By LOUIS ANTOINE FAUVELET DE BOURRIENNE
His Private Secretary
Edited by R. W. Phipps
Colonel, Late Royal Artillery
Chapter XXVII. to Chapter XXXV.
Difficulties of a new Government—State of Europe—Bonaparte's wish for peace—M. de Talleyrand Minister for Foreign Affairs— Negotiations with England and Austria—Their failure—Bonaparte's views on the East—His sacrifices to policy—General Bonaparte denounced to the First Consul—Kléber's letter to the Directory— Accounts of the Egyptian expedition published in the Moniteur— Proclamation to the army of the East—Favour and disgrace of certain individuals accounted for.
When a new Government rises on the ruins of one that has been overthrown, its best chance of conciliating the favour of the nation, if that nation be at war, is to hold out the prospect of peace; for peace is always dear to a people. Bonaparte was well aware of this; and if in his heart he wished otherwise, he knew how important it was to seem to desire peace. Accordingly, immediately after his installation at the Luxembourg he notified to all the foreign powers his accession to the Consulate, and, for the same purpose, addressed letters to all the diplomatic agents of the French Government abroad.
The day after he got rid of his first two colleagues, Sieyès and Roger Ducos, he prepared to open negotiations with the Cabinet of London. At that time we were at war with almost the whole of Europe. We had also lost Italy. The Emperor of Germany was ruled by his Ministers, who in their turn were governed by England. It was no easy matter to manage equally the organization of the Consular Government and the no less important affairs abroad; and it was very important to the interests of the First Consul to intimate to foreign powers, while at the same time he assured himself against the return of the Bourbons, that the system which he proposed to adopt was a system of order and regeneration, unlike either the demagogic violence of the Convention or the imbecile artifice of the Directory. In fulfilment of this object Bonaparte directed M. de Talleyrand, the new Minister for Foreign Affairs, to make the first friendly overtures to the English Cabinet: A correspondence ensued, which was published at the time, and which showed at once the conciliatory policy of Bonaparte and the arrogant policy of England.
The exchange of notes which took place was attended by no immediate result. However, the First Consul had partly attained his object: if the British Government would not enter into negotiations for peace, there was at least reason to presume that subsequent overtures of the Consular Government might be listened to. The correspondence had at all events afforded Bonaparte the opportunity of declaring his principles, and above all, it had enabled him to ascertain that the return of the Bourbons to France (mentioned in the official reply of Lord Grenville) would not be a sine qua non condition for the restoration of peace between the two powers.
Since M. de Talleyrand had been Minister for Foreign Affairs the business of that department had proceeded with great activity. It was an important advantage to Bonaparte to find a nobleman of the old regime among the republicans. The choice of M. de Talleyrand was in some sort an act of courtesy to the foreign Courts. It was a delicate attention to the diplomacy of Europe to introduce to its members, for the purpose of treating with them, a man whose rank was at least equal to their own, and who was universally distinguished for a polished elegance of manner combined with solid good qualities and real talents.
It was not only with England that Bonaparte and his Minister endeavoured to open negotiations; the Consular Cabinet also offered peace to the House of Austria; but not at the same time. The object of this offer was to sow discord between the two powers. Speaking to me one day of his earnest wish to obtain peace Bonaparte said, "You see, Bourrienne, I have two great enemies to cope with. I will conclude peace with the one I find most easy to deal with. That will enable me immediately to assail the other. I frankly confess that I should like best to be at peace with England. Nothing would then be more easy than to crush Austria. She has no money except what she gets through England."
For a long time all negotiations proved abortive. None of the European powers would acknowledge the new Government, of which Bonaparte was the head; and the battle of Marengo was required before the peace of Amiens could be obtained.
Though the affairs of the new Government afforded abundant occupation to Bonaparte, he yet found leisure to direct attention to the East—to that land of despotism whence, judging from his subsequent conduct, it might be presumed he derived his first principles of government. On becoming the head of the State he wished to turn Egypt, which he had conquered as a general, to the advantage of his policy as Consul. If Bonaparte triumphed over a feeling of dislike in consigning the command of the army to Kléber, it was because he knew Kléber to be more capable than any other of executing the plans he had formed; and Bonaparte was not the man to sacrifice the interests of policy to personal resentment. It is certainly true that he then put into practice that charming phrase of Molière's—"I pardon you, but you shall pay me for this!"
With respect to all whom he had left in Egypt Bonaparte stood in a very singular situation. On becoming Chief of the Government he was not only the depositary of all communications made to the Directory; but letters sent to one address were delivered to another, and the First Consul received the complaints made against the General who had so abruptly quitted Egypt. In almost all the letters that were delivered to us he was the object of serious accusation. According to some he had not avowed his departure until the very day of his embarkation; and he had deceived everybody by means of false and dissembling proclamations. Others canvassed his conduct while in Egypt: the army which had triumphed under his command he had abandoned when reduced to two-thirds of its original force and a prey to all the horrors of sickness and want. It must be confessed that these complaints and accusations were but too well founded, and one can never cease wondering at the chain of fortunate circumstances which so rapidly raised Bonaparte to the Consular seat. In the natural order of things, and in fulfilment of the design which he himself had formed, he should have disembarked at Toulon, where the quarantine laws would no doubt have been observed; instead of which, the fear of the English and the uncertainty of the pilots caused him to go to Fréjus, where the quarantine laws were violated by the very persons most interested in respecting them. Let us suppose that Bonaparte had been forced to perform quarantine at Toulon. What would have ensued? The charges against him would have fallen into the hands of the Directory, and he would probably have been suspended, and put upon his trial.
Among the letters which fell into Bonaparte's hands, by reason of the abrupt change of government, was an official despatch (of the 4th Vendemiaire, year VIII.) from General Kléber at Cairo to the Executive Directory, in which that general spoke in very stringent terms of the sudden departure of Bonaparte and of the state in which the army in Egypt had been left. General Kléber further accused him of having evaded, by his flight, the difficulties which he thus transferred to his successor's shoulders, and also of leaving the army "without a sou in the chest," with pay in arrear, and very little supply of munitions or clothing.
The other letters from Egypt were not less accusatory than Kléber's; and it cannot be doubted that charges of so precise a nature, brought by the general who had now become commander-in-chief against his predecessor, would have had great weight, especially backed as they were by similar complaints from other quarters. A trial would have been inevitable; and then, no 18th Brumaire, no Consulate, no Empire, no conquest of Europe- but also, it may be added, no St. Helena. None of these events would have ensued had not the English squadron, when it appeared off Corsica, obliged the Muiron to scud about at hazard, and to touch at the first land she could reach.
The Egyptian expedition filled too important a place in the life of Bonaparte for him to neglect frequently reviving in the public mind the recollection of his conquests in the East. It was not to be forgotten that the head of the Republic was the first of her generals. While Moreau received the command of the armies of the Rhine, while Massena, as a reward for the victory of Zurich, was made Commander-in-Chief in Italy, and while Brune was at the head of the army of Batavia, Bonaparte, whose soul was in the camps, consoled himself for his temporary inactivity by a retrospective glance on his past triumphs. He was unwilling that Fame should for a moment cease to blazon his name. Accordingly, as soon as he was established at the head of the Government, he caused accounts of his Egyptian expedition to be from time to time published in the Moniteur. He frequently expressed his satisfaction that the accusatory correspondence, and, above all, Kléber's letter, had fallen into his own hands. Such was Bonaparte's perfect self-command that immediately after perusing that letter he dictated to me the following proclamation, addressed to the army of the East:
SOLDIERS!—The Consuls of the French Republic frequently direct
their attention to the army of the East.
France acknowledges all the influence of your conquests on the
restoration of her trade and the civilisation of the world.
The eyes of all Europe are upon you, and in thought I am often with
In whatever situation the chances of war may place you, prove
yourselves still the soldiers of Rivoli and Aboukir—you will be
Place in Kléber the boundless confidence which you reposed in me.
He deserves it.
Soldiers, think of the day when you will return victorious to the sacred territory of France. That will be a glorious day for the whole nation.
Nothing can more forcibly show the character of Bonaparte than the above allusion to Kléber, after he had seen the way in which Kléber spoke of him to the Directory. Could it ever have been imagined that the correspondence of the army, to whom he addressed this proclamation, teemed with accusations against him? Though the majority of these accusations were strictly just, yet it is but fair to state that the letters from Egypt contained some calumnies. In answer to the well- founded portion of the charges Bonaparte said little; but he seemed to feel deeply the falsehoods that were stated against him, one of which was, that he had carried away millions from Egypt. I cannot conceive what could have given rise to this false and impudent assertion. So far from having touched the army chest, Bonaparte had not even received all his own pay. Before he constituted himself the Government the Government was his debtor.
Though he knew well all that was to be expected from the Egyptian expedition, yet those who lauded that affair were regarded with a favourable eye by Bonaparte. The correspondence which had fallen into his hands was to him of the highest importance in enabling him to ascertain the opinions which particular individuals entertained of him.
It was the source of favours and disgraces which those who were not in the secret could not account for. It serves to explain why many men of mediocrity were elevated to the highest dignities and honours, while other men of real merit fell into disgrace or were utterly neglected.
Great and common men—Portrait of Bonaparte—The varied expression of his countenance—His convulsive shrug—Presentiment of his corpulency—Partiality for bathing—His temperance—His alleged capability of dispensing with sleep—Good and bad news—Shaving, and reading the journals—Morning business—Breakfast—Coffee and snuff —Bonaparte's idea of his own situation—His ill opinion of mankind —His dislike of a 'tête-à-tête'—His hatred of the Revolutionists —Ladies in white—Anecdotes—Bonaparte's tokens of kindness, and his droll compliments—His fits of ill humour—Sound of bells— Gardens of Malmaison—His opinion of medicine—His memory— His poetic insensibility—His want of gallantry—Cards and conversation—The dress-coat and black cravat—Bonaparte's payments —His religious ideas—His obstinacy.
In perusing the history of the distinguished characters of past ages, how often do we regret that the historian should have portrayed the hero rather than the man! We wish to know even the most trivial habits of those whom great talents and vast reputation have elevated above their fellow-creatures. Is this the effect of mere curiosity, or rather is it not an involuntary feeling of vanity which prompts us to console ourselves for the superiority of great men by reflecting on their faults, their weaknesses, their absurdities; in short, all the points of resemblance between them and common men? For the satisfaction of those who are curious in details of this sort, I will here endeavour to paint Bonaparte, as I saw him, in person and in mind, to describe what were his tastes and habits, and even his whims and caprices.
Bonaparte was now in the prime of life, and about thirty. The person of Bonaparte has served as a model for the most skilful painters and sculptors; many able French artists have successfully delineated his features, and yet it may be said that no perfectly faithful portrait of him exists. His finely-shaped head, his superb forehead, his pale countenance, and his usual meditative look, have been transferred to the canvas; but the versatility of his expression was beyond the reach of imitation. All the various workings of his mind were instantaneously depicted in his countenance; and his glance changed from mild to severe, and from angry to good-humoured, almost with the rapidity of lightning. It may truly be said that he had a particular look for every thought that arose in his mind.
Bonaparte had beautiful hands, and he was very proud of them; while conversing he would often look at them with an air of self-complacency. He also fancied he had fine teeth, but his pretension to that advantage was not so well founded as his vanity on the score of his hands.
