remained vacant by the accession of Joseph Napoleon to the kingdoms of Spain and the Indies." Both these documents are signed Napoleon, and countersigned by the Minister Secretary of State, Maret.
The Prince Royal of Sweden, who was at Hamburg at this time, and the Ministers of all the European power, loudly condemned the conduct of Napoleon with respect to Spain. I cannot say whether or not M. de Talleyrand advised the Emperor not to attempt the overthrow of a branch of the house of Bourbon; his good sense and elevated views might certainly have suggested that advice. But the general opinion was that, had he retained the portfolio of foreign affairs, the Spanish revolution would have terminated with more decorum and good faith than was exhibited in the tragi-comedy acted at Madrid and Bayonne.
After the Treaty of Tilsit and the bonds of friendship which seemed likely to produce a permanent union between the Emperors of France and Russia, the cause of the Bourbons must have been considered irretrievably lost. Indeed, their only hope consisted in the imprudence and folly of him who had usurped their throne, and that hope they cherished. I will here relate what I had the opportunity of learning respecting the conduct of Louis XVIII. after his departure from France; this will naturally bring me to the end of November 1807, at which time I read in the Abeille du Nord published on the 9th of the same month, that the Comte de Lille and the Due d'Angouleme had set off for England.
The Comte de Provence, as Louis' title then went, left Paris on the 21st of June 1791. He constantly expressed his wish of keeping as near as possible to the frontiers of France. He at first took up his abode at Coblentz, and I knew from good authority that all the emigrants did not regard him with a favourable eye. They could not pardon the wise. principles he had professed at a period when there was yet time to prevent, by reasonable concession, the misfortunes which imprudent irritation brought upon France. When the emigrants, after the campaign of 1792, passed the Rhine, the Comte de Provence resided in the little town of Ham on the Lippe, where he remained until he was persuaded that the people of Toulon had called him to Provence. As he could not, of course, pass through France, Monsieur repaired to the Court of his father-in-law, the King of Sardinia, hoping to embark at Genoa, and from thence to reach the coast of Provence. But the evacuation of Toulon, where the name of Bonaparte was for the first time sounded by the breath of fame, having taken place before he was able to leave Turin, Monsieur remained there four months, at the expiration of which time his father- in-law intimated to him the impossibility of his remaining longer in the Sardinian States. He was afterwards permitted to reside at Verona, where he heard of Louis XVI.'s death. After remaining two years in that city the Senate of Venice forbade his presence in the Venetian States. Thus forced to quit Italy the Comte repaired to the army of Conde.
The cold and timid policy of the Austrian Cabinet afforded no asylum to the Comte de Provence, and he was obliged to pass through Germany; yet, as Louis XVIII. repeated over and over again, ever since the Restoration, "He never intended to shed French blood in Germany for the sake of serving foreign interests." Monsieur had, indeed, too much penetration not to see that his cause was a mere pretext for the powers at war with France. They felt but little for the misfortunes of the Prince, and merely wished to veil their ambition and their hatred of France under the false pretence of zeal for the House of Bourbon.
When the Dauphin died, Louis XVIII. took the title of King of France, and went to Prussia, where he obtained an asylum.
—[His brother, Charles X., the youngest of the three grandsons of Louis XV. (Louis XVI., Louis XVIII. Charles X.), the Comte d'Artois, afterwards Charles X. emigrated in 1789, and went to Turin and Mantas for 1789 and 1790. In 1791 and 1792 he lived at Coblenta, Worms, Brussels, Vienna, and at Turin. From 1792 to 1812 he lived at Ham on the Lippe at Westphalia at London, and for most of the time at Holyrood, Edinburgh. During this time he visited Russia and Germany, and showed himself on the coast of France. In 1818 he went to Germany, and in 1814 entered France in rear of the allies. In risking his person in the daring schemes of the followers who were giving their lives for the cause of his family he displayed a circumspection which was characterised by them with natural warmth.
"Sire, the cowardice of your brother has ruined all;" so Charette is said to have written to Louis XVIII.]—
But the pretender to the crown of France had not yet drained his cup of misfortune. After the 18th Fructidor the Directory required the King of Prussia to send away Louis XVIII., and the Cabinet of Berlin, it must be granted, was not in a situation to oppose the desire of the French Government, whose wishes were commands. In vain Louis XVIII. sought an asylum in the King of Saxony's States. There only remained Russia that durst offer a last refuge to the descendant of Louis XIV. Paul I., who was always in extremes, and who at that time entertained a violent feeling of hatred towards France, earnestly offered Louis XVIII., a residence at Mittau. He treated him with the honours of a sovereign, and loaded him with marks of attention and respect. Three years had scarcely passed when Paul was seized with mad enthusiasm for the man who twelve years later, ravaged his ancient capital, and Louis XVIII. found himself expelled from that Prince's territory with a harshness equal to the kindness with which he had at first been received.
It was during, his three, years' residence at Mittau that Louis XVIII., who was then known by the title of Comte de Lille, wrote to the First Consul those letters which have been referred to in these Memoirs. Prussia, being again solicited, at length consented that Louis XVIII. should reside at Warsaw; but on the accession of Napoleon to the Empire the Prince quitted that residence in order to consult respecting his new situation with the only sovereign who had not deserted him in his misfortune, viz. the King of Sweden. They met at Colmar, and from that city was dated the protest which I have already noticed. Louis XVIII. did not stay long in the States of the King of Sweden. Russia was now on the point of joining her eagles with those of Austria to oppose the new eagles of imperial France. Alexander offered to the Comte de Lille the asylum which Paul had granted to him and afterwards withdrawn. Louis XVIII. accepted the offer, but after the peace of Tilsit, fearing lest Alexander might imitate the second act of his father as well as the first, he plainly saw that he must give up all intention of residing on the Continent; and it was then that I read in the 'Abeille du Nord' the article before alluded to. There is, however, one fact upon which I must insist, because I know it to be true, viz. that it was of his own free will that Louis XVIII. quitted Mittau; and if he was afraid that Alexander would imitate his father's conduct that fear was without foundation. The truth is, that Alexander was ignorant even of the King's intention to go away until he heard from Baron von Driesen, Governor of Mittau, that he had actually departed. Having now stated the truth on this point I have to correct another error, if indeed it be only an error, into which some writers have fallen. It has been falsely alleged that the King left Mittau for the purpose of fomenting fresh troubles in France. The friends of Louis XVIII., who advised him to leave Mittau, had great hopes from the last war. They cherished still greater hopes from the new wars which Bonaparte's ambition could not fail to excite, but they were not so ill-informed respecting the internal condition of France as to expect that disturbances would arise there, or even to believe in the possibility of fomenting them. The pear was not yet ripe for Louis XVIII.
On the 29th of November the contents of a letter which had arrived from London by way of Sweden were communicated to me. This letter was dated the 3d of November, and contained some particulars respecting the Comte de Lille's arrival in England. That Prince had arrived at Yarmouth on the 31st of October 1807, and it was stated that the King was obliged to wait some time in the port until certain difficulties respecting his landing and the continuance of his journey should be removed. It moreover appeared from this letter that the King of England thought proper to refuse the Comte de Lille permission to go to London or its neighbourhood. The palace of Holyrood in Edinburgh was assigned as his place of residence; and Mr. Ross, secretary to Mr. Canning, conveyed the determination of the King of England to Louis XVIII., at Yarmouth.
The precaution of the English Ministry in not permitting the refugee King to go near London appeared to me remarkable, considering the relative position of the Governments of France and England, and I regarded it as a corroboration of what the Prince Wittgenstein had told me respecting Mr. Canning's inclination for an amicable arrangement. But the moment was approaching when the affairs of Spain were to raise an invincible obstacle to peace, to complicate more than ever the interests of the powers of Europe, and open to Napoleon that vast career of ambition which proved his ruin. He did not allow the hopes of the emigrants to remain chimerical, and the year 1814 witnessed the realization of the prophetic remark made by M. Lemereier, in a conversation with Bonaparte a few days before the foundation of the Empire: "If you get into the bed of the Bourbons, General, you will not lie in it ten year." Napoleon occupied it for nine years and nine months.
Fouche, the grand investigator of the secrets of Europe, did not fail, on the first report of the agitations in Spain, to address to me question on question respecting the Comte de Rechteren, the Spanish Minister at Hamburg, who, however, had left that city, with the permission of his Court, four months after I had entered on my functions. This was going back very far to seek information respecting the affairs of the day. At the very moment when I transmitted a reply to Fouche which was not calculated to please him, because it afforded no ground for suspicion as to the personal conduct of M. de Rechteren, I received from the amiable Josephine a new mark of her remembrance. She sent me the following note:
"M. Milon, who is now in Hamburg, wishes me, my dear Bourrienne, to request that you will use your interest in his favour. I feel the more pleasure in making this request as it affords me an opportunity of renewing the assurance of my regard for you."
Josephine's letter was dated from Fontainebleau, whither the Emperor used to make journeys in imitation of the old Court of France. During these excursions he sometimes partook of the pleasures of the chase, but merely for the sake of reviving an old custom, for in that exercise he found as little amusement as Montaigne did in the game of chess,
At Fontainebleau, as everywhere else, his mind was engaged with the means of augmenting his greatness, but, unfortunately, the exactions he imposed on distant countries were calculated to alienate the affections of the people. Thus, for example, I received an order emanating from him, and transmitted to me by M. Daru, the Intendant-General of the army, that the pay of all the French troops stationed in the Hanse Towns should be defrayed by these towns. I lamented the necessity of making such a communication to the Senates of Bremen, Lubeck, and Hamburg; but my duty compelled me to do so, and I had long been accustomed to fulfil duties even more painful than this. I tried every possible means with the three States, not collectively but separately, to induce them to comply with the measure, in the hope that the assent of one would help me to obtain that of the two others. But, as if they, had been all agreed, I only received evasive expressions of regret.
Knowing as I did, and I may say better than any one else, the hopes and designs of Bonaparte respecting the north of Germany, it was not without pain, nor even without alarm, that I saw him doing everything calculated to convert into enemies the inhabitants of a country which would always have remained quiet had it only been permitted to preserve its neutrality. Among the orders I received were often many which could only have been the result of the profoundest ignorance. For example, I was one day directed to press 3000 seamen in the Hanse Towns. Three thousand seamen out of a population of 200,000! It was as absurd as to think of raising 500,000 sailors in France. This project being impossible, it was of course not executed; but I had some difficulty in persuading the Emperor that a sixth of the number demanded was the utmost the Hanse Towns could supply. Five hundred seamen were accordingly furnished, but to make up that number it was necessary to include many men who were totally unfit for war service.
Departure of the Prince of Ponte-Corvo—Prediction and superstition —Stoppage of letters addressed to the Spanish troops—La Romana and Romanillos—Illegible notifications—Eagerness of the German Princes to join the Confederation of the Rhine—Attack upon me on account of M. Hue—Bernadotte's successor in Hamburg—Exactions and tyrannical conduct of General Dupas—Disturbance in Hamburg—Plates broken in a fit of rage—My letter to Bernadotte—His reply—Bernadotte's return to Hamburg, and departure of Dupas for Lubeck—Noble conduct of the 'aide de camp' Barrel.
In the spring of 1808 a circumstance occurred which gave, me much uneasiness; it was the departure of Bernadotte, Prince of Ponte-Corvo, who received orders to repair to Copenhagen. He left Hamburg on the 8th of March, as he was to reach his destination on the 14th of the same month. The Danish charge d'affaires also received orders to join the Prince, and discharge the functions of King's commissary. It was during his government at Hamburg and his stay in Jutland that Bernadotte unconsciously paved his way to the throne of Sweden. I recollect that he had also his presages and his predestinations. In short, he believed in astrology, and I shall never forget the serious tone in which he one day said to me, "Would you believe, my dear friend, that it was predicted at Paris that I should be a King, but that I must cross the sea to reach my throne?" I could not help smiling with him at this weakness of mind, from which Bonaparte was not far removed. It certainly was not any supernatural influence which elevated Bernadotte to sovereign rank. That elevation was solely due to his excellent character. He had no other talisman than the wisdom of his government, and the promptitude which he always, showed to oppose unjust measures. This it was that united all opinions in his favour.
The bad state of the roads in the north prolonged Bernadotte's journey one day. He set out on the 8th of March; he was expected to arrive at Copenhagen on the l4th, but did not reach there till the 15th. He arrived precisely two hours before the death of Christian, King of Denmark, an event with which he made me acquainted by letter written two days after his arrival.
On the 6th of April following I received a second letter from Bernadotte, in which he desired me to order the Grand Ducal postmaster to keep back all letters addressed to the Spanish troops, who had been placed under his command, and of which the corps of Romana formed part. The postmaster was ordered to keep the letters until he received orders to forward them to their destinations. Bernadotte considered this step indispensable, to prevent the intrigues which he feared might be set on foot in order to shake the fidelity of the Spaniards he commanded. I saw from his despatch that he feared the plotting of Romanillos, who, however, was not a person to cause much apprehension. Romanillos was as commonplace a man as could well be conceived; and his speeches, as well as his writings, were too innocent to create any influence on public opinion.
In addition to the functions with which the Emperor at first invested me, I had to discharge the duties of French Consul-General at Hamburg, and in that character I was obliged to present to the Minister for Foreign Affairs a very singular request, viz. that the judicial notifications, which as Consul-General I had to make known to the people of Hamburg, might be written in a more legible hand. Many of these notifications had been disregarded on account of the impossibility of reading them: With respect to one of them it was declared that it was impossible to discover whether the writing was German, French, or Chinese.
I shall not record all the acts of spoliation committed by second-rate ambitious aspirants who hoped to come in for their share in the division of the Continent: The Emperor's lieutenants regarded Europe as a twelfthcake, but none of them ventured to dispute the best bit with Napoleon. Long would be the litany were I to enregister all the fraud and treachery which they committed, either to augment their fortunes or to win the favour of the chief who wished to have kings for his subjects. The fact is, that all the Princes of Germany displayed the greatest eagerness to range themselves under the protection of Napoleon, by, joining the Confederation of the Rhine. I received from those Princes several letters which served to prove at once the influence of Napoleon in Germany and the facility with which men bend beneath the yoke of a new power. I must say that among the emigrants who remained faithful to their cause there were some who evinced more firmness of character than the foreign Princes. I may mention, for example, M. Hue, the 'valet de chambre' of Louis XVI. I do not intend to deny the high regard I entertained for that faithful servant of the martyred King; but the attentions which I congratulate myself on having shown to an excellent man should not have subjected me to false imputations.
I have read the following statement in a publication:
"M. Hue retired to Hamburg, where he passed nine, months in perfect obscurity. He afterwards went to Holland, provided with a passport from Bourrienne, who was Napoleon's Minister, though in disgrace, and who, foreseeing what was to happen, sought to ingratiate himself in the favour of the Bourbons."
The above passage contains a falsehood in almost every line. M. Hue wished to reside in Hamburg, but he did not wish to conceal himself. I invited him to visit me, and assured him that he might remain in Hamburg without apprehension, provided he acted prudently. He wished to go to Holland, and I took upon myself to give him a passport. I left M. Hue in the free management of his business, the nature of which I knew very well, and which was very honourable; he was deputed to pay the pensions which Louis XVIII. granted to the emigrants. As for myself, I had tendered my resignation of private secretary to Bonaparte; and even admitting I was in disgrace in that character, I was not so as Minister and Consul-General at Hamburg. My situation, which was of little consequence at the time I was appointed to it, was later on rendered exceedingly important by circumstances. It was, in fact, a sort of watch-tower of the Government, whence all the movements of northern Germany were observed; and during my residence in the Hanse Towns I continually experienced the truth of what Bonaparte said to me at my farewell audience—"Yours is a place independent and apart."
It is absurd to say that the kindness I showed to M. Hue was an attempt to ingratiate myself with the Bourbons. My attentions to him were dictated solely by humanity, unaccompanied by any afterthought. Napoleon had given me his confidence, and by mitigating the verity of his orders I served him better than they who executed them in a way which could not fail to render the French Government odious. If I am accused of extending every possible indulgence to the unfortunate emigrants, I plead guilty; and, far from wishing to defend myself against the charge, I consider it honourable to me. But I defy any one of them to say that I betrayed in their favour the interests with which I was entrusted. They who urged Bonaparte to usurp the crown of France served, though perhaps unconsciously, the cause of the Bourbons. I, on the contrary, used all my endeavours to dissuade him from that measure, which I clearly saw must, in the end, lead to the restoration, though I do not pretend that I was sufficiently clear-sighted to guess that Napoleon's fall was so near at hand. The kindness I showed to M. Hue and his companions in misfortune was prompted by humanity, and not by mean speculation. As well might it be said that Bernadotte, who, like myself, neglected no opportunity of softening the rigour of the orders he was deputed to execute, was by this means working his way to the throne of Sweden.
Bernadotte had proceeded to Denmark to take the command of the Spanish and French troops who had been removed from the Hanse Towns to occupy that kingdom, which was then threatened by the English. His departure was a great loss to me, for we had always agreed respecting the measures to be adopted, and I felt his absence the more sensibly when I was enabled to make a comparison between him and his successor. It is painful to me to detail the misconduct of those who injured the French name in Germany, but in fulfilment of the task I have undertaken, I am bound to tell the truth.
In April 1808 General Dupas came to take the command of Hamburg, but only under the orders of Bernadotte, who retained the supreme command of the French troops in the Hanse Towns. By the appointment of General Dupas the Emperor cruelly thwarted the wishes and hopes of the inhabitants of Lower Saxony. That General said of the people of Hamburg, "As long as I see those . . . driving in their carriages I can get money from them." It is, however, only just to add, that his dreadful exactions were not made on his own account, but for the benefit of another man to whom he owed his all, and to whom he had in some measure devoted his existence.
I will state some particulars respecting the way in which the generals who commanded the French troops at Hamburg were maintained. The Senate of Hamburg granted to the Marshals thirty friederichs a day for the expenses of their table exclusive of the hotel in which they were lodged by the city. The generals of division had only twenty friederichs. General Dupas wished to be provided for on the same footing as the Marshals. The Senate having, with reason, rejected this demand, Dupas required that he should be daily served with a breakfast and a dinner of thirty covers. This was an inconceivable burden, and Dupas cost the city more than any of his predecessors.
I saw an account of his expenses, which during the twenty-one weeks he remained at Hamburg amounted to 122,000 marks, or about 183,000 francs. None but the most exquisite wines were drunk at the table of Dupas. Even his servants were treated with champagne, and the choicest fruits were brought from the fine hothouses of Berlin. The inhabitants were irritated at this extravagance, and Dupas accordingly experienced the resistance of the Senate.
Among other vexations there was one to which the people could not readily submit. In Hamburg, which had formerly been a fortified town, the custom was preserved of closing the gates at nightfall. On Sundays they were closed three-quarters of an hour later, to avoid interrupting the amusements of the people.
While General Dupas was Governor of Hamburg an event occurred which occasioned considerable irritation in the public mind, and might have been attended by fatal consequences. From some whim or other the General ordered the gates to be closed at seven in the evening, and consequently while it was broad daylight, for it was in the middle of spring; no exception was made in favour of Sunday, and on that day a great number of the inhabitants who had been walking in the outskirts of the city presented themselves at the gate of Altona for admittance. To their surprise they found the gate closed, though it was a greater thoroughfare than any other gate in Hamburg. The number of persons, requiring admittance increased, and a considerable crowd soon collected. After useless entreaties had been addressed to the chief officer of the post the people were determined to send to the Commandant for the keys. The Commandant arrived, accompanied by the General. When they appeared it was supposed they had come for the purpose of opening the gates, and they were accordingly saluted with a general hurrah! which throughout almost all the north is the usual cry for expressing popular satisfaction. General Dupas not understanding the meaning of this hurrah! supposed it to be a signal for sedition, and instead of ordering the gates to be opened he commanded the military to fire upon the peaceful citizens,. who only wanted to return to their homes. Several persons were killed, and others more or less seriously wounded. Fortunately, after this first discharge the fury of Dupas was appeased; but still he persisted in keeping the gates closed at night. Next day an order was posted about the city prohibiting the cry of hurrah! under pain of a severe punishment. It was also forbidden that more than three persona should collect together in the streets. Thus it was that certain persons imposed the French yoke upon towns and provinces which were previously happy.
Dupas was as much execrated in the Hanse Towns as Clarke had been in Berlin when he was governor of that capital during the campaign of 1807. Clarke had burdened the people of Berlin with every kind of oppression and exaction. He, as well as many others, manifested a ready obedience in executing the Imperial orders, however tyrannical they might be; and Heaven knows what epithets invariably accompanied the name of Clarke when pronounced by the lips of a Prussian.
Dupas seemed to have taken Clarke as his model. An artillery officer, who was in Hamburg at the time of the disturbance I have just mentioned, told me that it was he who was directed to place two pieces of light- artillery before the gate of Altona. Having executed this order, he went to General Dupas, whom he found in a furious fit of passion, breaking and destroying everything within his reach. In the presence of the officer he broke more than two dozen plates which were on the table before him: these plates, of course, had cost him very little!
On the day after the disturbance which had so fatal a termination I wrote to inform the Prince of Porte-Corvo of what had taken place; and in my letter I solicited the suppression of an extraordinary tribunal which had been created by General Dupas. He returned me an immediate answer, complying with my request. His letter was as follows:
I have received your letter, my dear Minister: it forcibly conveys the expression of your right feeling, which revolts against oppression, severity, and the abase of power. I entirely concur in your view of the subject, and I am distressed whenever I see such acts of injustice committed. On an examination of the events which took place on the 19th it is impossible to deny that the officer who ordered the gates to be closed so soon was in the wrong; and next, it may be asked, why were not the gates opened instead of the, military being ordered to fire on the people? But, on the other hand, did not the people evince decided obstinacy and insubordination? were they not to blame in throwing stones at the guard, forcing the palisades, and even refusing to listen to the voice of the magistrates? It is melancholy that they should have fallen into these excesses, from which, doubtless, they would have refrained had they listened to the civil chiefs, who ought to be their first directors. Finally, my dear Minister, the Senator who distributed money at the gate of Altona to appease the multitude would have done better had he advised them to wait patiently until the gates were opened; and he might, I think, have gone to the Commandant or the General to solicit that concession.
Whenever an irritated mob resorts to violence there is no safety for any one. The protecting power mast then exert its utmost authority to stop mischief. The Senate of ancient Rome, so jealous of its prerogatives, assigned to a Dictator, in times of trouble, the power of life and death, and that magistrate knew no other code than his own will and the axe of his lictors. The ordinary laws did not resume their course until the people returned to submission.
The event which took place in Hamburg produced a feeling of agitation of which evil-disposed persons might take advantage to stir up open insurrection. That feeling could only be repressed by a severe tribunal, which, however, is no longer necessary. General Dupas has, accordingly, received orders to dissolve it, and justice will resume her usual course. J. BERNADOTTE DENSEL, 4th May, 1808.
When Bernadotte returned to Hamburg he sent. Dupas to Lubeck. That city, which was poorer than Hamburg, suffered cruelly from the visitation of such a guest.
Dupas levied all his exactions in kind, and indignantly spurned every offer of accepting money, the very idea of which, he said, shocked his delicacy of feeling. But his demands became so extravagant that the city of Lubeck was utterly unable to satisfy them. Besides his table, which was provided in the same style of profusion as at Hamburg, he required to be furnished with plate, linen, wood, and candles; in short, with the most trivial articles of household consumption.
The Senate deputed to the incorruptible General Dupas M. Nolting, a venerable old man, who mildly represented to him the abuses which were everywhere committed in his name, and entreated that he would vouchsafe to accept twenty Louis a day to defray the expenses of his table alone. At this proposition General Dupes flew into a rage. To offer him money was an insult not to be endured! He furiously drove the terrified Senator out of the house, and at once ordered his 'aide de camp' Barrel to imprison him. M. de Barrel, startled at this extraordinary order, ventured to remonstrate with the General, but in vain; and, though against his heart, he was obliged to obey. The aide de camp accordingly waited upon the Senator Notting, and overcome by that feeling of respect which gray hairs involuntarily inspire in youth, instead of arresting him, he besought the old man not to leave his house until he should prevail on the General to retract his orders. It was not till the following day that M. de Barrel succeeded in getting these orders revoked—that is to say, he obtained M. Notting's release from confinement; for Dupas would not be satisfied until he heard that the Senator had suffered at least the commencement of the punishment to which his capricious fury had doomed him.
In spite of his parade of disinterestedness General Dupas yielded so far as to accept the twenty Louis a day for the expense of his table which M. Notting had offered him on the part of the Senate of Lubeck; but it was not without murmurings, complaints, and menaces that he made this generous concession; and he exclaimed more than once, "These fellows have portioned out my allowance for me." Lubeck was not released from the presence of General Dupes until the month of March 1809, when he was summoned to command a division in the Emperor's new campaign against Austria. Strange as it may appear, it is nevertheless the fact, that, oppressive as had been his presence at Lubeck, the Hanse Towns soon had reason to regret him.