When walking, either alone or in company with any one, in his apartments or in his gardens, he had the habit of stooping a little, and crossing his hands behind his back. He frequently gave an involuntary shrug of his right shoulder, which was accompanied by a movement of his mouth from left to right. This habit was always most remarkable when his mind was absorbed in the consideration of any profound subject. It was often while walking that he dictated to me his most important notes. He could endure great fatigue, not only on horseback but on foot; he would sometimes walk for five or six hours in succession without being aware of it.
When walking with any person whom he treated with familiarity he would link his arm into that of his companion, and lean on it.
He used often to say to me, "You see, Bourrienne, how temperate, and how thin I am; but, in spite of that, I cannot help thinking that at forty I shall become a great eater, and get very fat. I foresee that my constitution will undergo a change. I take a great deal of exercise; but yet I feel assured that my presentiment will be fulfilled." This idea gave him great uneasiness, and as I observed nothing which seemed to warrant his apprehensions, I omitted no opportunity of assuring him that they were groundless. But he would not listen to me, and all the time I was about him, he was haunted by this presentiment, which, in the end, was but too well verified.
His partiality for the bath he mistook for a necessity. He would usually remain in the bath two hours, during which time I used to read to him extracts from the journals and pamphlets of the day, for he was anxious to hear and know all that was going on. While in the bath he was continually turning on the warm water to raise the temperature, so that I was sometimes enveloped in such a dense vapour that I could not see to read, and was obliged to open the door.
Bonaparte was exceedingly temperate, and averse to all excess. He knew the absurd stories that were circulated about him, and he was sometimes vexed at them. It has been repeated, over and over again, that he was subject to attacks of epilepsy; but during the eleven years that I was almost constantly with him I never observed any symptom which in the least degree denoted that malady. His health was good and his constitution sound. If his enemies, by way of reproach, have attributed to him a serious periodical disease, his flatterers, probably under the idea that sleep is incompatible with greatness, have evinced an equal disregard of truth in speaking of his night-watching. Bonaparte made others watch, but he himself slept, and slept well. His orders were that I should call him every morning at seven. I was therefore the first to enter his chamber; but very frequently when I awoke him he would turn himself, and say, "Ah, Bourrienne! let me lie a little longer." When there was no very pressing business I did not disturb him again till eight o'clock. He in general slept seven hours out of the twenty-four, besides taking a short nap in the afternoon.
Among the private instructions which Bonaparte gave me, one was very curious. "During the night," said he, "enter my chamber as seldom as possible. Do not awake me when you have any good news to communicate: with that there is no hurry. But when you bring bad news, rouse me instantly; for then there is not a moment to be lost."
This was a wise regulation, and Bonaparte found his advantage in it.
As soon as he rose his 'valet de chambre' shaved him and dressed his hair. While he was being shaved I read to him the newspapers, beginning always with the 'Moniteur.' He paid little attention to any but the German and English papers. "Pass over all that," he would say, while I was perusing the French papers; "I know it already. They say only what they think will please me." I was often surprised that his valet did not cut him while I was reading; for whenever he heard anything interesting he turned quickly round towards me.
When Bonaparte had finished his toilet, which he did with great attention, for he was scrupulously neat in his person, we went down to his cabinet. There he signed the orders on important petitions which had been analysed by me on the preceding evening. On reception and parade days he was particularly exact in signing these orders, because I used to remind him that he would be likely to see most of the petitioners, and that they would ask him for answers. To spare him this annoyance I used often to acquaint them beforehand of what had been granted or refused, and what had been the decision of the First Consul. He next perused the letters which I had opened and laid on his table, ranging them according to their importance. He directed me to answer them in his name; he occasionally wrote the answers himself, but not often.
At ten o'clock the 'maître d'hôtel' entered, and announced breakfast, saying, "The General is served." We went to breakfast, and the repast was exceedingly simple. He ate almost every morning some chicken, dressed with oil and onions. This dish was then, I believe, called 'poulet à la Provençale'; but our restaurateurs have since conferred upon it the more ambitious name of 'poulet à la Marengo.'
Bonaparte drank little wine, always either claret or Burgundy, and the latter by preference. After breakfast, as well as after dinner, he took a cup of strong coffee.
—[M. Brillat de Savarin, whose memory is dear to all gourmands, had established, as a gastronomic principle, that "he who does not take coffee after each meal is assuredly not a man of taste."— Bourrienne.]—
I never saw him take any between his meals, and I cannot imagine what could have given rise to the assertion of his being particularly fond of coffee. When he worked late at night he never ordered coffee, but chocolate, of which he made me take a cup with him. But this only happened when our business was prolonged till two or three in the morning.
All that has been said about Bonaparte's immoderate use of snuff has no more foundation in truth than his pretended partiality for coffee. It is true that at an early period of his life he began to take snuff, but it was very sparingly, and always out of a box; and if he bore any resemblance to Frederick the Great, it was not by filling his waistcoat- pockets with snuff, for I must again observe he carried his notions of personal neatness to a fastidious degree.
Bonaparte had two ruling passions, glory and war. He was never more gay than in the camp, and never more morose than in the inactivity of peace. Plans for the construction of public monuments also pleased his imagination, and filled up the void caused by the want of active occupation. He was aware that monuments form part of the history of nations, of whose civilisation they bear evidence for ages after those who created them have disappeared from the earth, and that they likewise often bear false-witness to remote posterity of the reality of merely fabulous conquests. Bonaparte was, however, mistaken as to the mode of accomplishing the object he had in view. His ciphers, his trophies, and subsequently his eagles, splendidly adorned the monuments of his reign. But why did he wish to stamp false initials on things with which neither he nor his reign had any connection; as, for example the old Louvre? Did he imagine that the letter, "N" which everywhere obtruded itself on the eye, had in it a charm to controvert the records of history, or alter the course of time?
—[When Louis XVIII. returned to the Tuileries in 1814 he found that Bonaparte had been an excellent tenant, and that he had left everything in very good condition.]—
Be this as it may, Bonaparte well knew that the fine arts entail lasting glory on great actions, and consecrate the memory of princes who protect and encourage them. He oftener than once said to me, "A great reputation is a great noise; the more there is made, the farther off it is heard. Laws, institutions, monuments, nations, all fall; but the noise continues and resounds in after ages." This was one of his favourite ideas. "My power," he would say at other times, "depends on my glory, and my glory on my victories. My power would fall were I not to support it by new glory and new victories. Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest alone can maintain me." This was then, and probably always continued to be, his predominant idea, and that which prompted him continually to scatter the seeds of war through Europe. He thought that if he remained stationary he would fall, and he was tormented with the desire of continually advancing. Not to do something great and decided was, in his opinion, to do nothing. "A newly-born Government," said he to me, "must dazzle and astonish. When it ceases to do that it falls." It was vain to look for rest from a man who was restlessness itself.
His sentiments towards France now differed widely from what I had known them to be in his youth. He long indignantly cherished the recollection of the conquest of Corsica, which he was once content to regard as his country. But that recollection was effaced, and it might be said that he now ardently loved France. His imagination was fired by the very thought of seeing her great, happy, and powerful, and, as the first nation in the world, dictating laws to the rest. He fancied his name inseparably connected with France, and resounding in the ears of posterity. In all his actions he lost sight of the present moment, and thought only of futurity; so, in all places where he led the way to glory, the opinion of France was ever present in his thoughts. As Alexander at Arbela pleased himself less in having conquered Darius than in having gained the suffrage of the Athenians, so Bonaparte at Marengo was haunted by the idea of what would be said in France. Before he fought a battle Bonaparte thought little about what he should do in case of success, but a great deal about what he should do in case of a reverse of fortune. I mention this as a fact of which I have often been a witness, and leave to his brothers in arms to decide whether his calculations were always correct. He had it in his power to do much, for he risked everything and spared nothing. His inordinate ambition goaded him on to the attainment of power; and power when possessed served only to augment his ambition. Bonaparte was thoroughly convinced of the truth that trifles often decide the greatest events; therefore he watched rather than provoked opportunity, and when the right moment approached, he suddenly took advantage of it. It is curious that, amidst all the anxieties of war and government, the fear of the Bourbons incessantly pursued him, and the Faubourg St. Germain was to him always a threatening phantom.
He did not esteem mankind, whom, indeed, he despised more and more in proportion as he became acquainted with them. In him this unfavourable opinion of human nature was justified by many glaring examples of baseness, and he used frequently to repeat, "There are two levers for moving men,—interest and fear." What respect, indeed, could Bonaparte entertain for the applicants to the treasury of the opera? Into this treasury the gaming-houses paid a considerable sum, part of which went to cover the expenses of that magnificent theatre. The rest was distributed in secret gratuities, which were paid on orders signed by Duroc. Individuals of very different characters were often seen catching the little door in the Rue Rameau. The lady who was for a while the favourite of the General-in-Chief in Egypt, and whose husband was maliciously sent back by the English, was a frequent visitor to the treasury. On an occasion would be seen assembled there a distinguished scholar and an actor, a celebrated orator and a musician; on another, the treasurer would have payments to make to a priest, a courtesan, and a cardinal.
One of Bonaparte's greatest misfortunes was, that he neither believed in friendship not felt the necessity of loving. How often have I heard him say, "Friendship is but a name; I love nobody. I do not even love my brothers. Perhaps Joseph, a little, from habit and because he is my elder; and Duroc, I love him too. But why? Because his character pleases me. He is stern and resolute; and I really believe the fellow never shed a tear. For my part, I know very well that I have no true friends. As long as I continue what I am, I may have as many pretended friends as I please. Leave sensibility to women; it is their business. But men should be firm in heart and in purpose, or they should have nothing to do with war or government."
In his social relations Bonaparte's temper was bad; but his fits of ill- humour passed away like a cloud, and spent themselves in words. His violent language and bitter imprecations were frequently premeditated. When he was going to reprimand any one he liked to have a witness present. He would then say the harshest things, and level blows against which few could bear up. But he never gave way to those violent ebullitions of rage until be acquired undoubted proofs of the misconduct of those against whom they were directed. In scenes of this sort I have frequently observed that the presence of a third person seemed to give him confidence. Consequently, in a 'tête-à-tête' interview, any one who knew his character, and who could maintain sufficient coolness and firmness, was sure to get the better of him. He told his friends at St. Helena that he admitted a third person on such occasions only that the blow might resound the farther. That was not his real motive, or the better way would have been to perform the scene in public. He had other reasons. I observed that he did not like a 'tête-à-tête'; and when he expected any one, he would say to me beforehand, "Bourrienne, you may remain;" and when any one was announced whom he did not expect, as a minister or a general, if I rose to retire he would say in a half- whisper, "Stay where you are." Certainly this was not done with the design of getting what he said reported abroad; for it belonged neither to my character nor my duty to gossip about what I had heard. Besides, it may be presumed, that the few who were admitted as witnesses to the conferences of Napoleon were aware of the consequences attending indiscreet disclosures under a Government which was made acquainted with all that was said and done.
Bonaparte entertained a profound dislike of the sanguinary men of the Revolution, and especially of the regicides. He felt, as a painful burden, the obligation of dissembling towards them. He spoke to me in terms of horror of those whole he called the assassins of Louis XVI, and he was annoyed at the necessity of employing them and treating them with apparent respect. How many times has he not said to Cambacérès, pinching him by the ear, to soften, by that habitual familiarity, the bitterness of the remark, "My dear fellow, your case is clear; if ever the Bourbons come back you will be hanged!" A forced smile would then relax the livid countenance of Cambacérès, and was usually the only reply of the Second Consul, who, however, on one occasion said in my hearing, "Come, come, have done with this joking."