Promulgation of the Code of Commerce—Conquests by Status-consulte—
Three events in one day—Recollections—Application of a line of
Voltaire—Creation of the Imperial nobility—Restoration of the
university—Aggrandisement of the kingdom of Italy at the expense of
Rome—Cardinal Caprara'a departure from Paris—The interview at
The year 1808 was fertile in remarkable events. Occupied as I was with my own duties, I yet employed my leisure hours in observing the course of those great acts by which Bonaparte seemed determined to mark every day of his life. At the commencement of 1808 I received one of the first copies of the Code of Commerce, promulgated on the 1st of January by the Emperor's order. This code appeared to me an act of mockery; at least it was extraordinary to publish a code respecting a subject which it was the effect of all the Imperial decrees to destroy. What trade could possibly exist under the Continental system, and the ruinous severity of the customs? The line was already extended widely enough when, by a 'Senatus-consulte', it was still further widened. The Emperor, to whom all the Continent submitted, had recourse to no other formality for the purpose of annexing to the Empire the towns of Kehl, Cassel near Mayence, Wesel, and Flushing, with the territories depending on them.
—[A resolution of the senate, or a "Senatus-consulte" was the means invented by Napoleon for altering the imperial Constitutions, and even the extent of the Empire. By one of these, dated 21st January 1808, the towns of Kehl, Cassel, and Wesel, with Flushing, all already seized, were definitely united to France. The loss of Wesel, which belonged to Murat's Grand Duchy of Berg, was a very sore point with Murat.]—
These conquests, gained by decrees and senatorial decisions, had at least the advantage of being effected without bloodshed. All these things were carefully communicated to me by the Ministers with whom I corresponded, for my situation at Hamburg had acquired such importance that it was necessary I should know everything.
At this period I observed among the news which I received from different places a singular coincidence of dates, worthy of being noted by the authors of ephemrides. On the same day-namely, the 1st of February Paris, Lisbon, and Rome were the scenes of events of different kinds, but, as they all happened on one day, affording a striking example of the rapidity of movement which marked the reign of Bonaparte. At Paris the niece of Josephine, Mademoiselle de Tascher, whom Napoleon had lately exalted to the rank of Princess, was married to the reigning Prince of Ahremberg, while at the same time Junot declared to Portugal that the house of Braganza had ceased to reign, and French troops were, under the command of General Miollis, occupying Rome. This occupation was the commencement of prolonged struggles, during which Pins VII. expiated the condescension he had shown in going to Paris to crown Napoleon.
Looking over my notes, I see it was the day after these three events occurred that Bonaparte gave to his brother-in-law, Prince Borghese, the Governorship-General of the departments beyond the Alps which he had just founded; and of which he made the eighth Grand Dignitary of the Empire. General Menou, whom I had not seen since Egypt, was obliged by this appointment to leave Turin, where he had always remained. Bonaparte, not wishing to permit him to come to Paris, sent Menou to preside over the Junta of Tuscany, of which he soon afterwards made another General- Governorship, which he entrusted to the care of his sister Elisa.
—[Prince Camille Philippe Louis Borghese (1755-1832), an Italian, had married, 6th November 1808, Pauline Bonaparte, the sister of Napoleon, and the widow of General Leclerc. He had been made Prince and Duke of Guastalla when that duchy was given to his wife, 30th Marsh 1806. He separated from his wife after a few years. Indeed Pauline was impossible as a wife if half of the stories about her are true. It was she who, finding that a lady was surprised at her having sat naked while a statue of her was being modelled for Canova, believed she had satisfactorily explained matters by saying, "but there was a fire in the room."]—
My correspondence relative to what passed in the south of France and of Europe presented to me, if I may so express myself, merely an anecdotal interest. Not so the news which came from the north. At Hamburg I was like the sentinel of an advanced post, always on the alert. I frequently informed the Government of what would take place before the event actually happened. I was one of the first to hear of the plans of Russia relative to Sweden. The courier whom I sent to Paris arrived there at the very moment when Russia made the declaration of war. About the end of February the Russian troops entered Swedish Finland, and occupied also the capital of that province, which had at all times been coveted by the Russian Government. It has been said that at the interview at Erfurt Bonaparte consented to the usurpation of that province by Alexander in return for the complaisance of the latter in acknowledging Joseph as King of Spain and the Indies.
The removal of Joseph from the throne of Naples to the throne of Madrid belongs, indeed, to that period respecting which I am now throwing together a few recollections. Murat had succeeded Joseph at Naples, and this accession of the brother-in-law of Napoleon to one of the thrones of the House of Bourbon gave Bonaparte another junior in the college of kings, of which he would have infallibly become the senior if he had gone on as he began.
I will relate a little circumstance which now occurs to me respecting the kings manufactured by Napoleon. I recollect that during the King of Etruria's stay in Paris—the First Consul went with that Prince to the Comedie Francaise, where Voltaire's 'OEdipus' was performed. This piece, I may observe, Bonaparte liked better than anything Voltaire ever wrote. I was in the theatre, but not in the First Consul's box, and I observed, as all present must have done, the eagerness with which the audience applied to Napoleon and the King of Etruria the line in which Philoctetes says—
"J'ai fait des souverains et n'ai pas voulu l'etre."
["I have made sovereigns, but have not wished to be one myself."]
The application was so marked that it could not fail to become the subject of conversation between the First Consul and me. "You remarked it, Bourrienne?" . . . "Yes, General." . . "The fools! . . . They shall see! They shall see! "We did indeed see. Not content with making kings, Bonaparte, when his brow was encircled by a double crown, after creating princes at length realised the object he had long contemplated, namely, to found a new nobility endowed with hereditary rights. It was at the commencement of March 1808 that he accomplished this project; and I saw in the 'Moniteur' a long list of princes, dukes, counts, barons, and knights of the Empire; there were wanting only viscounts and marquises.
At the same time that Bonaparte was founding a new nobility he determined to raise up the old edifice of the university, but on a new foundation. The education of youth had always been one of his ruling ideas, and I had an opportunity of observing how he was changed by the exercise of sovereign power when I received at Hamburg the statutes of the new elder daughter of the Emperor of the French, and compared them with the ideas which Bonaparte, when General and First Consul, had often expressed to me respecting the education which ought to be given youth. Though the sworn enemy of everything like liberty, Bonaparte had at first conceived a vast system of education, comprising above all the study of history, and those positive sciences, such as geology and astronomy, which give the utmost degree of development to the human mind. The Sovereign, however, shrunk from the first ideas of the man of genius, and his university, confided to the elegant suppleness of M. de Fontaines, was merely a school capable of producing educated subjects but not enlightened men.
Before taking complete possession of Rome, and making it the second city of the Empire, the vaunted moderation of Bonaparte was confined to dismembering from it the legations of Ancona, Urbino, Macerata, and Camerino, which were divided into three departments; and added to the Kingdom of Italy. The patience of the Holy See could no longer hold out against this act of violence, and Cardinal Caprara, who had remained in Paris since the coronation, at last left that capital. Shortly afterwards the Grand Duchies of Parma and Piacenza were united to the French Empire, and annexed to the government of the departments beyond the Alps. These transactions were coincident with the events in Spain and Bayonne before mentioned.
After the snare laid at Bayonne the Emperor entered Paris on the 14th of August, the eve of his birthday. Scarcely had he arrived in the capital when he experienced fresh anxiety in consequence of the conduct of Russia, which, as I have stated, had declared open war with Sweden, and did not conceal the intention of seizing Finland. But Bonaparte, desirous of actively carrying on the war in Spain, felt the necessity of removing his troops from Prussia to the Pyrenees. He then hastened the interview at Erfurt, where the two Emperors of France and Russia had agreed to meet. He hoped that this interview would insure the tranquillity of the Continent, while he should complete the subjection of Spain to the sceptre of Joseph. That Prince had been proclaimed on the 8th of June; and on the 21st of the same month he made his entry into Madrid, but having received, ten days after, information of the disaster at Baylen, he was obliged to leave the Spanish capital.
—[The important battle of Daylen, where the French, under General Dupont, were beaten by the Spaniards, was fought on the 19th of July 1808.]—
Bonaparte's wishes must at this time have been limited to the tranquillity of the Continent, for the struggle between him and England was more desperate than ever. England had just sent troops to Portugal under the command of Sir Arthur Wellesley. There was no longer any hope of a reconciliation with Great Britain: The interview at Erfurt having been determined on, the Emperor, who had returned from Bayonne to Paris, again left the capital about the end of September, and arrived at Metz without stopping, except for the purpose of reviewing the regiments which were echeloned on his route, and which were on their march from the Grand Army to Spain.
I had heard some time previously of the interview which was about to take place, and which was so memorable in the life of Napoleon. It excited so much interest in Germany that the roads were covered with the equipages of the Princes who were going to Erfurt to witness the meeting. The French Emperor arrived there before Alexander, and went forward three leagues to meet him. Napoleon was on horseback, Alexander in a carriage. They embraced, it is said, in a manner expressive of the most cordial friendship. This interview was witnessed by most of the sovereign Princes of Germany. However, neither the King of Prussia nor the Emperor of Austria was present. The latter sovereign sent a letter to Napoleon, of which I obtained a copy. It was as follows:
SIRE, MY BROTHER,—My Ambassador in Paris informs me that your Majesty is about to proceed to Erfurt to meet the Emperor Alexander. I eagerly seize the opportunity of your approach to my frontier to renew those testimonials of friendship and esteem which I have pledged to you; and I send my Lieutenant-General, Baron Vincent, to convey to you the assurance of my unalterable sentiments. If the false accounts that have been circulated respecting the internal institutions which I have established in my monarchy should for a moment have excited your Majesty's doubts as to my intentions, I fatter myself that the explanations given on that subject by Count Metternich to your Minister will have entirely removed them. Baron Vincent is enabled to confirm to your Majesty all that has been said by Count Metternich on the subject, and to add any further explanations, you may wish for. I beg that your Majesty will grant him the same gracious reception he experienced at Paris and at Warsaw. The renewed marks of favour you may bestow on him will be an unequivocal pledge of the reciprocity of your sentiments, and will seal that confidence which will render our satisfaction mutual.
Deign to accept the assurance of the unalterable affection and
respect with which I am, Sire, my Brother, Your imperial and royal
Majesty's faithful brother and friend,
PRESBURG, 8th September 1808.
This letter appears to be a model of ambiguity, by which it is impossible Napoleon could have been imposed upon. However, as yet he had no suspicion of the hostility of Austria, which speedily became manifest; his grand object then was the Spanish business, and, as I have before observed, one of the secrets of Napoleon's genius was, that he did not apply himself to more than one thing at a time.
At Erfurt Bonaparte attained the principal object he had promised himself by the meeting. Alexander recognized Joseph in his new character of King of Spain and the Indies. It has been said that as the price of this recognition Napoleon consented that Alexander should have Swedish Finland; but for the truth of this I cannot vouch. However, I remember that when, after the interview at Erfurt, Alexander had given-orders to his ambassador to Charles IV. to continue his functions under King Joseph, the Swedish charge d'affaires at Hamburg told me that confidential letters received by him from Erfurt led him to fear that the Emperor Alexander had communicated to Napoleon his designs on Finland, and that Napoleon had given his consent to the occupation. Be this as it may, as soon as the interview was over Napoleon returned to Paris, where he presided with much splendour at the opening of the Legislative Body, and set out in the month of November for Spain.
The Spanish troops in Hamburg—Romana's siesta—His departure for
Funen—Celebration of Napoleon's birthday—Romana's defection—
English agents and the Dutch troops—Facility of communication
between England and the Continent—Delay of couriers from Russia—
Alarm and complaints—The people of Hamburg—Montesquieu and the
Minister of the Grand Duke of Tuscany—Invitations at six months—
Napoleon's journey to Italy—Adoption of Eugene—Lucien's daughter
and the Prince of the Asturias—M. Auguste de Stael's interview with
Previous to the interview at Erfurt an event took place which created a strong interest in Hamburg and throughout Europe, an event which was planned and executed with inconceivable secrecy. I allude to the defection of the Marquis de la Romans, which I have not hitherto noticed, in order that I might not separate the different facts which came to my knowledge respecting that defection and the circumstances which accompanied it.
The Marquis de la Romans had come to the Hanse Towns at the head of an army corps of 18,000 men, which the Emperor in the preceding campaign claimed in virtue of treaties previously concluded with the Spanish Government. The Spanish troops at first met with a good reception in the Hanse Towns. The difference of language, indeed, occasionally caused discord, but when better acquainted the inhabitants and their visitors became good friends. The Marquis de la Romans was a little swarthy man, of unprepossessing and rather common appearance; but he had a considerable share of talent and information. He had travelled in almost every part of Europe, and as he had been a close observer of all he saw his conversation was exceedingly agreeable and instructive.
During his stay at Hamburg General Romans spent almost every evening at my house, and invariably fell asleep over a game at whist. Madame de Bourrienne was usually his partner, and I recollect he perpetually offered apologies for his involuntary breach of good manners. This, however, did not hinder him from being guilty of the same offence the next evening. I will presently explain the cause of this regular siesta.
On the King of Spain's birthday the Marquis de la Romans gave a magnificent entertainment. The decorations of the ballroom consisted of military emblems. The Marquis did the honours with infinite grace, and paid particular attention to the French generals. He always spoke of the Emperor in very respectful terms, without any appearance of affectation, so that it was impossible to suspect him of harbouring disaffection. He played his part to the last with the utmost address. At Hamburg we had already received intelligence of the fatal result of the battle of the Sierra Morena, and of the capitulation of Dupont, which disgraced him at the very moment when the whole army marked him out as the man most likely next to receive the baton of Marshal of France.
Meanwhile the Marquis de la Romans departed for the Danish island of Funen, in compliance with the order which Marshal Bernadotte had transmitted to him. There, as at Hamburg, the Spaniards were well liked, for their general obliged them to observe the strictest discipline. Great preparations were made in Hamburg on the approach of Saint Napoleon's day, which was then celebrated with much solemnity in every town in which France had representatives. The Prince de Ponte-Corvo was at Travemunde, a small seaport near Lubeck, but that did not prevent him from giving directions for the festival of the 15th of August. The Marquis de la Romana, the better to deceive the Marshal, despatched a courier, requesting permission to visit Hamburg on the day of the fete in order to join his prayers to those of the French, and to receive, on the day of the fete, from the hands of the Prince, the grand order of the Legion of Honour, which he had solicited, and which Napoleon had granted him. Three days after Bernadotte received intelligence of the defection of de la Romana. The Marquis had contrived to assemble a great number of English vessels on the coast, and to escape with all his troops except a depot of 600 men left at Altona. We afterwards heard that he experienced no interruption on his passage, and that he landed with his troops at Corunna. I now knew to what to attribute the drowsiness which always overcame the Marquis de la Romana when he sat down to take a hand at whist. The fact was, he sat up all night making preparations for the escape which he had long meditated, while to lull suspicion he showed himself everywhere during the day, as usual.
On the defection of the Spanish troops I received letters from Government requiring me to augment my vigilance, and to seek out those persons who might be supposed to have been in the confidence of the Marquis de la Romans. I was informed that English agents, dispersed through the Hanse Towns, were endeavouring to foment discord and dissatisfaction among the King of Holland's troops. These manoeuvres were connected with the treason of the Spaniards and the arrival of Danican in Denmark. Insubordination had already broken out, but it was promptly repressed. Two Dutch soldiers were shot for striking their officers, but notwithstanding this severity desertion among the troops increased to an alarming degree. Indefatigable agents in the pay of the English Government laboured incessantly to seduce the soldiers of King Louis (of Holland) from their duty. Some of these agents being denounced to me were taken almost in the act, and positive proof being adduced of their guilt they were condemned to death.
These indispensable examples of severity did not check the manoeuvres of England, though they served to cool the zeal of her agents. I used every endeavour to second the Prince of Ponte-Corvo in tracing out the persons employed by England. It was chiefly from the small island of Heligoland that they found their way to the Continent. This communication was facilitated by the numerous vessels scattered about the small islands which lie along that coast. Five or six pieces of gold defrayed the expense of the passage to or from Heligoland. Thus the Spanish news, which was printed and often fabricated at London, was profusely circulated in the north of Germany. Packets of papers addressed to merchants and well-known persons in the German towns were put into the post-offices of Embden, Kuipphausen, Varel, Oldenburg, Delmenhorst, and Bremen. Generally speaking, this part of the coast was not sufficiently well watched to prevent espionage and smuggling; with regard to smuggling, indeed, no power could have entirely prevented it. The Continental system had made it a necessity, so that a great part of the population depended on it for subsistence.
In the beginning of December 1808 we remarked that the Russian courier who passed through Konigsberg and Berlin, was regularly detained four, five, and even six hours on his way to Hamburg. The trading portion of the population, always suspicious, became alarmed at this chance in the courier's hours, into which they inquired and soon discovered the cause. It was ascertained that two agents had been stationed by the postmaster of the Grand Duchy of Berg at Hamburg, in a village called Eschburg belonging to the province of Lauenburg. There the courier from Berlin was stopped, and his packets and letters opened. As soon as these facts were known in Hamburg there was a general consternation among the trading class-that is to say, the influential population of the city. Important and well-grounded complaints were made. Some letters had been suppressed, enclosures had been taken from one letter and put into another, and several bills of exchange had gone astray. The intelligence soon reached the ears of the Prince of Ponte-Corvo, and was confirmed by the official report of the commissioner for the Imperial and Royal Post- office, who complained of the delay of the courier, of the confusion of the packets, and of want of confidence in the Imperial Post-office. It was impolitic to place such agents in a village where there was not even a post-office, and where the letters were opened in an inn without any supervision. This examination of the letters, sometimes, perhaps, necessary, but often dangerous, and always extremely delicate, created additional alarm, on account of the persons to whom the business was entrusted. If the Emperor wished to be made acquainted with the correspondence of certain persons in the north it would have been natural to entrust the business to his agents and his commissioner at Hamburg, and not to two unknown individuals—another inconvenience attending black cabinets. At my suggestion the Prince of Ponte-Corvo gave orders for putting a stop to the clandestine business at Eschburg. The two agents were taken to Hamburg and their conduct inquired into. They were severely punished. They deserved this, however, less than those who had entrusted them with such an honourable mission; but leaders never make much scruple about abandoning their accomplices in the lower ranks.
But for the pain of witnessing vexations of this sort, which I had not always power to prevent, especially after Bernadotte's removal, my residence at Hamburg would have been delightful. Those who have visited that town know the advantages it possesses from its charming situation on the Elbe, and above all, the delightful country which surrounds it like a garden, and extends to the distance of more than a league along the banks of the Eyder. The manners and customs of the inhabitants bear the stamp of peculiarity; they are fond of pursuing their occupations in the open air. The old men are often seen sitting round tables placed before their doors sipping tea, while the children play before them, and the young people are at their work. These groups have a very picturesque effect, and convey a gratifying idea of the happiness of the people. On seeing the worthy citizens of Hamburg assembled round their doors I could not help thinking of a beautiful remark of Montesquieu. When he went to Florence with a letter of recommendation to the Prime Minister of the Grand Duke of Tuscany he found him sitting at the threshold of his door, inhaling the fresh air and conversing with some friends. "I see," said Montesquieu, "that I am arrived among a happy people, since their Prime Minister can enjoy his leisure moments thus."
A sort of patriarchal simplicity characterises the manners of the inhabitants of Hamburg. They do not visit each other much, and only by invitation; but on such occasions they display great luxury beneath their simple exterior. They are methodical and punctual to an extraordinary degree. Of this I recollect a curious instance. I was very intimate with Baron Woght, a man of talent and information, and exceedingly amiable manners. One day he called to make us a farewell visit as he intended to set out on the following day for Paris. On Madame de Bourrienne expressing a hope that he would not protract his absence beyond six months, the period he had fixed upon, he replied, "Be assured, madame, nothing shall prevent me getting home on the day I have appointed, for I have invited a party of friends to dine with me on the day after my return." The Baron returned at the appointed time, and none of his guests required to be reminded of his invitation at six months' date.
Napoleon so well knew the effect which his presence produced that after a conquest he loved to show himself to the people whose territories he added to the Empire. Duroc, who always accompanied him when he was not engaged on missions, gave me a curious account of Napoleon's journey in 1807 to Venice and the other Italian provinces, which, conformably with the treaty of Presburg, were annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.
In this journey to the Kingdom of Italy Napoleon had several important objects in view. He was planning great alliances; and he loaded Eugene with favours for the purpose of sounding him and preparing him for his mother's divorce. At the same time he intended to have an interview with his brother Lucien, because, wishing to dispose of the hand of his brother's daughter, he thought of making her marry the Prince of the Asturias (Ferdinand), who before the Spanish war, when the first dissensions between father and son had become manifest, had solicited an alliance with the Emperor in the hope of getting his support. This was shortly after the eldest son of Louis had died in Holland of croup. It has been wrongly believed that Napoleon had an affection for this child beyond that of an uncle for a nephew. I have already said the truth about this.
However this may be, it is certain that Napoleon now seriously contemplated a divorce from Josephine. If there had been no other proof of this I, who from long habit knew how to read Napoleon's thoughts by his acts, found a sufficient one in the decree issued at Milan by which Napoleon adopted Eugene as his son and successor to the crown of Italy, in default of male and legitimate children directly descended from him. Lucien went to Mantua on his brother's invitation, and this was the last interview they had before the Cent Tours. Lucien consented to give his daughter to the Prince of the Asturias, but this marriage did not take place. I learned from Duroc to what a height the enmity of Lucien towards the Beauharnais family, an enmity which I have often had occasion to speak of, had been renewed on this occasion. Lucien could not pardon Josephine for the rebuff of the counsels which he had given her, and which she had rejected with such proper indignation. Lucien had besides another special reason for giving his daughter to the Prince of the Asturias. He particularly wished to prevent that Prince marrying Mademoiselle de Tascher, the niece of Josephine, a marriage for which M. de Beauharnais, then Ambassador of France at Madrid, was working with all his might. Lucien also, with his Republican stolidity, submitted without too much scruple to the idea of having a Bourbon King as son-in-law. It was also during this journey of Napoleon that he annexed Tuscany to the Empire.
Bonaparte returned to Paris on the 1st of January 1808. On his way he stopped for a short time at Chambery, where a young man had been waiting for him several days. This was Madame de Stael's son, who was then not more than seventeen years of age. M. Auguste de Stael lodged at the house of the postmaster of Chambery, and as the Emperor was expected in the course of the night, he gave orders that he should be called up on the arrival of the first courier. The couriers, who had been delayed on the road, did not arrive until six in the morning, and were almost immediately followed by the Emperor himself, so that M, de Stael was awakened by the cries of Vive l'Empereur! He had just time to dress himself hastily, and fly to meet Napoleon, to whom he delivered a letter, which he had prepared beforehand for the purpose of soliciting an audience. Lauriston, the aide de camp on duty, took the letter, it being his business to receive all the letters and petitions which were presented to Napoleon on his way. Before breakfast the Emperor opened the letters which Lauriston had laid on the table; he merely looked at the signatures, and then laid them aside. On opening M. de Stael's letter he said, "Ah! ah! what have we here? a letter from M. de Stael! . . . He wishes to see me: . . . What can he want? . . . Can there be anything in common between me and the refugees of Geneva?"— "Sire," observed Lauriston, "he is a very young man; and, as well as I could judge from the little I saw of him, there is something very prepossessing in his appearance."—"A very young man, say you? . . . Oh, then I will see him . . . . Rustan, tell him to come in." M. de Stael presented himself to Napoleon with modesty, but without any unbecoming timidity. When he had respectfully saluted the Emperor a conversation ensued between them, which Duroc described to me in nearly the following manner.
As M. de Stael advanced towards the Emperor the latter said, "Whence do you come?"—"From Geneva, Sire."—"Where is your mother?"—"She is either in Vienna or will soon be there."—"At Vienna! . . . Well, that is where she ought to be; and I suppose she is happy . . . . She will now have a good opportunity of learning German."—"Sire, how can you imagine my mother is happy when she is absent from her country and her friends? If I were permitted to lay before your Majesty my mother's confidential letter you would see how unhappy she is in her exile."— "Ah, bah! your mother unhappy, indeed! . . . However, I do not mean to say she is altogether a bad woman . . . . She has talent—perhaps too much; and hers is an unbridled talent. She was educated amidst the chaos of the subverted monarchy and the Revolution; and out of these events she makes an amalgamation of her own! All this might become very dangerous. Her enthusiasm is likely to make proselytes. I must keep watch upon her. She does not like me; and for the interests of those whom she would endanger I must prohibit her coming to Paris."