One thing which gave Bonaparte great pleasure when in the country was to see a tall, slender woman, dressed in white, walking beneath an alley of shaded trees. He detested coloured dresses, and especially dark ones. To fat women he had an invincible antipathy, and he could not endure the sight of a pregnant woman; it therefore rarely happened that a female in that situation was invited to his parties. He possessed every requisite for being what is called in society an agreeable man, except the will to be so. His manner was imposing rather than pleasing, and those who did not know him well experienced in his presence an involuntary feeling of awe. In the drawing-room, where Josephine did the honours with so much grace and affability, all was gaiety and ease, and no one felt the presence of a superior; but on Bonaparte's entrance all was changed, and every eye was directed towards him, to read his humour in his countenance, whether he intended to be silent or talkative, dull or cheerful.
He often talked a great deal, and sometimes a little too much; but no one could tell a story in a more agreeable and interesting way. His conversation rarely turned on gay or humorous subjects, and never on trivial matters. He was so fond of argument that in the warmth of discussion it was easy to draw from him secrets which he was most anxious to conceal. Sometimes, in a small circle, he would amuse himself by relating stories of presentiments and apparitions. For this he always chose the twilight of evening, and he would prepare his hearers for what was coming by some solemn remark. On one occasion of this kind he said, in a very grave tone of voice, "When death strikes a person whom we love, and who is distant from us, a foreboding almost always denotes the event, and the dying person appears to us at the moment of his dissolution." He then immediately related the following anecdote: "A gentleman of the Court of Louis XIV. was in the gallery of Versailles at the time that the King was reading to his courtiers the bulletin of the battle of Friedlingen gained by Villars. Suddenly the gentleman saw, at the farther end of the gallery, the ghost of his son, who served under Villars. He exclaimed, 'My son is no more!' and next moment the King named him among the dead."
When travelling Bonaparte was particularly talkative. In the warmth of his conversation, which was always characterised by original and interesting ideas, he sometimes dropped hints of his future views, or, at least, he said things which were calculated to disclose what he wished to conceal. I took the liberty of mentioning to him this indiscretion, and far from being offended, he acknowledged his mistake, adding that he was not aware he had gone so far. He frankly avowed this want of caution when at St. Helena.
When in good humour his usual tokens of kindness consisted in a little rap on the head or a slight pinch of the ear. In his most friendly conversations with those whom he admitted into his intimacy he would say, "You are a fool"—"a simpleton"—"a ninny"—"a blockhead." These, and a few other words of like import, enabled him to vary his catalogue of compliments; but he never employed them angrily, and the tone in which they were uttered sufficiently indicated that they were meant in kindness.
Bonaparte had many singular habits and tastes. Whenever he experienced any vexation, or when any unpleasant thought occupied his mind, he would hum something which was far from resembling a tune, for his voice was very unmusical. He would, at the same time, seat himself before the writing-table, and swing back in his chair so far that I have often been fearful of his falling.
He would then vent his ill-humour on the right arm of his chair, mutilating it with his penknife, which he seemed to keep for no other purpose. I always took care to keep good pens ready for him; for, as it was my business to decipher his writing, I had a strong interest in doing what I could to make it legible.
The sound of bells always produced in Bonaparte pleasurable sensations, which I could never account for. When we were at Malmaison, and walking in the alley leading to the plain of Ruel, how many times has the bell of the village church interrupted our most serious conversations!
He would stop, lest the noise of our footsteps should drown any portion of the delightful sound. He was almost angry with me because I did not experience the impressions he did. So powerful was the effect produced upon him by the sound of these bells that his voice would falter as he said, "Ah! that reminds me of the first years I spent at Brienne! I was then happy!" When the bells ceased he would resume the course of his speculations, carry himself into futurity, place a crown on his head, and dethrone kings.
Nowhere, except on the field of battle, did I ever see Bonaparte more happy than in the gardens of Malmaison. At the commencement of the Consulate we used to go there every Saturday evening, and stay the whole of Sunday, and sometimes Monday. Bonaparte used to spend a considerable part of his time in walking and superintending the improvements which he had ordered. At first he used to make excursions about the neighbourhood, but the reports of the police disturbed his natural confidence, and gave him reason to fear the attempts of concealed royalist partisans.
During the first four or five days that Bonaparte spent at Malmaison he amused himself after breakfast with calculating the revenue of that domain. According to his estimates it amounted to 8000 francs. "That is not bad!" said he; "but to live here would require an income of 30,000 livres!" I could not help smiling to see him seriously engaged in such a calculation.
Bonaparte had no faith in medicine. He spoke of it as an art entirely conjectural, and his opinion on this subject was fired and incontrovertible. His vigorous mind rejected all but demonstrative proofs.
He had little memory for proper names, words, or dates, but he had a wonderful recollection of facts and places. I recollect that, on going from Paris to Toulon, he pointed out to me ten places calculated for great battles, and he never forgot them. They were memoranda of his first youthful journeys.
Bonaparte was insensible to the charms of poetic harmony. He had not even sufficient ear to feel the rhythm of poetry, and he never could recite a verse without violating the metre; yet the grand ideas of poetry charmed him. He absolutely worshipped Corneille; and, one day, after having witnessed a performance of 'Cinna', he said to me, "If a man like Corneille were living in my time I would make him my Prime Minister. It is not his poetry that I most admire; it is his powerful understanding, his vast knowledge of the human heart, and his profound policy!" At St. Helena he said that he would have made Corneille a prince; but at the time he spoke to me of Corneille he had no thought of making either princes or kings.
Gallantry to women was by no means a trait in Bonaparte's character. He seldom said anything agreeable to females, and he frequently addressed to them the rudest and most extraordinary remarks. To one he would say, "Heavens, how red your elbows are!" To another, "What an ugly headdress you have got!" At another time he would say, "Your dress is none of the cleanest….. Do you ever change your gown? I have seen you in that twenty times!" He showed no mercy to any who displeased him on these points. He often gave Josephine directions about her toilet, and the exquisite taste for which she was distinguished might have helped to make him fastidious about the costume of other ladies. At first he looked to elegance above all things: at a later period he admired luxury and splendour, but he always required modesty. He frequently expressed his disapproval of the low-necked dresses which were so much in fashion at the beginning of the Consulate.
Bonaparte did not love cards, and this was very fortunate for those who were invited to his parties; for when he was seated at a card-table, as he sometimes thought himself obliged to be, nothing could exceed the dulness of the drawing-room either at the Luxembourg or the Tuileries. When, on the contrary, he walked about among the company, all were pleased, for he usually spoke to everybody, though he preferred the conversation of men of science, especially those who had been with him in in Egypt; as for example, Monge and Berthollet. He also liked to talk with Chaptal and Lacépède, and with Lemercier, the author of 'Agamemnon'.
Bonaparte was seen to less advantage in a drawing-room than at the head of his troops. His military uniform became him much better than the handsomest dress of any other kind. His first trials of dress-coats were unfortunate. I have been informed that the first time he wore one he kept on his black cravat. This incongruity was remarked to him, and he replied, "So much the better; it leaves me something of a military air, and there is no harm in that." For my own part, I neither saw the black cravat nor heard this reply.
The First Consul paid his own private bills very punctually; but he was always tardy in settling the accounts of the contractors who bargained with Ministers for supplies for the public service. He put off these payments by all sorts of excuses and shufflings. Hence arose immense arrears in the expenditure, and the necessity of appointing a committee of liquidation. In his opinion the terms contractor and rogue were synonymous. All that he avoided paying them he regarded as a just restitution to himself; and all the sums which were struck off from their accounts he regarded as so much deducted from a theft. The less a Minister paid out of his budget the more Bonaparte was pleased with him; and this ruinous system of economy can alone explain the credit which Decrès so long enjoyed at the expense of the French navy.
On the subject of religion Bonaparte's ideas were very vague. "My reason," said he, "makes me incredulous respecting many things; but the impressions of my childhood and early youth throw me into uncertainty." He was very fond of talking of religion. In Italy, in Egypt, and on board the 'Orient' and the 'Muiron', I have known him to take part in very animated conversations on this subject.
He readily yielded up all that was proved against religion as the work of men and time: but he would not hear of materialism. I recollect that one fine night, when he was on deck with some persons who were arguing in favour of materialism, Bonaparte raised his hand to heaven and, pointing to the stars, said, "You may talk as long as you please, gentlemen, but who made all that?" The perpetuity of a name in the memory of man was to him the immortality of the soul. He was perfectly tolerant towards every variety of religious faith.
Among Bonaparte's singular habits was that of seating himself on any table which happened to be of a suitable height for him. He would often sit on mine, resting his left arm on my right shoulder, and swinging his left leg, which did not reach the ground; and while he dictated to me he would jolt the table so that I could scarcely write.
Bonaparte had a great dislike to reconsider any decision, even when it was acknowledged to be unjust. In little as well as in great things he evinced his repugnance to retrograde. An instance of this occurred in the affair of General Latour-Foissac. The First Consul felt how much he had wronged that general; but he wished some time to elapse before he repaired his error. His heart and his conduct were at variance; but his feelings were overcome by what he conceived to be political necessity. Bonaparte was never known to say, "I have done wrong:" his usual observation was, "I begin to think there is something wrong."
In spite of this sort of feeling, which was more worthy of an ill- humoured philosopher than the head of a government, Bonaparte was neither malignant nor vindictive. I cannot certainly defend him against all the reproaches which he incurred through the imperious law of war and cruel necessity; but I may say that he has often been unjustly accused. None but those who are blinded by fury will call him a Nero or a Caligula. I think I have avowed his faults with sufficient candour to entitle me to credit when I speak in his commendation; and I declare that, out of the field of battle, Bonaparte had a kind and feeling heart. He was very fond of children, a trait which seldom distinguishes a bad man. In the relations of private life to call him amiable would not be using too strong a word, and he was very indulgent to the weakness of human nature. The contrary opinion is too firmly fixed in some minds for me to hope to root it out. I shall, I fear, have contradictors, but I address myself to those who look for truth. To judge impartially we must take into account the influence which time and circumstances exercise on men; and distinguish between the different characters of the Collegian, the General, the Consul, and the Emperor.
Bonaparte's laws—Suppression of the festival of the 21st of
January—Officials visits—The Temple—Louis XVI. and Sir Sidney
Smith—Peculation during the Directory—Loan raised—Modest budget
—The Consul and the Member of the Institute—The figure of the
Republic—Duroc's missions—The King of Prussia—The Emperor
Alexander—General Latour-Foissac—Arbitrary decree—Company of
players for Egypt—Singular ideas respecting literary property—
The preparatory Consulate—The journals—Sabres and muskets of
honour—The First Consul and his Comrade—The bust of Brutus—
Statues in the gallery of the Tuileries—Sections of the Council of
State—Costumes of public functionaries—Masquerades—The opera-
balls—Recall of the exiles.
It is not my purpose to say much about the laws, decrees, and 'Senatus- Consultes', which the First Consul either passed, or caused to be passed, after his accession to power, what were they all, with the exception of the Civil Code? The legislative reveries of the different men who have from time to time ruled France form an immense labyrinth, in which chicanery bewilders reason and common sense; and they would long since have been buried in oblivion had they not occasionally served to authorise injustice. I cannot, however, pass over unnoticed the happy effect produced in Paris, and throughout the whole of France, by some of the first decisions of the Consuls. Perhaps none but those who witnessed the state of society during the reign of Terror can fully appreciate the satisfaction which the first steps towards the restoration of social order produced in the breasts of all honest men. The Directory, more base and not less perverse than the Convention, had retained the horrible 21st of January among the festivals of the Republic. One of Bonaparte's first ideas on attaining the possession of power was to abolish this; but such was the ascendency of the abettors of the fearful event that he could not venture on a straightforward course. He and his two colleagues, who were Sieyès and Roger Ducos, signed, on the 5th Nivôse, a decree, setting forth that in future the only festivals to be celebrated by the Republic were the 1st Vendemiaire and the 14th of July, intending by this means to consecrate provisionally the recollection of the foundation of the Republic and of liberty.
All was calculation with Bonaparte. To produce effect was his highest gratification. Thus he let slip no opportunity of saying or doing things which were calculated to dazzle the multitude. While at the Luxembourg, he went sometimes accompanied by his 'aides de camp' and sometimes by a Minister, to pay certain official visits. I did not accompany him on these occasions; but almost always either on his return, after dinner, or in the evening, he related to me what he had done and said. He congratulated himself on having paid a visit to Daubenton, at the Jardin des Plantes, and talked with great self-complacency of the distinguished way in which he had treated the contemporary of Buffon.
On the 24th Brumaire he visited the prisons. He liked to make these visits unexpectedly, and to take the governors of the different public establishments by surprise; so that, having no time to make their preparations, he might see things as they really were. I was in his cabinet when he returned, for I had a great deal of business to go through in his absence. As he entered he exclaimed, "What brutes these Directors are! To what a state they have brought our public establishments! But, stay a little! I will put all in order. The prisons are in a shockingly unwholesome state, and the prisoners miserably fed. I questioned them, and I questioned the jailers, for nothing is to be learned from the superiors. They, of course, always speak well of their own work! When I was in the Temple I could not help thinking of the unfortunate Louis XVI. He was an excellent man, but too amiable, too gentle for the times. He knew not how to deal with mankind! And Sir Sidney Smith! I made them show me his apartment. If the fools had not let him escape I should have taken St. Jean d'Acre! There are too many painful recollections connected with that prison! I will certainly have it pulled down some day or other! What do you think I did at the Temple? I ordered the jailers' books to be brought to me, and finding that some hostages were still in confinement I liberated them. 'An unjust law,' said I, 'has deprived you of liberty; my first duty is to restore it to you.' Was not this well done, Bourrienne? "As I was, no less than Bonaparte himself, an enemy to the revolutionary laws, I congratulated him sincerely; and he was very sensible to my approbation, for I was not accustomed to greet him with "Good; very good," on all occasions. It is true, knowing his character as I did, I avoided saying anything that was calculated to offend him; but when I said nothing, he knew very well how to construe my silence. Had I flattered him I should have continued longer in favour.
Bonaparte always spoke angrily of the Directors he had turned off. Their incapacity disgusted and astonished him. "What simpletons! what a government!" he would frequently exclaim when he looked into the measures of the Directory. "Bourrienne," said he, "can you imagine anything more pitiable than their system of finance? Can it for a moment be doubted that the principal agents of authority daily committed the most fraudulent peculations? What venality! what disorder! what wastefulness! everything put up for sale: places, provisions, clothing, and military, all were disposed of. Have they not actually consumed 75,000,000 in advance? And then, think of all the scandalous fortunes accumulated, all the malversations! But are there no means of making them refund? We shall see."
In these first moments of poverty it was found necessary to raise a loan, for the funds of M. Collot did not last long, and 12,000,000 were advanced by the different bankers of Paris, who, I believe, were paid by bills of the receivers-general, the discount of which then amounted to about 33 per cent. The salaries of the first offices were not very considerable, and did not amount to anything like the exorbitant stipends of the Empire.
Bonaparte's salary was fixed at 500,000 francs. What a contrast to the 300,000,000 in gold which were reported to have been concealed in 1811 in the cellars of the Tuileries!
In mentioning Bonaparte's nomination to the Institute, and his affectation in putting at the head of his proclamation his title of member of that learned body before that of General-in-Chief, I omitted to state what value he really attached to that title. The truth is that, when young and ambitious, he was pleased with the proffered title, which he thought would raise him in public estimation. How often have we laughed together when he weighed the value of his scientific titles! Bonaparte, to be sure, knew something of mathematics, a good deal of history, and, I need not add, possessed extraordinary military talent; but he was nevertheless a useless member of the Institute.
On his return from Egypt he began to grow weary of a title which gave him so many colleagues. "Do you not think," said he one day to me, "that there is something mean and humiliating in the words, 'I have the honour to be, my dear Colleague'! I am tired of it!" Generally speaking, all phrases which indicated equality displeased him. It will be recollected how gratified he was that I did not address him in the second person singular on our meeting at Leoben, and also what befell M. de Cominges at Bâle because he did not observe the same precaution.
The figure of the Republic seated and holding a spear in her hand, which at the commencement of the Consulate was stamped on official letters, was speedily abolished. Happy would it have been if Liberty herself had not suffered the same treatment as her emblem! The title of First Consul made him despise that of Member of the Institute. He no longer entertained the least predilection for that learned body, and subsequently he regarded it with much suspicion. It was a body, an authorised assembly; these were reasons sufficient for him to take umbrage at it, and he never concealed his dislike of all bodies possessing the privilege of meeting and deliberating.
While we were at the Luxembourg Bonaparte despatched Duroc on a special mission to the King of Prussia. This happened, I think, at the very beginning of the year 1800. He selected Duroc because he was a man of good education and agreeable manners, and one who could express himself with elegance and reserve, qualities not often met with at that period. Duroc had been with us in Italy, in Egypt, and on board the 'Muiron', and the Consul easily guessed that the King of Prussia would be delighted to hear from an eye-witness the events of Bonaparte's campaigns, especially the siege of St. Jean d'Acre, and the scenes which took place during the months of March and May at Jaffa. Besides, the First Consul considered it indispensable that such circumstantial details should be given in a way to leave no doubt of their correctness. His intentions were fully realised; for Duroc told me, on his return, that nearly the whole of the conversation he had with the King turned upon St. Jean d'Acre and Jaffa. He stayed nearly two whole hours with his Majesty, who, the day after, gave him an invitation to dinner. When this intelligence arrived at the Luxembourg I could perceive that the Chief of the Republic was flattered that one of his aides de camp should have sat at table with a King, who some years after was doomed to wait for him in his antechamber at Tilsit.
Duroc never spoke on politics to the King of Prussia, which was very fortunate, for, considering his age and the exclusively military life he had led, he could scarcely have been expected to avoid blunders. Some time later, after the death of Paul I., he was sent to congratulate Alexander on his accession to the throne. Bonaparte's design in thus making choice of Duroc was to introduce to the Courts of Europe, by confidential missions, a young man to whom he was much attached, and also to bring him forward in France. Duroc went on his third mission to Berlin after the war broke out with Austria. He often wrote to me, and his letters convinced me how much he had improved himself within a short time.
Another circumstance which happened at the commencement of the Consulate affords an example of Bonaparte's inflexibility when he had once formed a determination. In the spring of 1799, when we were in Egypt, the Directory gave to General Latour-Foissac, a highly distinguished officer, the command of Mantua, the taking of which had so powerfully contributed to the glory of the conqueror of Italy. Shortly after Latour's appointment to this important post the Austrians besieged Mantua. It was well known that the garrison was supplied with provisions and ammunition for a long resistance; yet, in the month of July it surrendered to the Austrians. The act of capitulation contained a curious article, viz. "General Latour-Foissac and his staff shall be conducted as prisoners to Austria; the garrison shall be allowed to return to France." This distinction between the general and the troops entrusted to his command, and at the same time the prompt surrender of Mantua, were circumstances which, it must be confessed, were calculated to excite suspicions of Latour-Foissac. The consequence was, when Bernadotte was made War Minister he ordered an inquiry into the general's conduct by a court- martial. Latour-Foissac had no sooner returned to France than he published a justificatory memorial, in which he showed the impossibility of his having made a longer defence when he was in want of many objects of the first necessity.
Such was the state of the affair on Bonaparte's elevation to the Consular power. The loss of Mantua, the possession of which had cost him so many sacrifices, roused his indignation to so high a pitch that whenever the subject was mentioned he could find no words to express his rage. He stopped the investigation of the court-martial, and issued a violent decree against Latour-Foissac even before his culpability had been proved. This proceeding occasioned much discussion, and was very dissatisfactory to many general officers, who, by this arbitrary decision, found themselves in danger of forfeiting the privilege of being tried by their natural judges whenever they happened to displease the First Consul. For my own part, I must say that this decree against Latour-Foissac was one which I saw issued with considerable regret. I was alarmed for the consequences. After the lapse of a few days I ventured to point out to him the undue severity of the step he had taken; I reminded him of all that had been said in Latour-Foissac's favour, and tried to convince him how much more just it would be to allow the trial to come to a conclusion. "In a country," said I, "like France, where the point of honour stands above every thing, it is impossible Foissac can escape condemnation if he be culpable."—"Perhaps you are right, Bourrienne," rejoined he; "but the blow is struck; the decree is issued. I have given the same explanation to every one; but I cannot so suddenly retrace my steps. To retro-grade is to be lost. I cannot acknowledge myself in the wrong. By and by we shall see what can be done. Time will bring lenity and pardon. At present it would be premature." Such, word for word, was Bonaparte's reply. If with this be compared what he said on the subject at St. Helena it will be found that his ideas continued nearly unchanged; the only difference is that, instead of the impetuosity of 1800, he expressed himself with the calmness which time and adversity naturally produce.
—["It was," says the 'Memorial of St. Helena', "an illegal and tyrannical act, but still it was a necessary evil. It was the fault of the law. He was a hundred, nay, a thousand fold guilty, and yet it was doubtful whether he would be condemned. We therefore assailed him with the shafts of honour and public opinion. Yet I repeat it was a tyrannical act, and one of those violent measures which are at times necessary in great nations and in extraordinary circumstances."]—
Bonaparte, as I have before observed, loved contrasts; and I remember at the very time he was acting so violently against Latour-Foissac he condescended to busy himself about a company of players which he wished to send to Egypt, or rather that he pretended to wish to send there, because the announcement of such a project conveyed an impression of the prosperous condition of our Oriental colony. The Consuls gravely appointed the Minister of the Interior to execute this business, and the Minister in his turn delegated his powers to Florence, the actor. In their instructions to the Minister the Consuls observed that it would be advisable to include some female dancers in the company; a suggestion which corresponds with Bonaparte's note, in which were specified all that he considered necessary for the Egyptian expedition.