Young De Stael stated that his object in seeking the interview with the Emperor was to petition for his mother's return to Paris. Napoleon having listened without impatience to the reasons he urged in support of his request, said, "But supposing I were to permit your mother to return to Pairs, six months would not elapse before I should be obliged to send her to the Bicetre or to the Temple. This I should be sorry to do, because the affair would make a noise, and injure me in public opinion. Tell your mother that my determination is formed, that my decision is irrevocable. She shall never set foot in Paris as long as I live."— "Sire, I cannot believe that you would arbitrarily imprison my mother if she gave you no reason for such severity."—"She would give me a dozen! . . . I know her well."—"Sire, permit me to say that I am certain my mother would live in Paris in a way that would afford no ground of reproach; she would live retired, and would see only a very few friends. In spite of your Majesty's refusal I venture to entreat that you will give her a trial, were it only for six weeks or a month. Permit her, Sire, to pass that time in Paris, and I conjure you to come to no final decision beforehand."—"Do you think I am to be deceived by these fair promises? . . . I tell you it cannot be. She would serve as a rallying point for the Faubourg St. Germain. She see nobody, indeed! Could she make that sacrifice? She would visit and receive company. She would be guilty of a thousand follies. She would be saying things which she may consider as very good jokes, but which I should take seriously. My government is no joke: I wish this to be well known by everybody."— "Sire, will your Majesty permit me to repeat that my mother has no wish whatever to mingle in society? She would confine herself to the circle of a few friends, a list of whom she would give to your Majesty. You, Sire, who love France so well, may form some idea of the misery my mother suffers in her banishment. I conjure your Majesty to yield to my entreaties, and let us be included in the number of your faithful subjects."—"You!"—"Yes, Sire; or if your Majesty persist in your refusal, permit a son to inquire what can have raised your displeasure against his mother. Some say that it was my grandfather's last work; but I can assure your Majesty that my mother had nothing to do with that."— "Yes, certainly," added Napoleon, with more ill-humour than he had hitherto manifested. "Yes, certainly, that work is very objectionable. Your grandfather was an ideologist, a fool, an old lunatic. At sixty years of age to think of forming plans to overthrow my constitution! States would be well governed, truly, under such theorists, who judge of men from books and the world from the map."—"Sire, since my grandfather's plans are, in your Majesty's eyes, nothing but vain theories, I cannot conceive why they should so highly excite your displeasure. There is no political economist who has not traced out plans of constitutions."—"Oh! as to political economists, they are mere- visionaries, who are dreaming of plans of finance while they are unfit to fulfil the duties of a schoolmaster in the most insignificant village in the Empire. Your grandfather's work is that of an obstinate old man who died abusing all governments."—"Sire, may I presume to suppose, from the way in which you speak of it, that your Majesty judges from the report of malignant persons, and that you have not yourself read it."
"That is a mistake. I have read it myself from beginning to end."— "Then your Majesty must have seen how my grandfather renders justice to your genius."—"Fine justice, truly! . . . He calls me the indispensable man, but, judging from his arguments, the best thing that could be done would be to cut my throat! Yes, I was indeed indispensable to repair the follies of your grandfather, and the mischief he did to France. It was he who overturned the monarchy and led Louis XVI. to the scaffold."—"Sire, you seem to forget that my grandfather's property was confiscated because he defended the King."—" Defended the King! A fine defence, truly! You might as well say that if I give a man poison and present him with an antidote when he is in the agonies of death I wish to save him! Yet that is the way your grandfather defended Louis XVI….. As to the confiscation you speak of, what does that prove? Nothing. Why, the property of Robespierre was confiscated! And let me tell you that Robespierre himself, Marat, and Danton did much less mischief to France than M. Necker. It was he who brought about the Revolution. You, Monsieur de Stael, did not see this; but I did. I witnessed all that passed in those days of terror and public calamity. But as long as I live those days shall never return. Your speculators trace their Utopian schemes upon paper; fools read and believe them. All are babbling about general happiness, and presently the people have not bread to eat; then comes a revolution. Such is usually the fruit of all these fine theories! Your grandfather was the cause of the saturnalia which desolated France. He is responsible for all the blood shed in the Revolution!"
Duroc informed me that the Emperor uttered these last words in a tone of fury which made all present tremble for young De Stael. Fortunately the young man did not lose his self-possession in the conflict, while the agitated expression of his countenance evidently showed what was passing in his mind. He was sufficiently master of himself to reply to the Emperor in a calm though rather faltering voice: "Sire, permit me to hope that posterity will judge of my grandfather more favourably than your Majesty does. During his administration he was ranked by the side of Sully and Colbert; and let me repeat again that I trust posterity will render him justice."—"Posterity will, probably, say little about him."— "I venture to hope the contrary, Sire."
Then, added Duroc, the Emperor turning to us said with a smile, "After all, gentlemen, it is not for me to say too much against the Revolution since I have gained a throne by it." Then again turning to M. de Stael he said, "The reign of anarchy is at au end. I must have subordination. Respect the sovereign authority, since it comes from God. You are young, and well educated, therefore; follow a better course, and avoid those bad principles which endanger the welfare of society."—"Sire, since your Majesty does me the honour to think me well educated, you ought not to condemn the principles of my grandfather and my mother, for it is in those principles that I have been brought up."—" Well, I advise you to keep right in politics, for I will not pardon any offences of the Necker kind. Every one should keep right in politics."
This conversation, Duroc informed me, had continued the whole time of breakfast, and the Emperor rose just as he pronounced these last words: "Every one should keep right in politics." At that moment young De Stael again renewed his solicitations for his mother's recall from exile. Bonaparte then stepped up to him and pinched his ear with that air of familiarity which was customary to him when he was in good humour or wished to appear so.
"You are young," said he; "if you had my age and experience you would judge of things more correctly. I am far from being displeased with your frankness. I like to see a son plead his mother's cause. Your mother has given you a difficult commission, and you have executed it cleverly. I am glad I have had this opportunity of conversing with you. I love to talk with young people when they are unassuming and not too fond of arguing. But in spite of that I will not hold out false hopes to you. Murat has already spoken to me on the subject, and I have told him, as I now tell you, that my will is irrevocable. If your mother were in prison I should not hesitate to liberate her, but nothing shall induce me to recall her from exile."—" But, Sire, is she not as unhappy in being banished from her country and her friends as if she were in prison?"— "Oh! these are your mother's romantic ideas. She is exceedingly unhappy, and much to be pitied, no doubt! . . . With the exception of Paris she has all Europe for her prison."—"But, Sire, her friends are in Paris."—" With her talents she may make friends anywhere. After all, I cannot understand why she should be so anxious to come to Paris. Why should she wish to place herself immediately within the reach of my tyranny? Can she not go to Rome, to Berlin, to Vienna, to Milan, or to London? Yes, let her go to London; that is the place for her. There she may libel me as much as she pleases. In short, she has my full liberty to be anywhere but in Paris. You see, Monsieur de Stael, that is the place of my residence, and there I will have only those who are attached to me. I know from experience that if I were to allow your mother to come to Paris she would spoil everybody about me. She would finish the spoiling of Garat. It was she who ruined the Tribunate. I know she would promise wonders; but she cannot refrain from meddling with politics."—" I can assure your Majesty that my mother does not now concern herself about politics. She devotes herself exclusively to the society of her friends and to literature."—"Ah, there it is! . . . Literature! Do you think I am to be imposed upon by that word? While discoursing on literature, morals, the fine arts, and such matters, it is easy to dabble in politics. Let women mind their knitting. If your mother were in Paris I should hear all sorts of reports about her. Things might, indeed, be falsely attributed to her; but, be that as it may, I will have nothing of the kind going on in the capital in which I reside. All things considered, advise your mother to go to London. That is the best place for her. As for your grandfather, I have not spoken too severely of him. M. Necker knew nothing of the art of government. I have learned something of the matter during the last twenty years. "All the world, Sire, renders justice to your Majesty's genius, and there is no one but acknowledges that the finances of France are now more prosperous than ever they were before your reign. But permit me to observe that your Majesty must, doubtless, have seen some merit in the financial regulations of my grandfather, since you have adopted some of them in the admirable system you have established."—"That proves nothing; for two or three good ideas do not constitute a good system. Be that as it may, I say again, I will never allow your mother to return to Paris."—" But, Sire, if sacred interests should absolutely require her presence there for a few days would not—"—"How! Sacred interests! What do you mean?"—"Yes, Sire, if you do not allow her to return I shall be obliged to go there, unaided by her advice, in order to recover from your Majesty's Government the payment of a sacred debt."—"Ah! bah! Sacred! Are not all the debts of the State sacred?"—"Doubtless, Sire; but ours is attended with circumstances which give it a peculiar character."—"A peculiar character! Nonsense! Does not every State creditor say the same of his debt? Besides, I know nothing of your claim. It does not concern me, and I will not meddle with it. If you have the law on your side so much the better; but if you want favour I tell you I will not interfere. If I did, I should be rather against you than otherwise."—"Sire, my brother and myself had intended to settle in France, but how can we live in a country where our mother cannot visit us?"—"I do not care for that. I do not advise you to come here. Go to England. The English like wrangling politicians. Go there, for in France, I tell you candidly, that I should be rather against you than for you."
"After this conversation," added Duroc, "the Emperor got into the carriage with me without stopping to look to the other petitions which had been presented to him. He preserved unbroken silence until he got nearly opposite the cascade, on the left of the road, a few leagues from Chambery. He appeared to be absorbed in reflection. At length he said, 'I fear I have been somewhat too harsh with this young man . . . . But no matter, it will prevent others from troubling me. These people calumniate everything I do. They do not understand me, Duroc; their place is not in France. How can Necker's family be for the Bourbons, whose first duty, if ever they returned to France, would be to hang them all.'"
This conversation, related to me by Duroc, interested me so much that I noted it down on paper immediately after my interview.
The Republic of Batavia—The crown of Holland offered to Louis— Offer and refusal of the crown of Spain—Napoleon's attempt to get possession of Brabant—Napoleon before and after Erfart— A remarkable letter to Louis—Louis summoned to Paris—His honesty and courage—His bold language—Louis' return to Holland, and his letter to Napoleon—Harsh letter from Napoleon to Louis—Affray at Amsterdam—Napoleon's displeasure and last letter to his brother— Louis' abdication in favour of his son—Union of Holland to the French Empire—Protest of Louis against that measure—Letter from M. Otto to Louis.
When Bonaparte was the chief of the French Republic he had no objection to the existence of a Batavian Republic in the north of France, and he equally tolerated the Cisalpine Republic in the south. But after the coronation all the Republics, which were grouped like satellites round the grand Republic, were converted into kingdoms subject to the Empire, if not avowedly, at least in fact. In this respect there was no difference between the Batavian and Cisalpine Republics. The latter having been metamorphosed into the Kingdom of Italy, it was necessary to find some pretext for transforming the former into the Kingdom of Holland. The government of the Republic of Batavia had been for some time past merely the shadow of a government, but still it preserved, even in its submission to France, those internal forms of freedom which console a nation for the loss of independence. The Emperor kept up such an extensive agency in Holland that he easily got up a deputation soliciting him to choose a king for the Batavian Republic. This submissive deputation came to Paris in 1806 to solicit the Emperor, as a favour, to place Prince Louis on the throne of Holland. The address of the deputation, the answer of Napoleon, and the speech of Louis on being raised to the sovereign dignity, have all been published.
Louis became King of Holland much against his inclination, for he opposed the proposition as much as he dared, alleging as an objection the state of his health, to which certainly the climate of Holland was not favourable; but Bonaparte sternly replied to his remonstrance, "It is better to die a king than live a prince." He was then obliged to accept the crown. He went to Holland accompanied by Hortense, who, however, did mot stay long there. The new King wanted to make himself beloved by his subjects, and as they were an entirely commercial people the best way to win their affections was not to adopt Napoleon's rigid laws against commercial intercourse with England. Hence the first coolness between the two brothers, which ended in the abdication of Louis.
I know not whether Napoleon recollected the motive assigned by Louis for at first refusing the crown of Holland, namely, the climate of the country, or whether he calculated upon greater submission in another of his brothers; but this is certain, that Joseph was not called from the throne of Naples to the throne of Spain until after the refusal of Louis. I have in my possession a copy of a letter written to him by Napoleon on the subject. It is without date of time or place, but its contents prove it to have been written in March or April 1808. It is as follows:—
BROTHER:—The King of Spain, Charles IV., has just abdicated. The Spanish people loudly appeal to me. Certain of obtaining no solid peace with England unless I cause a great movement on the Continent, I have determined to place a French King on the throne of Spain. The climate of Holland does not agree with you; besides, Holland cannot rise from her rains. In the whirlwind of events, whether we have peace or not, there is no possibility of her maintaining herself. In this state of things I have thought of the throne of Spain for you. Give me your opinions categorically on this measure. If I were to name you King of Spain would you accept the offer? May I count on you? Answer me these two questions. Say, "I have received your letter of such a day, I answer Yes," and then I shall count on your doing what I wish; or say "No" if you decline my proposal. Let no one enter into your confidence, and mention to no one the object of this letter. The thing must be done before we confess having thought about it.
Before finally seizing Holland Napoleon formed the project of separating Brabant and Zealand from it in exchange for other provinces, the possession of which was doubtful, but Louis successfully resisted this first act of usurpation. Bonaparte was, too intent on the great business in Spain to risk any commotion in the north, where the declaration of Russia against Sweden already sufficiently occupied him. He therefore did not insist upon, and even affected indifference to, the proposed augmentation of the territory of the Empire. This at least may be collected from another letter, dated St. Cloud, 17th August, written upon hearing from M. Alexandre de la Rochefoucauld, his Ambassador in Holland, and from his brother himself, the opposition of Louis to his project.
The letter was as follows:—
BROTHER—I have received your letter relating to that of the Sieur de la Rochefoucauld. He was only authorised to make the proposals indirectly. Since the exchange does not please you, let us think no more about it. It was useless to make a parade of principles, though I never said that you ought not to consult the nation. The well-informed part of the Dutch people had already acknowledged their indifference to the loss of Brabant, which is connected with France rather than with Holland, and interspersed with expensive fortresses; it might have been advantageously exchanged for the northern provinces. But, once for all, since you do not like this arrangement, let no more be said about it. It was useless even to mention it to me, for the Sieur de la Rochefoucauld was instructed merely to hint the matter.
Though ill-humour here evidently peeps out beneath affected condescension, yet the tone of this letter is singularly moderate,—I may even say kind, in comparison with other letters which Napoleon addressed to Louis. This letter, it is true, was written previously to the interview at Erfurt, when Napoleon, to avoid alarming Russia, made his ambition appear to slumber. But when he got his brother Joseph recognised, and when he had himself struck an important blow in the Peninsula, he began to change his tone to Louis. On the 20th of December he wrote a very remarkable letter, which exhibits the unreserved expression of that tyranny which he wished to exercise over all his family in order to make them the instruments of his despotism. He reproached Louis for not following his system of policy, telling him that he had forgotten he was a Frenchman, and that he wished to become a Dutchman. Among other things he said:
Your Majesty has done more: you took advantage of the moment when I was involved in the affairs of the Continent to renew the relations between Holland and England—to violate the laws of the blockade, which are the only means of effectually destroying the latter power. I expressed my dissatisfaction by forbidding you to come to France, and I have made you feel that even without the assistance of my armies, by merely closing the Rhine, the Weser, the Scheldt, and the Meuse against Holland, I should have placed her in a situation more critical than if I had declared war against her. Your Majesty implored my generosity, appealed to my feelings as brother, and promised to alter your conduct. I thought this warning would be sufficient. I raised my custom-house prohibitions, but your Majesty has returned to your old system.
Your Majesty received all the American ships that presented themselves in the ports of Holland after having been expelled from those of France. I have been obliged a second time to prohibit trade with Holland. In this state of things we may consider ourselves really at war. In my speech to the Legislative Body I manifested my displeasure; for I will not conceal from you that my intention is to unite Holland with France. This will be the most severe blow I can aim against England, and will deliver me from the perpetual insults which the plotters of your Cabinet are constantly directing against me. The mouths of the Rhine and of the Meuse ought, indeed, to belong to me. The principle that the 'Thalweg' (towing-path) of the Rhine is the boundary of France is a fundamental principle. Your Majesty writes to me on the 17th that you are sure of being able to prevent all trade between Holland and England. I am of opinion that your Majesty promises more than you can fulfil. I shall, however, remove my custom-house prohibitions whenever the existing treaties may be executed. The following are my conditions:—First, The interdiction of all trade and communication with England. Second, The supply of a fleet of fourteen sail-of the line, seven frigates and seven brigs or corvettes, armed and manned. Third, An army of 25,000 men. Fourth, The suppression of the rank of marshals. Fifth, The abolition of all the privileges of nobility which are contrary to the constitution which I have given and guaranteed. Your Majesty may negotiate on these bases with the Due de Cadore, through the medium of your Minister; but be assured that on the entrance of the first packetboat into Holland I will restore my prohibitions, and that the first Dutch officer who may presume to insult my flag shall be seized, and hanged at the mainyard. Your Majesty will find in me a brother if you prove yourself a Frenchman; but if yon forget the sentiments which attach you to our common country you cannot think it extraordinary that I should lose sight of those which nature created between us. In short, the union of Holland and France will be of all things, most useful to France, to Holland, and the whole Continent, because it will be most injurious to England. This union must be effected willingly or by force. Holland has given me sufficient reason to declare war against her. However, I shall not scruple to consent to an arrangement which will secure to me the limit of the Rhine, and by which Holland will pledge herself to fulfil the conditions stipulated above.
—[Much of the manner in which Napoleon treated occupied countries such as Holland is explained by the spirit of his answer when Beugnot complained to him of the harm done to the Grand Duchy of Berg by the monopoly of tobacco. "It is extraordinary that you should not have discovered the motive that makes me persist in the establishment of the monopoly of tobacco in the Grand Duchy. The question is not about your Grand Duchy but about France. I am very well aware that it is not to your benefit, and that you very possibly lose by it, but what does that signify if it be for the good of France? I tell you, then, that in every country where there is a monopoly of tobacco, but which is contiguous to one where the sale is free, a regular smuggling infiltration must be reckoned on, supplying the consumption for twenty or twenty-five miles into the country subject to the duty. That is what I intend to preserve France from. You must protect yourselves as well as yon can from this infiltration. It is enough for me to drive it back more than twenty or twenty-five miles from my frontier." (Beugnot, vol. ii. p. 26).]—
Here the correspondence between the two brothers was suspended for a time; but Louis still continued exposed to new vexations on the part of Napoleon. About the end of 1809 the Emperor summoned all the sovereigns who might be called his vassals to Paris. Among the number was Louis, who, however, did not show himself very willing to quit his States. He called a council of his Ministers, who were of opinion that for the interest of Holland he ought to make this new sacrifice. He did so with resignation. Indeed, every day passed on the throne was a sacrifice made by Louis.
He lived very quietly in Paris, and was closely watched by the police, for it was supposed that as he had come against his will he would not protract his stay so long as Napoleon wished. The system of espionage under which he found himself placed, added to the other circumstances of his situation, inspired him with a degree of energy of which he was not believed to be capable; and amidst the general silence of the servants of the Empire, and even of the Kings and Princes assembled in the capital, he ventured to say, "I have been deceived by promises which were never intended to be kept. Holland is tired of being the sport of France." The Emperor, who was unused to such language as this, was highly incensed at it. Louis had now no alternative but to yield to the incessant exactions of Napoleon or to see Holland united to France. He chose the latter, though not before he had exerted all his feeble power in behalf of the subjects whom Napoleon had consigned to him; but he would not be the accomplice of the man who had resolved to make those subjects the victims of his hatred against England. Who, indeed, could be so blind as not to see that the ruin of the Continent would be the triumph of British commerce?
Louis was, however, permitted to return to his States to contemplate the stagnating effect of the Continental blockade on every branch of trade and industry formerly so active in Holland. Distressed at witnessing evils to which he could apply no remedy, he endeavoured by some prudent remonstrances to avert the utter, ruin with which Holland was threatened. On the 23d of March 1810 he wrote the following letter to Napoleon:—
If you wish to consolidate the present state of France, to obtain maritime peace, or to attack England with advantage, those objects are not to be obtained by measures like the blockading system, the destruction of a kingdom raised by yourself, or the enfeebling of your allies, and setting at defiance their most sacred rights and the first principles of the law of nations. Yon should, on the contrary, win their affections for France, and consolidate and reinforce your allies, making them like your brothers, in whom you may place confidence. The destruction of Holland, far from being the means of assailing England, will serve only to increase her strength, by all the industry and wealth which will fly to her for refuge. There are, in reality, only three ways of assailing England, namely, by detaching Ireland, getting possession of the East Indies, or by invasion. These two latter modes, which would be the most effectual, cannot be executed without naval force. But I am astonished that the first should have been so easily relinquished. That is a more secure mode of obtaining peace on good conditions than the system of injuring ourselves for the sake of committing a greater injury upon the enemy.
Written remonstrances were no more to Napoleon's taste than verbal ones at a time when, as I was informed by my friends whom fortune chained to his destiny, no one presumed to address a word to him except in answer to his questions. Cambaceres, who alone had retained that privilege in public as his old colleague in the Consulate, lost it after Napoleon's marriage with the daughter of Imperial Austria. His brother's letter highly roused his displeasure. Two months after he received it, being on a journey in the north, he replied from Ostend by a letter which cannot be read without a feeling of pain, since it serves to show how weak are the most sacred ties of blood in comparison with the interests of an insatiable policy. This letter was as follows:
BROTHER—In the situation in which we are placed it is best to speak candidly. I know your secret sentiments, and all that you can say to the contrary can avail nothing. Holland is certainly in a melancholy situation. I believe you are anxious to extricate her from her difficulties: it is you; and you alone, who can do this.
When you conduct yourself in such a way as to induce the people of Holland to believe that you act under my influence, that all your measures and all your sentiments are conformable with mine, then you will be loved, you will be esteemed, and you will acquire the power requisite for re-establishing Holland: when to be my friend, and the friend of France, shall become a title of favour at your court, Holland will be in her natural situation. Since your return from Paris you have done nothing to effect this object. What will be the result of your conduct? Your subjects, bandied about between France and England, will throw themselves into the arms of France, and will demand to be united to her. You know my character, which is to pursue my object unimpeded by any consideration. What, therefore, do you expect me to do? I can dispense with Holland, but Holland cannot dispense with my protection. If, under the dominion of one of my brothers, but looking to me alone for her welfare, she does not find in her sovereign my image, all confidence in your government is at an end; your sceptre is broken. Love France, love my glory—that is the only way to serve Holland: if you had acted as you ought to have done that country, having becoming a part of my Empire, would have been the more dear to me since I had given her a sovereign whom I almost regarded as my son. In placing you on the throne of Holland I thought I had placed a French citizen there. You have followed a course diametrically opposite to what I expected. I have been forced to prohibit you from coming to France, and to take possession of a part of your territory. In proving yourself a bad Frenchman you are less to the Dutch than a Prince of Orange, to whose family they owe their rank as a nation, and a long succession of prosperity and glory. By your banishment from France the Dutch are convinced that they have lost what they would not have lost under a Schimmelpenninek or a Prince of Orange. Prove yourself a Frenchman, and the brother of the Emperor, and be assured that thereby you will serve the interests of Holland. But you seem to be incorrigible, for you would drive away the few Frenchmen who remain with you. You must be dealt with, not by affectionate advice, but by threats and compulsion. What mean the prayers and mysterious fasts you have ordered? Louis, you will not reign long. Your actions disclose better than your confidential letters the sentiments of your mind. Return to the right course. Be a Frenchman in heart, or your people will banish you, and you will leave Holland an object of ridicule.
—[It was, on the contrary, became Louis made himself a Dutchman that his people did not banish him, and that be carried away with him the regret of all that portion of his subjects who could appreciate his excellent qualities and possessed good sense enough to perceive that he was not to blame for the evils that weighed upon Holland.—Bourrienne. The conduct of Bonaparte to Murat was almost a counterpart to this. When Murat attempted to consult the interests of Naples he was called a traitor to France.—Editor of 1836 edition.]—
States must be governed by reason and policy, and not by the weakness produced by acrid and vitiated humours.