The First Consul entertained singular notions respecting literary property. On his hearing that a piece, entitled 'Misanthropie et Repentir', had been brought out at the Odeon, he said to me, "Bourrienne, you have been robbed."—"I, General? how?"—"You have been robbed, I tell you, and they are now acting your piece." I have already mentioned that during my stay at Warsaw I amused myself with translating a celebrated play of Kotzebue. While we were in Italy I lent Bonaparte my translation to read, and he expressed himself much pleased with it. He greatly admired the piece, and often went to see it acted at the Odeon. On his return he invariably gave me fresh reasons for my claiming what he was pleased to call my property. I represented to him that the translation of a foreign work belonged to any one who chose to execute it. He would not, however, give up his point, and I was obliged to assure him that my occupations in his service left me no time to engage in a literary lawsuit. He then exacted a promise from me to translate Goethe's 'Werther'. I told him it was already done, though indifferently, and that I could not possibly devote to the subject the time it merited. I read over to him one of the letters I had translated into French, and which he seemed to approve.
That interval of the Consular Government during which Bonaparte remained at the Luxembourg may be called the preparatory Consulate. Then were sown the seeds of the great events which he meditated, and of those institutions with which he wished to mark his possession of power. He was then, if I may use the expression, two individuals in one: the Republican general, who was obliged to appear the advocate of liberty and the principles of the Revolution; and the votary of ambition, secretly plotting the downfall of that liberty and those principles.
I often wondered at the consummate address with which he contrived to deceive those who were likely to see through his designs. This hypocrisy, which some, perhaps, may call profound policy, was indispensable to the accomplishment of his projects; and sometimes, as if to keep himself in practice, he would do it in matters of secondary importance. For example, his opinion of the insatiable avarice of Sieyès is well known; yet when he proposed, in his message to the Council of Ancients, to give his colleague, under the title of national recompense, the price of his obedient secession, it was, in the words of the message, a recompense worthily bestowed on his disinterested virtues.
While at the Luxembourg Bonaparte showed, by a Consular act, his hatred of the liberty of the press above all liberties, for he loved none. On the 27th Nivôse the Consuls, or rather the First Consul, published a decree, the real object of which was evidently contrary to its implied object.
This decree stated that:
The Consuls of the Republic, considering that some of the journals printed at Paris are instruments in the hands of the enemies of the Republic, over the safety of which the Government is specially entrusted by the people of France to watch, decree—
That the Minister of Police shall, during the continuation of the war, allow only the following journals to be printed and published, viz. (list of 20 publications)
…..and those papers which are exclusively devoted to science, art, literature, commerce, and advertisements.
Surely this decree may well be considered as preparatory; and the fragment I have quoted may serve as a standard for measuring the greater part of those acts by which Bonaparte sought to gain, for the consolidation of his power, what he seemed to be seeking solely for the interest of the friends of the Republic. The limitation to the period of the continuance of the war had also a certain provisional air which afforded hope for the future. But everything provisional is, in its nature, very elastic; and Bonaparte knew how to draw it out ad infinitum. The decree, moreover, enacted that if any of the uncondemned journals should insert articles against the sovereignty of the people they would be immediately suppressed. In truth, great indulgence was shown on this point, even after the Emperor's coronation.
The presentation of swords and muskets of honour also originated at the Luxembourg; and this practice was, without doubt, a preparatory step to the foundation of the Legion of Honour.
—["Armes d'honneur," decreed 25th December 1799. Muskets for infantry, carbines for cavalry, grenades for artillery, swords for the officers. Gouvion St. Cyr received the first sword (Thiers, tome i. p. 126).]—
A grenadier sergeant, named Léon Aune, who had been included in the first distribution, easily obtained permission to write to the First Consul to thank him. Bonaparte, wishing to answer him in his own name, dictated to me the following letter for Aune:—
I have received your letter, my brave comrade. You needed not to have told me of your exploits, for you are the bravest grenadier in the whole army since the death of Benezete. You received one of the hundred sabres I distributed to the army, and all agreed you most deserved it.
I wish very much again to see you. The War Minister sends you an order to come to Paris.
This wheedling wonderfully favoured Bonaparte's designs. His letter to Aune could not fail to be circulated through the army. A sergeant called my brave comrade by the First Consul—the First General of France! Who but a thorough Republican, the stanch friend of equality, would have done this? This was enough to wind up the enthusiasm of the army. At the same time it must be confessed that Bonaparte began to find the Luxembourg too little for him, and preparations were set on foot at the Tuileries.
Still this great step towards the re-establishment of the monarchy was to be cautiously prepared. It was important to do away with the idea that none but a king could occupy the palace of our ancient kings. What was to be done? A very fine bust of Brutus had been brought from Italy. Brutus was the destroyer of tyrants! This was the very thing; and David was commissioned to place it in a gallery of the Tuileries. Could there be a greater proof of the Consul's horror of tyranny?
To sleep at the Tuileries, in the bedchamber of the kings of France, was all that Bonaparte wanted; the rest would follow in due course. He was willing to be satisfied with establishing a principle the consequences of which were to be afterwards deduced. Hence the affectation of never inserting in official acts the name of the Tuileries, but designating that place as the Palace of the Government. The first preparations were modest, for it did not become a good Republican to be fond of pomp. Accordingly Lecomte, who was at that time architect of the Tuileries, merely received orders to clean the Palace, an expression which might bear more than one meaning, after the meetings which had been there. For this purpose the sum of 500,000 francs was sufficient. Bonaparte's drift was to conceal, as far as possible, the importance he attached to the change of his Consular domicile. But little expense was requisite for fitting up apartments for the First Consul. Simple ornaments, such as marbles and statues, were to decorate the Palace of the Government.
Nothing escaped Bonaparte's consideration. Thus it was not merely at hazard that he selected the statues of great men to adorn the gallery of the Tuileries. Among the Greeks he made choice of Demosthenes and Alexander, thus rendering homage at once to the genius of eloquence and the genius of victory. The statue of Hannibal was intended to recall the memory of Rome's most formidable enemy; and Rome herself was represented in the Consular Palace by the statues of Scipio, Cicero, Cato, Brutus and Caesar—the victor and the immolator being placed side by side. Among the great men of modern times he gave the first place to Gustavus Adolphus, and the next to Turenne and the great Condé, to Turenne in honour of his military talent, and to Condé to prove that there was nothing fearful in the recollection of a Bourbon. The remembrance of the glorious days of the French navy was revived by the statue of Duguai Trouin. Marlborough and Prince Eugène had also their places in the gallery, as if to attest the disasters which marked the close of the great reign; and Marshal Sage, to show that Louis XV.'s reign was not without its glory. The statues of Frederick and Washington were emblematic of false philosophy on a throne and true wisdom founding a free state. Finally, the names of Dugommier, Dampierre, and Joubert were intended to bear evidence of the high esteem which Bonaparte cherished for his old comrades,—those illustrious victims to a cause which had now ceased to be his.
The reader has already been informed of the attempts made by Bonaparte to induce England and Austria to negotiate with the Consular Government, which the King of Prussia was the first of the sovereigns of Europe to recognise. These attempts having proved unavailing, it became necessary to carry on the war with renewed vigour, and also to explain why the peace, which had been promised at the beginning of the Consulate, was still nothing but a promise. In fulfilment of these two objects Bonaparte addressed an energetic proclamation to the armies, which was remarkable for not being followed by the usual sacred words, "Vive la République!"
At the same time Bonaparte completed the formation of the Council of State, and divided it into five sections:—(1) The Interior; (2) Finance; (3) Marine; (4) The War Department; (5) Legislation. He fixed the salaries of the Councillors of the State at 25,000 francs, and that of the Precedents of Sections at 30,000. He settled the costume of the Consuls, the Ministers, and the different bodies of the State. This led to the re-introduction of velvet, which had been banished with the old regime, and the encouragement of the manufactures of Lyons was the reason alleged for employing this un-republican article in the different dresses, such as those of the Consuls and Ministers. It was Bonaparte's constant aim to efface the Republic, even in the utmost trifles, and to prepare matters so well that the customs and habits of monarchy being restored, there should only then remain a word to be changed.
I never remember to have seen Bonaparte in the Consular dress, which he detested, and which he wore only because duty required him to do so at public ceremonies. The only dress he was fond of, and in which he felt at ease, was that in which he subjugated the ancient Eridanus and the Nile, namely, the uniform of the Guides, to which corps Bonaparte was always sincerely attached.
The masquerade of official dresses was not the only one which Bonaparte summoned to the aid of his policy. At that period of the year VIII. which corresponded with the carnival of 1800, masques began to be resumed at Paris. Disguises were all the fashion, and Bonaparte favoured the revival of old amusements; first, because they were old, and next, because they were the means of diverting the attention of the people: for, as he had established the principle that on the field of battle it is necessary to divide the enemy in order to beat him, he conceived it no less advisable to divert the people in order to enslave them. Bonaparte did not say 'panem et circenses', for I believe his knowledge of Latin did not extend even to that well-known phrase of Juvenal, but he put the maxim in practice. He accordingly authorised the revival of balls at the opera, which they who lived during that period of the Consulate know was an important event in Paris. Some gladly viewed it as a little conquest in favour of the old regime; and others, who for that very reason disapproved it, were too shallow to understand the influence of little over great things. The women and the young men did not bestow a thought on the subject, but yielded willingly to the attractions of pleasure. Bonaparte, who was delighted at having provided a diversion for the gossiping of the Parisian salons, said to me one day, "While they are chatting about all this, they do not babble upon politics, and that is what I want. Let them dance and amuse themselves as long as they do not thrust their noses into the Councils of the Government; besides, Bourrienne," added he, "I have other reasons for encouraging this, I see other advantages in it. Trade is languishing; Fouché tells me that there are great complaints. This will set a little money in circulation; besides, I am on my guard about the Jacobins. Everything is not bad, because it is not new. I prefer the opera-balls to the saturnalia of the Goddess of Reason. I was never so enthusiastically applauded as at the last parade."
A Consular decision of a different and more important nature had, shortly before, namely, at the commencement of Nivôse, brought happiness to many families. Bonaparte, as every one knows, had prepared the events of the 18th Fructidor that he might have some plausible reasons for overthrowing the Directors. The Directory being overthrown, he was now anxious, at least in part, to undo what he had done on the 18th Fructidor. He therefore ordered a report on the persons exiled to be presented to him by the Minister of Police. In consequence of this report he authorised forty of them to return to France, placing them under the observation of the Police Minister, and assigning them their place of residence. However, they did not long remain under these restrictions, and many of them were soon called to fill high places in the Government. It was indeed natural that Bonaparte, still wishing, at least in appearance, to found his government on those principles of moderate republicanism which had caused their exile, should invite them to second his views.
Barrère wrote a justificatory letter to the First Consul, who, however, took no notice of it, for he could not get so far as to favour Barrère. Thus did Bonaparte receive into the Councils of the Consulate the men who had been exiled by the Directory, just as he afterwards appointed the emigrants and those exiles of the Revolution to high offices under the Empire. The time and the men alone differed; the intention in both cases was the same.
Bonaparte and Paul I.—Lord Whitworth—Baron Sprengporten's arrival at Paris—Paul's admiration of Bonaparte—Their close connection and correspondence—The royal challenge—General Mack—The road to Malmaison—Attempts at assassination—Death of Washington—National mourning—Ambitious calculation—M. de Fontanel, the skilful orator —Fete at the Temple of Mars—Murat's marriage with Caroline Bonaparte—Madame Bonaparte's pearls.