A few days after this letter was despatched to Louis, Napoleon heard of a paltry affray which had taken place at Amsterdam, and to which Comte de la Rochefoucauld gave a temporary diplomatic importance, being aware that he could not better please his master than by affording him an excuse for being angry. It appeared that the honour of the Count's coachman had been put in jeopardy by the insult of a citizen of Amsterdam, and a quarrel had ensued, which, but for the interference of the guard of the palace, might have terminated seriously since it assumed the character of a party affair between the French and the Dutch. M. de la Rochefoucauld immediately despatched to the Emperor, who was then at Lille, a full report of his coachman's quarrel, in which he expressed himself with as much earnestness as the illustrious author of the "Maxims" evinced when he waged war against kings. The consequence was that Napoleon instantly fulminated the following letter against his brother Louis:
BROTHER—At the very moment when you were making the fairest protestations I learn that the servants of my Ambassador have been ill-treated at Amsterdam. I insist that those who were guilty of this outrage be delivered up to me, in order that their punishment may serve as an example to others. The Sieur Serrurier has informed me how you conducted yourself at the diplomatic audiences. I have, consequently, determined that the Dutch Ambassador shall not remain in Paris; and Admiral Yerhuell has received orders to depart within twenty-four hours. I want no more phrases and protestations. It is time I should know whether you intend to ruin Holland by your follies. I do not choose that you should again send a Minister to Austria, or that you should dismiss the French who are in your service. I have recalled my Ambassador as I intend only to have a charge d'affaires in Holland. The Sieur Serrurier, who remains there in that capacity, will communicate my intentions. My Ambassador shall no longer be exposed to your insults. Write to me no more of those set phrases which you have been repeating for the last three years, and the falsehood of which is proved every day.
This is the last letter I will ever write to you as long as I live.
Thus reduced to the cruel alternative of crushing Holland with his own hands, or leaving that task to the Emperor, Louis did not hesitate to lay down his sceptre. Having formed this resolution, he addressed a message to the Legislative Body of the Kingdom of Holland explaining the motives of his abdication. The French troops entered Holland under the command of the Duke of Reggio, and that marshal, who was more a king than the King himself, threatened to occupy Amsterdam. Louis then descended from his throne, and four years after Napoleon was hurled from his.
In his act of abdication Louis declared that he had been driven to that step by the unhappy state of his Kingdom, which he attributed to his brother's unfavourable feelings towards him. He added that he had made every effort and sacrifice to put an end to that painful state of things, and that, finally, he regarded himself as the cause of the continual misunderstanding between the French Empire and Holland. It is curious that Louis thought he could abdicate the crown of Holland in favour of his son, as Napoleon only four years after wished to abdicate his crown in favour of the King of Rome.
Louis bade farewell to the people of Holland in a proclamation, after the publication of which he repaired to the waters at Toeplitz. There he was living in tranquil retirement when he learned that his brother had united Holland to the Empire. He then published a protest, of which I obtained a copy, though its circulation was strictly prohibited by the police. In this protest Louis said:
The constitution of the state guaranteed by the Emperor, my brother, gave me the right of abdicating in favour of my children. That abdication was made in the form and terms prescribed by the constitution. The Emperor had no right to declare war against Holland, and he has not done so.
There is no act, no dissent, no demand of the Dutch nation that can
authorise the pretended union.
My abdication does not leave the throne vacant. I have abdicated
only in favour of my children.
As that abdication left Holland for twelve years under a regency, that is to say, under the direct influence of the Emperor, according to the terms of the constitution, there was no need of that union for executing every measure he might have in view against trade and against England, since his will was supreme in Holland.
But I ascended the throne without any other conditions except those imposed upon me by my conscience, my duty, and the interest and welfare of my subjects. I therefore declare before God and the independent sovereigns to whom I address myself—
First, That the treaty of the 16th of March 1810, which occasioned the separation of the province of Zealand and Brabant from Holland, was accepted by compulsion, and ratified conditionally by me in Paris, where I was detained against my will; and that, moreover, the treaty was never executed by the Emperor my brother. Instead of 6000 French troops which I was to maintain, according to the terms of the treaty, that number has been more than doubled; instead of occupying only the mouths of the rivers and the coasts, the French custom-horses have encroached into the interior of the country; instead of the interference of France being confined to the measures connected with the blockade of England, Dutch magazines have been seized and Dutch subjects arbitrarily imprisoned; finally, none of the verbal promises have been kept which were made in the Emperor's name by the Due de Cadore to grant indemnities for the countries ceded by the said treaty and to mitigate its execution, if the King would refer entirely to the Emperor, etc. I declare, in my name, in the name of the nation and my son, the treaty of the 16th of March 1810 to be null and void.
Second, I declare that my abdication was forced by the Emperor, my brother, that it was made only as the last extremity, and on this one condition—that I should maintain the rights of Holland and my children. My abdication could only be made in their favour.
Third, In my name, in the name of the King my son, who is as yet a
minor, and in the name of the Dutch nation, I declare the pretended
union of Holland to France, mentioned in the decree of the Emperor,
my brother, dated the 9th of July last, to be null, void, illegal,
unjust, and arbitrary in the eyes of God and man, and that the
nation and the minor King will assert their just rights when
circumstances permit them.
August 1, 1810.
Thus there seemed to be an end of all intercourse between these two brothers, who were so opposite in character and disposition. But Napoleon, who was enraged that Louis should have presumed to protest, and that in energetic terms, against the union of his Kingdom with the Empire, ordered him to return to France, whither he was summoned in his character of Constable and French Prince. Louis, however, did not think proper to obey this summons, and Napoleon, mindful of his promise of never writing to him again, ordered the following letter to be addressed to him by M. Otto, who had been Ambassador from France to Vienna since the then recent marriage of the Emperor with Maria Louisa—
SIRE:—The Emperor directs me to write to your Majesty as follows:— "It is the duty of every French Prince, and every member of the Imperial family, to reside in France, whence they cannot absent themselves without the permission of the Emperor. Before the union of Holland to the Empire the Emperor permitted the King to reside at Toeplitz, is Bohemia. His health appeared to require the use of the waters, but now the Emperor requires that Prince Louis shall return, at the latest by the 1st of December next, under pain of being considered as disobeying the constitution of the Empire and the head of his family, and being treated accordingly."
I fulfil, Sire, word for word the mission with which I have been entrusted, and I send the chief secretary of the embassy to be assured that this letter is rightly delivered. I beg your Majesty to accept the homage of my respect, etc.
—[The eldest son of Louis, one of the fruits of his unhappy marriage with Hortense Beauharnais, the daughter of Josephine, the wife of his brother Napoleon, was little more than six years of age when his father abdicated the crown of Holland in his favour. In 1830-31 this imprudent young man joined the ill-combined mad insurrection in the States of the Pope. He was present in one or two petty skirmishes, and was, we believe, wounded; but it was a malaria fever caught in the unhealthy Campagna of Rome that carried him to the grave in the twenty-seventh year of his age.—Editor of 1836 edition.— The first child of Louis and of Hortense had died in 1807. The second son, Napoleon Louis (1804-1831) in whose favour he abdicated had been created Grand Due de Berg et de Cleves by Napoleon in 1809. He married to 1826 Charlotte, the daughter of Joseph Bonaparte, and died in 1831, while engaged in a revolutionary movement in Italy. On his death his younger brother Charles Louis Napoleon, the future Napoleon III., first came forward as an aspirant.]—
What a letter was this to be addressed by a subject to a prince and a sovereign. When I afterwards saw M. Otto in Paris, and conversed with him on the subject, he assured me how much he had been distressed at the necessity of writing such a letter to the brother of the Emperor. He had employed the expressions dictated by Napoleon in that irritation which he could never command when his will was opposed.
—[With regard to Louis and his conduct in Holland Napoleon thus spoke at St. Helena:
"Louis is not devoid of intelligence, and has a good heart, but even with these qualifications a man may commit many errors, and do a great deal of mischief. Louis is naturally inclined to be capricious and fantastical, and the works of Jean Jacques Rousseau have contributed to increase this disposition. Seeking to obtain a reputation for sensibility and beneficence, incapable by himself of enlarged views, and, at most, competent to local details, Louis acted like a prefect rather than a King.
"No sooner had he arrived in Holland than, fancying that nothing could be finer than to have it said that be was thenceforth a true Dutchman, he attached himself entirely to the party favourable to the English, promoted smuggling, and than connived with our enemies. It became necessary from that moment watch over him, and even threaten to wage war against him. Louis then seeking a refuge against the weakness of his disposition in the most stubborn obstinacy, and mistaking a public scandal for an act of glory, fled from his throne, declaiming against me and against my insatiable ambition, my intolerable tyranny, etc. What then remained for me to do? Was I to abandon Holland to our enemies? Ought I to have given it another King? But is that case could I have expected more from him than from my own brother? Did not all the Kings that I created act nearly in the same manner? I therefore united Holland to the Empire, and this act produced a most unfavourable impression in Europe, and contributed not a little to lay the foundation of our misfortunes" (Memorial de Sainte Helene)]—
Demands for contingents from some of the small States of Germany— M. Metternich—Position of Russia with respect to France—Union of Austria and Russia—Return of the English to Spain—Soult King of Portugal, and Murat successor to the Emperor—First levy of the landwehr in Austria—Agents of the Hamburg 'Correspondent'— Declaration of Prince Charles—Napoleon's march to Germany—His proclamation—Bernadotte's departure for the army—Napoleon's dislike of Bernadotte—Prince Charles' plan of campaign—The English at Cuxhaven—Fruitlessness of the plots of England—Napoleon wounded—Napoleon's prediction realised—Major Schill—Hamburg threatened and saved—Schill in Lubeck—His death, and destruction of his band—Schill imitated by the Duke of Brunswick-OEls— Departure of the English from Cuxhaven.
Bonaparte, the foundations of whose Empire were his sword and his. victories, and who was anxiously looking forward to the time when the sovereigns of Continental Europe should be his juniors, applied for contingents of troops from the States to which I was accredited. The Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin was to furnish a regiment of 1800 men, and the other little States, such as Oldenburg and Mecklenburg-Strelitz, were to furnish regiments of less amount. All Europe was required to rise in arms to second the gigantic projects of the new sovereign. This demand for contingents, and the positive way in which the Emperor insisted upon them, gave rise to an immense correspondence, which, however, was unattended by any result. The notes and orders remained in the portfolios, and the contingents stayed at home.
M. Metternich, whose talent has since been so conspicuously displayed, had been for upwards of a year Ambassador from Austria to Paris. Even then he excelled in the art of guiding men's minds, and of turning to the advantage of his policy his external graces and the favour he acquired in the drawing-room. His father, a clever man, brought up in the old diplomatic school of Thugut and Kaunitz, had early accustomed him to the task of making other Governments believe, by means of agents, what might lead them into error and tend to the advantage of his own Government. His manoeuvres tended to make Austria assume a discontented and haughty tone; and wishing, as she said, to secure her independence, she publicly declared her intention of protecting herself against any enterprise similar to those of which she had so often been the victim. This language, encouraged by the complete evacuation of Germany, and the war in Spain, the unfortunate issue of which was generally foreseen, was used—in time of peace between the two empires, and when France was not threatening war to Austria.
—[Metternich arrived in Paris as Ambassador on 4th August 1806, after Austria had been vanquished at Austerlitz. It does not seem probable, either from his views or his correspondence, that he advised the rash attempt of Austria to attack Napoleon by herself; compare Metternich tome 1. p. 69, on the mistake of Prussia in 1805 and 1806; see also tome ii. p. 221, "To provoke a war with France would be madness" (1st July 1808). On the other hand, the tone of his correspondence in 1808 seams calculated to make Austria believe that war was inevitable, and that her forces, "so inferior to those of France before the insurrection in Spain, will at least be equal to them immediately after that event" (tome ii. p. 808). What is curious is that Metternich's conduct towards Napoleon while Ambassador had led even such men as Duke Dalberg to believe that he was really so well disposed towards Napoleon as to serve his cause more than that of Austria.
M. Metternich, who had instructions from his Court, gave no satisfactory explanation of those circumstances to Napoleon, who immediately raised a conscription, and brought soldiers from Spain into Germany.
It was necessary, also, to come to an understanding with Russia, who, being engaged with her war in Finland and Turkey, appeared desirous neither to enter into alliance with Austria nor to afford her support. What, in fact, was the Emperor Alexander's situation with respect to France? He had signed a treaty of peace at Tilsit which he felt had been forced upon him, and he knew that time alone would render it possible for him to take part in a contest which it was evident would again be renewed either with Prussia or Austria.
Every person of common sense must have perceived that Austria, in taking up arms, reckoned, if not on the assistance, at least on the neutrality of Russia. Russia was then engaged with two enemies, the Swedes and the Turks, over whom she hoped to triumph. She therefore rejoiced to see France again engage in a struggle with Austria, and there was no doubt that she would take advantage of any chances favourable to the latter power to join her in opposing the encroachments of France. I never could conceive how, under those circumstances, Napoleon could be so blind as to expect assistance from Russia in his quarrel with Austria. He must, indeed, have been greatly deceived as to the footing on which the two Courts stood with reference to each other—their friendly footing and their mutual agreement to oppose the overgrowing ambition of their common enemy.