The first communications between Bonaparte and Paul I. commenced a short time after his accession to the Consulate. Affairs then began to look a little less unfavourable for France; already vague reports from Switzerland and the banks of the Rhine indicated a coldness existing between the Russians and the Austrians; and at the same time, symptoms of a misunderstanding between the Courts of London and St. Petersburg began to be perceptible. The First Consul, having in the meantime discovered the chivalrous and somewhat eccentric character of Paul I., thought the moment a propitious one to attempt breaking the bonds which united Russia and England. He was not the man to allow so fine an opportunity to pass, and he took advantage of it with his usual sagacity. The English had some time before refused to include in a cartel for the exchange of prisoners 7000 Russians taken in Holland. Bonaparte ordered them all to be armed, and clothed in new uniforms appropriate to the corps to which they had belonged, and sent them back to Russia, without ransom, without exchange, or any condition whatever. This judicious munificence was not thrown away. Paul I. showed himself deeply sensible of it, and closely allied as he had lately been with England, he now, all at once, declared himself her enemy. This triumph of policy delighted the First Consul.
Thenceforth the Consul and the Czar became the best friends possible. They strove to outdo each other in professions of friendship; and it may be believed that Bonaparte did not fail to turn this contest of politeness to his own advantage. He so well worked upon the mind of Paul that he succeeded in obtaining a direct influence over the Cabinet of St. Petersburg.
Lord Whitworth, at that time the English ambassador in Russia, was ordered to quit the capital without delay, and to retire to Riga, which then became the focus of the intrigues of the north which ended in the death of Paul. The English ships were seized in all the ports, and, at the pressing instance of the Czar, a Prussian army menaced Hanover. Bonaparte lost no time, and, profiting by the friendship manifested towards him by the inheritor of Catherine's power, determined to make that friendship subservient to the execution of the vast plan which he had long conceived: he meant to undertake an expedition by land against the English colonies in the East Indies.
The arrival of Baron Sprengporten at Paris caused great satisfaction among the partisans of the Consular Government, that is to say, almost every one in Paris. M. Sprengporten was a native of Swedish Finland. He had been appointed by Catherine chamberlain and lieutenant-general of her forces, and he was not less in favour with Paul, who treated him in the most distinguished manner. He came on an extraordinary mission, being ostensibly clothed with the title of plenipotentiary, and at the same time appointed confidential Minister to the Consul. Bonaparte was extremely satisfied with the ambassador whom Paul had selected, and with the manner in which he described the Emperor's gratitude for the generous conduct of the First Consul. M. Sprengporten did not conceal the extent of Paul's dissatisfaction with his allies. The bad issue, he said, of the war with France had already disposed the Czar to connect himself with that power, when the return of his troops at once determined him.
We could easily perceive that Paul placed great confidence in M. Sprengporten. As he had satisfactorily discharged the mission with which he had been entrusted, Paul expressed pleasure at his conduct in several friendly and flattering letters, which Sprengporten always allowed us to read. No one could be fonder of France than he was, and he ardently desired that his first negotiations might lead to a long alliance between the Russian and French Governments. The autograph and very frequent correspondence between Bonaparte and Paul passed through his hands. I read all Paul's letters, which were remarkable for the frankness with which his affection for Bonaparte was expressed. His admiration of the First Consul was so great that no courtier could have written in a more flattering manner.
This admiration was not feigned on the part of the Emperor of Russia: it was no less sincere than ardent, and of this he soon gave proofs. The violent hatred he had conceived towards the English Government induced him to defy to single combat every monarch who would not declare war against England and shut his ports against English ships. He inserted a challenge to the King of Denmark in the St. Petersburg Court Gazette; but not choosing to apply officially to the Senate of Hamburg to order its insertion in the 'Correspondant', conducted by M. Stoves, he sent the article, through Count Pahlen, to M. Schramm, a Hamburg merchant. The Count told M. Schramm that the Emperor would be much pleased to see the article of the St. Petersburg Court Gazette copied into the Correspondant; and that if it should be inserted, he wished to have a dozen copies of the paper printed on vellum, and sent to him by an extraordinary courier. It was Paul's intention to send a copy to every sovereign in Europe; but this piece of folly, after the manner of Charles XII., led to no further results.
Bonaparte never felt greater satisfaction in the whole course of his life than he experienced from Paul's enthusiasm for him. The friendship of a sovereign seemed to him a step by which he was to become a sovereign himself. At the same time the affairs of La Vendée began to assume a better aspect, and he hoped soon to effect that pacification in the interior which he so ardently desired.
It was during the First Consul's residence at the Luxembourg that the first report on the civil code was made to the legislative body. It was then, also, that the regulations for the management of the Bank of France were adopted, and that establishment so necessary to France was founded.
There was at this time in Paris a man who has acquired an unfortunate celebrity, the most unlucky of modern generals—in a word, General Mack. I should not notice that person here were it not for the prophetic judgment which Bonaparte then pronounced on him. Mack had been obliged to surrender himself at Championnet some time before our landing at Fréjus. He was received as a prisoner of war, and the town of Dijon had been appointed his place of residence, and there he remained until after the 18th Brumaire. Bonaparte, now Consul, permitted him to come to Paris, and to reside there on his parole. He applied for leave to go to Vienna, pledging himself to return again a prisoner to France if the Emperor Francis would not consent to exchange him for Generals Pérignon and Grouchy, then prisoners in Austria. His request was not granted, but his proposition was forwarded to Vienna. The Court of Vienna refused to accede to it, not placing perhaps so much importance on the deliverance of Mack as he had flattered himself it would.
Bonaparte speaking to me of him one day said, "Mack is a man of the lowest mediocrity I ever saw in my life; he is full of self-sufficiency and conceit, and believes himself equal to anything. He has no talent. I should like to see him opposed some day to one of our good generals; we should then see fine work. He is a boaster, and that is all. He is really one of the most silly men existing; and, besides all that, he is unlucky." Was not this opinion of Bonaparte, formed on the past, fully verified by the future?
It was at Malmaison that Bonaparte thus spoke of General Mack. That place was then far from resembling what it afterwards became, and the road to it was neither pleasant nor sure. There was not a house on the road; and in the evening, during the season when we were there, it was not frequented all the way from St. Germain. Those numerous vehicles, which the demands of luxury and an increasing population have created, did not then, as now, pass along the roads in the environs of Paris. Everywhere the road was solitary and dangerous; and I learned with certainty that many schemes were laid for carrying off the First Consul during one of his evening journeys. They were unsuccessful, and orders were given to enclose the quarries, which were too near to the road. On Saturday evening Bonaparte left the Luxembourg, and afterwards the Tuileries, to go to Malmaison, and I cannot better express the joy he then appeared to experience than by comparing it to the delight of a school-boy on getting a holiday.
Before removing from the Luxembourg to the Tuileries Bonaparte determined to dazzle the eyes of the Parisians by a splendid ceremony. He had appointed it to take place on the 'decadi', Pluviôse 20 (9th February 1800), that is to say, ten days before his final departure from the old Directorial palace. These kinds of fetes did not resemble what they afterwards became; their attraction consisted in the splendour of military dress: and Bonaparte was always sure that whenever he mounted his horse, surrounded by a brilliant staff from which he was to be distinguished by the simplicity of his costume, his path would be crowded and himself greeted with acclamations by the people of Paris. The object of this fete was at first only to present to the 'Hôtel des Invalides', then called the Temple of Mars, seventy-two flags taken from the Turks in the battle of Aboukir and brought from Egypt to Paris; but intelligence of Washington's death, who expired on the 14th of December 1799, having reached Bonaparte, he eagerly took advantage of that event to produce more effect, and mixed the mourning cypress with the laurels he had collected in Egypt.
Bonaparte did not feel much concerned at the death of Washington, that noble founder of rational freedom in the new world; but it afforded him an opportunity to mask his ambitious projects under the appearance of a love of liberty. In thus rendering honour to the memory of Washington everybody would suppose that Bonaparte intended to imitate his example, and that their two names would pass in conjunction from mouth to mouth. A clever orator might be employed, who, while pronouncing a eulogium on the dead, would contrive to bestow some praise on the living; and when the people were applauding his love of liberty he would find himself one step nearer the throne, on which his eyes were constantly fixed. When the proper time arrived, he would not fail to seize the crown; and would still cry, if necessary, "Vive la Liberté!" while placing it on his imperial head.
The skilful orator was found. M. de Fontanes
—[L. de Fontanes (1767-1821) became president of the Corps
Legislatif, Senator, and Grand Master of the University. He was the
centre of the literary group of the Empire,]—
was commissioned to pronounce the funeral eulogium on Washington, and the flowers of eloquence which he scattered about did not all fall on the hero of America.
Lannes was entrusted by Bonaparte with the presentation of the flags; and on the 20th Pluviôse he proceeded, accompanied by strong detachments of the cavalry then in Paris, to the council-hall of the Invalides, where he was met by the Minister of War, who received the colours. All the Ministers, the councillors of State, and generals were summoned to the presentation. Lannes pronounced a discourse, to which Berthier replied, and M. de Fontanes added his well-managed eloquence to the plain military oratory of the two generals. In the interior of this military temple a statue of Mars sleeping had been placed, and from the pillars and roof were suspended the trophies of Denain, Fontenoy, and the campaign of Italy, which would still have decorated that edifice had not the demon of conquest possessed Bonaparte. Two Invalides, each said to be a hundred years old, stood beside the Minister of War; and the bust of the emancipator of America was placed under the trophy composed of the flags of Aboukir. In a word, recourse was had to every sort of charlatanism usual on such occasions. In the evening there was a numerous assembly at the Luxembourg, and Bonaparte took much credit to himself for the effect produced on this remarkable day. He had only to wait ten days for his removal to the Tuileries, and precisely on that day the national mourning for Washington was to cease, for which a general mourning for freedom might well have been substituted.
I have said very little about Murat in the course of these Memoirs except mentioning the brilliant part he performed in several battles. Having now arrived at the period of his marriage with one of Napoleon's sisters I take the opportunity of returning to the interesting events which preceded that alliance.
His fine and well-proportioned form, his great physical strength and somewhat refined elegance of manner,—the fire of his eye, and his fierce courage in battle, gave to Murat rather the character of one of those 'preux chevaliers' so well described by Ariosto and Taro, than that a Republican soldier. The nobleness of his look soon made the lowness of his birth be forgotten. He was affable, polished, gallant; and in the field of battle twenty men headed by Murat were worth a whole regiment. Once only he showed himself under the influence of fear, and the reader shall see in what circumstance it was that he ceased to be himself.
—[Marshal Lannes, so brave and brilliant in war and so well able to appreciate courage, one day sharply rebuked a colonel for having punished a young officer just arrived from school at Fontainebleau because he gave evidence of fear in his first engagement. "Know, colonel," said he, "none but a poltroon (the term was even more strong) will boast that he never was afraid."—Bourrienne.]—
When Bonaparte in his first Italian campaign had forced Wurmser to retreat into Mantua with 28,000 men, he directed Miollis, with only 4000 men, to oppose any sortie that might be attempted by the Austrian general. In one of these sorties Murat, who was at the head of a very weak detachment, was ordered to charge Wurmser. He was afraid, neglected to execute the order, and in a moment of confusion said that he was wounded. Murat immediately fell into disgrace with the General-in-Chief, whose 'aide de camp' he was.