The English, who had been compelled to quit Spain, now returned there. They landed in Portugal, which might be almost regarded as their own colony, and marched against Marshal Soult, who left Spain to meet them. Any other man than Soult would perhaps have been embarrassed by the obstacles which he had to surmount. A great deal has been said about his wish to make himself King of Portugal. Bernadotte told me, when he passed through Hamburg, that the matter had been the subject of much conversation at headquarters after the battle of Wagram. Bernadotte placed no faith in the report, and I am pretty sure that Napoleon also disbelieved it. However, this matter is still involved in the obscurity from which it will only be drawn when some person acquainted with the intrigue shall give a full explanation of it.
Since I have, with reference to Soult, touched upon the subject of his supposed ambition, I will mention here what I know of Murat's expectation of succeeding the Emperor. When Romanzow returned from his useless mission of mediation to London the Emperor proceeded to Bayonne. Bernadotte, who had an agent in Paris whom he paid highly, told me one day that he had received a despatch informing him that Murat entertained the idea of one day succeeding the Emperor. Sycophants, expecting to derive advantage from it, encouraged Murat in this chimerical hope. I know not whether Napoleon was acquainted with this circumstance, nor what he said of it, but Bernadotte spoke of it to me as a certain fact. It would, however, have been very wrong to attach great importance to an expression which, perhaps, escaped Murat in a moment of ardour, for his natural temperament sometimes betrayed him into acts of imprudence, the result of which, with a man like Napoleon, was always to be dreaded.
It was in the midst of the operations of the Spanish war, which Napoleon directed in person, that he learned Austria had for the first time raised the landwehr. I obtained some very curious documents respecting the armaments of Austria from the Editor of the Hamburg 'Correspondent'. This paper, the circulation of which amounted to not less than 60,000, paid considerable sums to persons in different parts of Europe who were able and willing to furnish the current news. The Correspondent paid 6000 francs a year to a clerk in the war department at Vienna, and it was this clerk who supplied the intelligence that Austria was preparing for war, and that orders had been issued in all directions to collect and put in motion all the resources of that powerful monarchy. I communicated these particulars to the French Government, and suggested the necessity of increased vigilance and measures of defence. Preceding aggressions, especially that of 1805, were not to be forgotten. Similar information probably reached the French Government from many quarters. Be that as it may, the Emperor consigned the military operations in Spain to his generals, and departed for Paris, where he arrived at the end of January 1809. He had been in Spain only since the beginning of November 1808,' and his presence there had again rendered our banners victorious. But though the insurgent troops were beaten the inhabitants showed themselves more and more unfavourable to Joseph's cause; and it did not appear very probable that he could ever seat himself tranquilly on the throne of Madrid.
—[The successes obtained by Napoleon during his stay of about three months in Spain were certainly very great, and mainly resulted from his own masterly genius and lightning-like rapidity. The Spanish armies, as yet unsupported by British troops, were defeated at Gomenal, Espinosa, Reynosa, Tudela, and at the pass of the Somo sierra Mountains, and at an early hour of the morning of the 4th December Madrid surrendered. On the 20th of December Bonaparte marched with far superior forces against the unfortunate Sir John Moore, who had been sent to advance into Spain both by the wrong route and at a wrong time. On the 29th, from the heights of Benevento, his eyes were delighted by seeing the English in full retreat. But a blow struck him from another quarter, and leaving Soult to follow up Moore he took the road to Paris.]—
The Emperor Francis, notwithstanding his counsellors, hesitated about taking the first step; but at length, yielding to the solicitations of England and the secret intrigues of Russia, and, above all, seduced by the subsidies of Great Britain, Austria declared hostilities, not at first against France, but against her allies of the Confederation of the Rhine. On the 9th of April Prince Charles, who was appointed commander- in-chief of the Austrian troops, addressed a note to the commander-in- chief of the French army in Bavaria, apprising him of the declaration of war.
A courier carried the news of this declaration to Strasburg with the utmost expedition, from whence it was transmitted by telegraph to Paris. The Emperor, surprised but not disconcerted by this intelligence, received it at St. Cloud on the 11th of April, and two hours after he was on the road to Germany. The complexity of affairs in which he was then involved seemed to give a new impulse to his activity. When he reached the army neither his troops nor his Guard had been able to come up, and under those circumstances he placed himself at the head of the Bavarian troops, and, as it were, adopted the soldiers of Maximilian. Six days after his departure from Paris the army of Prince Charles, which had passed the Inn, was threatened. The Emperor's headquarters were at Donauwerth, and from thence he addressed to his soldiers one of those energetic and concise proclamations which made them perform so many prodigies, and which was soon circulated in every language by the public journals. This complication of events could not but be fatal to Europe and France, whatever might be its result, but it presented an opportunity favourable to the development of the Emperor's genius. Like his favourite poet Ossian, who loved best to touch his lyre midst the howlings of the tempest, Napoleon required political tempests for the display of his abilities.
During the campaign of 1809, and particularly at its commencement, Napoleon's course was even more rapid than it had been in the campaign of 1805. Every courier who arrived at Hamburg brought us news, or rather prodigies. As soon as the Emperor was informed of the attack made by the Austrians upon Bavaria orders were despatched to all the generals having troops under their command to proceed with all speed to the theatre of the war. The Prince of Ponte-Corvo was summoned to join the Grand Army with the Saxon troops under his command and for the time he resigned the government of the Hanse Towns. Colonel Damas succeeded him at Hamburg during that period, but merely as commandant of the fortress; and he never gave rise to any murmur or complaint. Bernadotte was not satisfied with his situation, and indeed the Emperor, who was never much disposed to bring him forward, because he could not forgive him for his opposition on the 18th Brumaire, always appointed him to posts in which but little glory was to be acquired, and placed as few troops as possible under his command.
It required all the promptitude of the Emperor's march upon Vienna to defeat the plots which were brewing against his government, for in the event of his arms being unsuccessful, the blow was ready to be struck. The English force in the north of Germany amounted to about 10,000 men: The Archduke Charles had formed the project of concentrating in the middle of Germany a large body of troops, consisting of the corps of General Am Eude, of General Radizwowitz, and of the English, with whom were to be joined the people who were expected to revolt. The English would have wished the Austrian troops to advance a little farther. The English agent made some representations on this subject to Stadion, the Austrian Minister; but the Archduke preferred making a diversion to committing the safety of the monarchy by departing from his present inactivity and risking the passage of the Danube, in the face of an enemy who never suffered himself to be surprised, and who had calculated every possible event: In concerting his plan the Archduke expected that the Czar would either detach a strong force to assist his allies, or that he would abandon them to their own defence. In the first case the Archduke would have had a great superiority, and in the second, all was prepared in Hesse and in Hanover to rise on the approach of the Austrian and English armies.
At the commencement of July the English advanced upon Cuxhaven with a dozen small ships of war. They landed 400 or 600 sailors and about 50 marines, and planted a standard on one of the outworks. The day after this landing at Cuxhaven the English, who were in Denmark evacuated Copenhagen, after destroying a battery which they had erected there. All the schemes of England were fruitless on the Continent, for with the Emperor's new system of war, which consisted in making a push on the capitals, he soon obtained negotiations for peace. He was master of Vienna before England had even organised the expedition to which I have just alluded. He left Paris on the 11th of April, was at Donauwerth on the 17th, and on the 23d he was master of Ratisbon. In the engagement which preceded his entrance into that town Napoleon received a slight wound in the heel. He nevertheless remained on the field of battle. It was also between Donauwerth and Ratisbon that Davoust, by a bold manoeuvre, gained and merited the title of Prince of Eckmuhl.
—[The great battle of Eckmuhl, where 100,000 Austrians were driven from all their positions, was fought on the 22d of April.-Editor of 1836 edition.]—
At this period fortune was not only bent on favouring Napoleon's arms, but she seemed to take pleasure in realising even his boasting predictions; for the French troops entered Vienna within a month after a proclamation issued by Napoleon at Ratisbon, in which he said he would be master of the Austrian capital in that time.
But while he was thus marching from triumph to triumph the people of Hamburg and the neighbouring countries had a neighbour who did not leave them altogether without inquietude. The famous Prussian partisan, Major Schill, after pursuing his system of plunder in Westphalia, came and threw himself into Mecklenburg, whence, I understood, it was his intention to surprise Hamburg. At the head of 600 well-mounted hussars and between 1500 and 2000 infantry badly armed, he took possession of the little fort of Domitz, in Mecklenburg, on the 15th of May, from whence he despatched parties who levied contributions on both banks of the Elbe. Schill inspired terror wherever he went. On the 19th of May a detachment of 30 men belonging to Schill's corps entered Wismar. It was commanded by Count Moleke, who had formerly been in the Prussian service, and who had retired to his estate in Mecklenburg, where the Duke had kindly given him an appointment. Forgetting his duty to his benefactor, he sent to summon the Duke to surrender Stralsund.
Alarmed at the progress of the partisan Schill, the Duke of Mecklenburg and his Court quitted Ludwigsburg, their regular residence, and retired to Doberan, on the seacoast. On quitting Mecklenburg Schill advanced to Bergdorf, four leagues from Hamburg. The alarm then increased in that city. A few of the inhabitants talked of making a compromise with Schill and sending him money to get him away. But the firmness of the majority imposed silence on this timid council. I consulted with the commandant of the town, and we determined to adopt measures of precaution. The custom-house chest, in which there was more than a million of gold, was sent to Holstein under a strong escort. At the same time I sent to Schill a clever spy, who gave him a most alarming account of the means of defence which Hamburg possessed. Schill accordingly gave up his designs on that city, and leaving it on his left, entered Lubeck, which was undefended.
Meanwhile Lieutenant-General Gratien, who had left Berlin by order of the Prince de Neufchatel, with 2500 Dutch and 3000 Swedish troops, actively pursued Schill, and tranquillity was soon restored throughout all the neighbouring country, which had been greatly agitated by his bold enterprise. Schill, after wandering for some days on the shores of the Baltic, was overtaken by General Gratien at Stralsund, whence he was about to embark for Sweden. He made a desperate defence, and was killed after a conflict of two hours. His band was destroyed. Three hundred of his hussars and 200 infantry, who had effected their escape, asked leave to return to Prussia, and they were conducted to the Prussian general commanding a neighbouring town. A war of plunder like that carried on by Schill could not be honourably acknowledged by a power having, any claim to respect. Yet the English Government sent Schill a colonel's commission, and the full uniform of his new rank, with the assurance that all his troops should thenceforth be paid by England.
Schill soon had an imitator of exalted rank. In August 1809 the Duke of Brunswick-OEls sought the dangerous honour of succeeding that famous partisan. At the head of at most 2000 men he for some days disturbed the left bank of the Elbe, and on the 5th entered Bremen. On his approach the French Vice-Consul retired to Osterhulz. One of the Duke's officers presented himself at the hones of the Vice-Consul and demanded 200 Louis. The agent of the Vice-Consul, alarmed at the threat of the place being given up to pillage, capitulated with the officer, and with considerable difficulty got rid of him at the sacrifice of 80 Louis, for which a receipt was presented to him in the name of the Duke. The Duke, who now went by the name of "the new Schill," did not remain long in Bremen.
Wishing to repair with all possible speed to Holland he left Bremen on the evening of the 6th, and proceeded to Dehnenhorst, where his advanced guard had already arrived. The Westphalian troops, commanded by Reubell, entered Bremen on the 7th, and not finding the Duke of Brunswick, immediately marched in pursuit of him. The Danish troops, who occupied Cuxhaven, received orders to proceed to Bremerlehe, to favour the operations of the Westphalians and the Dutch. Meanwhile the English approached Cuxhaven, where they landed 3000 or 4000 men. The persons in charge of the custom-house establishment, and the few sailors who were in Cuxhaven, fell back upon Hamburg. The Duke of Brunswick, still pursued crossed Germany from the frontiers of Bohemia to Elsfleth, a little port on the left bank of the Weser, where he arrived on the 7th, being one day in advance of his pursuers. He immediately took possession of all the transports at Elsfleth, and embarked for Heligoland.
The landing which the English effected at Cuxhaven while the Danes, who garrisoned that port, were occupied in pursuing the Duke of Brunswick, was attended by no result. After the escape of the Duke the Danes returned to their post which the English immediately evacuated.
I have made sovereigns, but have not wished to be one myself
Go to England. The English like wrangling politicians
Let women mind their knitting