Murat had been previously sent to Paris to present to the Directory the first colours taken by the French army of Italy in the actions of Dego and Mondovi, and it was on this occasion that he got acquainted with Madame Tallien and the wife of his General. But he already knew the beautiful Caroline Bonaparte, whom he had seen at Rome in the residence of her brother Joseph, who was then discharging the functions of ambassador of the Republic. It appears that Caroline was not even indifferent to him, and that he was the successful rival of the Princess Santa Croce's son, who eagerly sought the honour of her hand. Madame Tallien and Madame Bonaparte received with great kindness the first 'aide de camp', and as they possessed much influence with the Directory, they solicited, and easily obtained for him, the rank of brigadier-general. It was somewhat remarkable at that time Murat, notwithstanding his newly- acquired rank, to remain Bonaparte's 'aide de camp', the regulations not allowing a general-in-chief an 'aide de camp' of higher rank than chief of brigade, which was equal to that of colonel. This insignificant act was, therefore, rather a hasty anticipation of the prerogatives everywhere reserved to princes and kings.
It was after having discharged this commission that Murat, on his return to Italy, fell into disfavour with the General-in Chief. He indeed looked upon him with a sort of hostile feeling, and placed him in Reille's division, and afterwards Baraguey d'Hilliers'; consequently, when we went to Paris, after the treaty of Campo-Formio, Murat was not of the party. But as the ladies, with whom he was a great favourite, were not devoid of influence with the Minister of War, Murat was, by their interest, attached to the engineer corps in the expedition to Egypt. On board the Orient he remained in the most complete disgrace. Bonaparte did not address a word to him during the passage; and in Egypt the General-in-Chief always treated him with coldness, and often sent him from the headquarters on disagreeable services. However, the General-in- Chief having opposed him to Mourad Bey, Murat performed such prodigies of valour in every perilous encounter that he effaced the transitory stain which a momentary hesitation under the walls of Mantua had left on his character. Finally, Murat so powerfully contributed to the success of the day at Aboukir that Bonaparte, glad to be able to carry another laurel plucked in Egypt to France, forgot the fault which had made so unfavourable an impression, and was inclined to efface from his memory other things that he had heard to the disadvantage of Murat; for I have good reasons for believing, though Bonaparte never told me so, that Murat's name, as well as that of Charles, escaped from the lips of Junot when he made his indiscreet communication to Bonaparte at the walls of Messoudiah. The charge of grenadiers, commanded by Murat on the 19th Brumaire in the hall of the Five Hundred, dissipated all the remaining traces of dislike; and in those moments when Bonaparte's political views subdued every other sentiment of his mind, the rival of the Prince Santa Croce received the command of the Consular Guard.
—[Joachim Murat (1771-1616), the son of an innkeeper, aide de camp to Napoleon in Italy, etc.; Marshal, 1804; Prince in 1806; Grand Admiral; Grand Duc de Berg et de Clesves, 1808; King of Naples, 1808. Shot by Bourbons 13th October 1815. Married Caroline Bonaparte (third sister of Napoleon) 20th January 1800.]—
It may reasonably be supposed that Madame Bonaparte, in endeavouring to win the friendship of Murat by aiding his promotion, had in view to gain one partisan more to oppose to the family and brothers of Bonaparte; and of this kind of support she had much need. Their jealous hatred was displayed on every occasion; and the amiable Josephine, whose only fault was being too much of the woman, was continually tormented by sad presentiments. Carried away by the easiness of her character, she did not perceive that the coquetry which enlisted for her so many defenders also supplied her implacable enemies with weapons to use against her.
In this state of things Josephine, who was well convinced that she had attached Murat to herself by the bonds of friendship and gratitude, and ardently desired to see him united to Bonaparte by a family connection, favoured with all her influence his marriage with Caroline. She was not ignorant that a close intimacy had already sprung up at Milan between Caroline and Murat, and she was the first to propose a marriage. Murat hesitated, and went to consult M. Collot, who was a good adviser in all things, and whose intimacy with Bonaparte had initiated him into all the secrets of the family. M. Collot advised Murat to lose no time, but to go to the First Consul and formally demand the hand of his sister. Murat followed his advice. Did he do well? It was to this step that he owed the throne of Naples. If he had abstained he would not have been shot at Pizzo. 'Sed ipsi Dei fata rumpere non possunt!'
However that might be, Bonaparte received, more in the manner of a sovereign than of a brother in arms, the proposal of Murat. He heard him with unmoved gravity, said that he would consider the matter, but gave no positive answer.
This affair was, as may be supposed, the subject of conversation in the evening in the salon of the Luxembourg. Madame Bonaparte employed all her powers of persuasion to obtain the First Consul's consent, and her efforts were seconded by Hortense, Eugène, and myself, "Murat," said he, among other things, "Murat is an innkeeper's son. In the elevated rank where glory and fortune have placed me, I never can mix his blood with mine! Besides, there is no hurry: I shall see by and by." We forcibly described to him the reciprocal affection of the two young people, and did not fail to bring to his observation Murat's devoted attachment to his person, his splendid courage and noble conduct in Egypt. "Yes," said he, with warmth, "I agree with you; Murat was superb at Aboukir." We did not allow so favourable a moment to pass by. We redoubled our entreaties, and at last he consented. When we were together in his cabinet in the evening, "Well, Bourrienne," said he to me, "you ought to be satisfied, and so am I, too, everything considered. Murat is suited to my sister, and then no one can say that I am proud, or seek grand alliances. If I had given my sister to a noble, all your Jacobins would have raised a cry of counter-revolution. Besides, I am very glad that my wife is interested in this marriage, and you may easily suppose the cause. Since it is determined on, I will hasten it forward; we have no time to lose. If I go to Italy I will take Murat with me. I must strike a decisive blow there. Adieu."
When I entered the First Consul's chamber at seven o'clock the next day he appeared even more satisfied than on the preceding evening with the resolution he had taken. I easily perceived that in spite of all his cunning, he had failed to discover the real motive which had induced Josephine to take so lively an interest respecting Murat's marriage with Caroline. Still Bonaparte's satisfaction plainly showed that his wife's eagerness for the marriage had removed all doubt in his mind of the falsity of the calumnious reports which had prevailed respecting her intimacy with Murat.
The marriage of Murat and Caroline was celebrated at the Luxembourg, but with great modesty. The First Consul did not yet think that his family affairs were affairs of state. But previously to the celebration a little comedy was enacted in which I was obliged to take a part, and I will relate how.
At the time of the marriage of Murat Bonaparte had not much money, and therefore only gave his sister a dowry of 30,000 francs. Still, thinking it necessary to make her a marriage present, and not possessing the means to purchase a suitable one, he took a diamond necklace which belonged to his wife and gave it to the bride. Josephine was not at all pleased with this robbery, and taxed her wits to discover some means of replacing her necklace.
Josephine was aware that the celebrated jeweler Foncier possessed a magnificent collection of fine pearls which had belonged, as he said, to the late Queen, Marie Antoinette. Having ordered them to be brought to her to examine them, she thought there were sufficient to make a very fine necklace. But to make the purchase 250,000 francs were required, and how to get them was the difficulty. Madame Bonaparte had recourse to Berthier, who was then Minister of War. Berthier, after biting his nails according to his usual habit, set about the liquidation of the debts due for the hospital service in Italy with as much speed as possible; and as in those days the contractors whose claims were admitted overflowed with gratitude towards their patrons, through whom they obtained payment, the pearls soon passed from Foncier's shop to the casket of Madame Bonaparte.
The pearls being thus obtained, there was still another difficulty, which Madame Bonaparte did not at first think of. How was she to wear a necklace purchased without her husband's knowledge? Indeed it was the more difficult for her to do so as the First Consul knew very well that his wife had no money, and being, if I may be allowed the expression, something of the busybody, he knew, or believed he knew, all Josephine's jewels. The pearls were therefore condemned to remain more than a fortnight in Madame Bonaparte's casket without her daring to use them. What a punishment for a woman! At length her vanity overcame her prudence, and being unable to conceal the jewels any longer, she one day said to me, "Bourrienne, there is to be a large party here to-morrow, and I absolutely must wear my pearls. But you know he will grumble if he notices them. I beg, Bourrienne, that you will keep near me. If he asks me where I got my pearls I must tell him, without hesitation, that I have had them a long time."
Everything happened as Josephine feared and hoped.
Bonaparte, on seeing the pearls, did not fail to say to Madame, "What is it you have got there? How fine you are to-day! Where did you get these pearls? I think I never saw them before."—"Oh! 'mon Dieu'! you have seen them a dozen times! It is the necklace which the Cisalpine Republic gave me, and which I now wear in my hair."—"But I think—"—"Stay: ask Bourrienne, he will tell you."—"Well, Bourrienne, what do you say to it? Do you recollect the necklace?"—"Yes, General, I recollect very well seeing it before." This was not untrue, for Madame Bonaparte had previously shown me the pearls. Besides, she had received a pearl necklace from the Cisalpine Republic, but of incomparably less value than that purchased from Foncier. Josephine performed her part with charming dexterity, and I did not act amiss the character of accomplice assigned me in this little comedy. Bonaparte had no suspicions. When I saw the easy confidence with which Madame Bonaparte got through this scene, I could not help recollecting Suzanne's reflection on the readiness with which well-bred ladies can tell falsehoods without seeming to do so.
Police on police—False information—Dexterity of Fouché—Police
agents deceived—Money ill applied—Inutility of political police—
Bonaparte's opinion—General considerations—My appointment to the
Prefecture of police.
Before taking up his quarters in the Tuileries the First Consul organised his secret police, which was intended, at the same time, to be the rival or check upon Fouché's police. Duroc and Moncey were at first the Director of this police; afterwards Davoust and Junot. Madame Bonaparte called this business a vile system of espionage. My remarks on the inutility of the measure were made in vain. Bonaparte had the weakness at once to fear Fouché and to think him necessary. Fouché, whose talents at this trade are too well known to need my approbation, soon discovered this secret institution, and the names of all the subaltern agents employed by the chief agents. It is difficult to form an idea of the nonsense, absurdity, and falsehood contained in the bulletins drawn up by the noble and ignoble agents of the police. I do not mean to enter into details on this nauseating subject; and I shall only trespass on the reader's patience by relating, though it be in anticipation, one fact which concerns myself, and which will prove that spies and their wretched reports cannot be too much distrusted.
During the second year of the Consulate we were established at Malmaison. Junot had a very large sum at his disposal for the secret police of the capital. He gave 3000 francs of it to a wretched manufacturer of bulletins; the remainder was expended on the police of his stable and his table. In reading one of these daily bulletins I saw the following lines:
"M. de Bourrienne went last night to Paris. He entered an hotel of the Faubourg St. Germain, Rue de Varenne, and there, in the course of a very animated discussion, he gave it to be understood that the First Consul wished to make himself King."
As it happens, I never had opened my mouth, either respecting what Bonaparte had said to me before we went to Egypt or respecting his other frequent conversations with me of the same nature, during this period of his Consulship. I may here observe, too, that I never quitted, nor ever could quit Malmaison for a moment. At any time, by night or day, I was subject to be called for by the First Consul, and, as very often was the case, it so happened that on the night in question he had dictated to me notes and instructions until three o'clock in the morning.
Junot came every day to Malmaison at eleven o'clock in the morning. I called him that day into my cabinet, when I happened to be alone. "Have you not read your bulletin?" said I, "Yes, I have."—"Nay, that is impossible."—"Why?"—"Because, if you had, you would have suppressed an absurd story which relates to me."—"Ah!" he replied, "I am sorry on your account, but I can depend on my agent, and I will not alter a word of his report." I then told him all that had taken place on that night; but he was obstinate, and went away unconvinced.
Every morning I placed all the papers which the First Consul had to read on his table, and among the first was Junot's report. The First Consul entered and read it; on coming to the passage concerning me he began to smile.
"Have you read this bulletin?"—"Yes, General."—"What an ass that Junot is! It is a long time since I have known that."—" How he allows himself to be entrapped! Is he still here?"—"I believe so. I have just seen him, and made observations to him, all in good part, but he would hear nothing."—"Tell him to come here." When Junot appeared Bonaparte began —"Imbecile that you are! how could you send me such reports as these? Do you not read them? How shall I be sure that you will not compromise other persons equally unjustly? I want positive facts, not inventions. It is some time since your agent displeased me; dismiss him directly." Junot wanted to justify himself, but Bonaparte cut him short—"Enough!— It is settled!"
I related what had passed to Fouché, who told me that, wishing to amuse himself at Junot's expense, whose police agents only picked up what they heard related in coffeehouses, gaming-houses, and the Bourse, he had given currency to this absurd story, which Junot had credited and reported, as he did many other foolish tales. Fouché often caught the police of the Palace in the snares he laid for them, and thus increased his own credit.
This circumstance, and others of the same nature, induced the First Consul to attach less importance than at first he had to his secret police, which seldom reported anything but false and silly stories. That wretched police! During the time I was with him it embittered his life, and often exasperated him against his wife, his relations, and friends.
—[Bourrienne, it must be remembered, was a sufferer from the vigilance of this police.]—
Rapp, who was as frank as he was brave, tells us in his Memoirs (p. 233) that when Napoleon, during his retreat from Moscow, while before Smolenski, heard of the attempt of Mallet, he could not get over the adventure of the Police Minister, Savary, and the Prefect of Police, Pasquier. "Napoleon," says Rapp, "was not surprised that these wretches (he means the agents of the police) who crowd the salons and the taverns, who insinuate themselves everywhere and obstruct everything, should not have found out the plot, but he could not understand the weakness of the Duc de Rovigo. The very police which professed to divine everything had let themselves be taken by surprise." The police possessed no foresight or faculty of prevention. Every silly thing that transpired was reported either from malice or stupidity. What was heard was misunderstood or distorted in the recital, so that the only result of the plan was mischief and confusion.
The police as a political engine is a dangerous thing. It foments and encourages more false conspiracies than it discovers or defeats real ones. Napoleon has related "that M. de la Rochefoucauld formed at Paris a conspiracy in favour of the King, then at Mittau, the first act of which was to be the death of the Chief of the Government. The plot being discovered, a trusty person belonging to the police was ordered to join it and become one of the most active agents. He brought letters of recommendation from an old gentleman in Lorraine who had held a distinguished rank in the army of Condé." After this, what more can be wanted? A hundred examples could not better show the vileness of such a system. Napoleon, when fallen, himself thus disclosed the scandalous means employed by his Government.
Napoleon on one occasion, in the Isle of Elba, said to an officer who was conversing with him about France, "You believe, then, that the police agents foresee everything and know everything? They invent more than they discover. Mine, I believe, was better than that they have got now, and yet it was often only by mere chance, the imprudence of the parties implicated, or the treachery of some of them, that something was discovered after a week or fortnight's exertion." Napoleon, in directing this officer to transmit letters to him under the cover of a commercial correspondence, to quiet his apprehensions that the correspondence might be discovered, said, "Do you think, then, that all letters are opened at the post office? They would never be able to do so. I have often endeavoured to discover what the correspondence was that passed under mercantile forms, but I never succeeded. The post office, like the police, catches only fools."
Since I am on the subject of political police, that leprosy of modern society, perhaps I may be allowed to overstep the order of time, and advert to its state even in the present day.
The Minister of Police, to give his prince a favourable idea of his activity, contrives great conspiracies, which he is pretty sure to discover in time, because he is their originator. The inferior agents, to find favour in the eyes of the Minister, contrive small plots. It would be difficult to mention a conspiracy which has been discovered, except when the police agents took part in it, or were its promoters. It is difficult to conceive how those agents can feed a little intrigue, the result at first, perhaps, of some petty ill-humour and discontent which, thanks to their skill, soon becomes a great affair. How many conspiracies have escaped the boasted activity and vigilance of the police when none of its agents were parties. I may instance Babeuf's conspiracy, the attempt at the camp at Grenelle, the 18th Brumaire, the infernal machine, Mallet, the 20th of March, the affair of Grenoble, and many others.
The political police, the result of the troubles of the Revolution, has survived them. The civil police for the security of property, health, and order, is only made a secondary object, and has been, therefore, neglected. There are times in which it is thought of more consequence to discover whether a citizen goes to mass or confession than to defeat the designs of a band of robbers. Such a state of things is unfortunate for a country; and the money expended on a system of superintendence over persons alleged to be suspected, in domestic inquisitions, in the corruption of the friends, relations, and servants of the man marked out for destruction might be much better employed. The espionage of opinion, created, as I have said, by the revolutionary troubles, is suspicious, restless, officious, inquisitorial, vexatious, and tyrannical. Indifferent to crimes and real offences, it is totally absorbed in the inquisition of thoughts. Who has not heard it said in company, to some one speaking warmly, "Be moderate, M——— is supposed to belong to the police." This police enthralled Bonaparte himself in its snares, and held him a long time under the influence of its power.
I have taken the liberty thus to speak of a scourge of society of which I have been a victim. What I here state may be relied on. I shall not speak of the week during which I had to discharge the functions of Prefect of Police, namely, from the 13th to the 20th of March, 1815. It may well be supposed that though I had not held in abhorrence the infamous system which I have described, the important nature of the circumstances and the short period of my administration must have prevented me from making complete use of the means placed at my disposal. The dictates of discretion, which I consider myself bound to obey, forbid me giving proofs of what I advance. What it was necessary to do I accomplished without employing violent or vexatious means; and I can take on myself to assert that no one has cause to complain of me. Were I to publish the list of the persons I had orders to arrest, those of them who are yet living would be astonished that the only knowledge they had of my being the Prefect of Police was from the Moniteur. I obtained by mild measures, by persuasion, and reasoning what I could never have got by violence. I am not divulging any secrets of office, but I believe I am rendering a service to the public in pointing out what I have often observed while an unwilling confidant in the shameful manoeuvres of that political institution.
The word ideologue was often in Bonaparte's mouth; and in using it he endeavoured to throw ridicule on those men whom he fancied to have a tendency towards the doctrine of indefinite perfectibility. He esteemed them for their morality, yet he looked on them as dreamers seeking for the type of a universal constitution, and considering the character of man in the abstract only. The ideologues, according to him, looked for power in institutions; and that he called metaphysics. He had no idea of power except in direct force. All benevolent men who speculate on the amelioration of human society were regarded by Bonaparte as dangerous, because their maxims and principles were diametrically opposed to the harsh and arbitrary system he had adopted. He said that their hearts were better than their heads, and, far from wandering with them in abstractions, he always said that men were only to be governed by fear and interest. The free expression of opinion through the press has been always regarded by those who are not led away by interest or power as useful to society. But Bonaparte held the liberty of the press in the greatest horror; and so violent was his passion when anything was urged in its favour that he seemed to labour under a nervous attack. Great man as he was, he was sorely afraid of little paragraphs.
—[Joseph Bonaparte fairly enough remarks on this that such writings had done great harm in those extraordinary times (Erreurs, tome i, p. 259). Metternich, writing in 1827 with distrust of the proceedings of Louis XVIII., quotes, with approval, Napoleon's sentiments on this point. "Napoleon, who could not have been wanting in the feeling of power, said to me, 'You see me master of France; well, I would not undertake to govern her for three months with liberty of the press. Louis XVIII., apparently thinking himself stronger than Napoleon, is not content with allowing the press its freedom, but has embodied its liberty in the charter" (Metternich, tome iv, p. 391.)]—
Successful management of parties—Precautions—Removal from the Luxembourg to the Tuileries—Hackney-coaches and the Consul's white horses—Royal custom and an inscription—The review—Bonaparte's homage to the standards—Talleyrand in Bonaparte's cabinet— Bonaparte's aversion to the cap of liberty even in painting—The state bed—Our cabinet.
Of the three brothers to whom the 18th Brumaire gave birth Bonaparte speedily declared himself the eldest, and hastened to assume all the rights of primogeniture. He soon arrogated to himself the whole power. The project he had formed, when he favoured the revolution of the 18th Fructidor, was now about to be realized. It was then an indispensable part of his plan that the Directory should violate the constitution in order to justify a subsequent subversion of the Directory. The expressions which escaped him from time to time plainly showed that his ambition was not yet satisfied, and that the Consulship was only a state of probation preliminary to the complete establishment of monarchy. The Luxembourg was then discovered to be too small for the Chief of the Government, and it was resolved that Bonaparte should inhabit the Tuileries. Still great prudence was necessary to avoid the quicksands which surrounded him! He therefore employed great precaution in dealing with the susceptibilities of the Republicans, taking care to inure them gradually to the temperature of absolute power. But this mode of treatment was not sufficient; for such was Bonaparte's situation between the Jacobins and the Royalists that he could not strike a blow at one party without strengthening the other. He, however, contrived to solve this difficult problem, and weakened both parties by alternately frightening each. "You see, Royalists," he seemed to say, "if you do not attach yourselves to my government the Jacobins will again rise and bring back the reign of terror and its scaffold." To the men of the Revolution he, on the other hand, said, "See, the counter-Revolution appears, threatening reprisals and vengeance. It is ready to overwhelm you; my buckler can alone protect you from its attacks." Thus both parties were induced, from their mutual fear of each other, to attach themselves to Bonaparte; and while they fancied they were only placing themselves under the protection of the Chief of the Government, they were making themselves dependent on an ambitious man, who, gradually bending them to his will, guided them as he chose in his political career. He advanced with a firm step; but he never neglected any artifice to conceal, as long as possible, his designs.
I saw Bonaparte put in motion all his concealed springs; and I could not help admiring his wonderful address.
But what most astonished me was the control he possessed over himself, in repressing any premature manifestation of his intentions which might prejudice his projects. Thus, for instance, he never spoke of the Tuileries but under the name of "the Palace of the Government," and he determined not to inhabit, at first, the ancient palace of the kings of France alone. He contented himself with selecting the royal apartments, and proposed that the Third Consul should also reside in the Tuileries, and in consequence he occupied the Pavilion of Flora. This skilful arrangement was perfectly in accordance with the designation of "Palace of the Government" given to the Tuileries, and was calculated to deceive, for a time, the most clear-sighted.
The moment for leaving the Luxembourg having arrived, Bonaparte still used many deceptive precautions. The day filed for the translation of the seat of government was the 30th Pluviôse, the previous day having been selected for publishing the account of the votes taken for the acceptance of the new Constitution. He had, besides, caused the insertion in the 'Moniteur' of the eulogy on Washington, pronounced, by M. de Fontanes, the decadi preceding, to be delayed for ten days. He thought that the day when he was about to take so large a step towards monarchy would be well chosen for entertaining the people of Paris with grand ideas of liberty, and for coupling his own name with that of the founder of the free government of the United States.
At seven o'clock on the morning of the 30th Pluviôse I entered, as usual, the chamber of the First Consul. He was in a profound sleep, and this was one of the days on which I had been desired to allow him to sleep a little longer than usual. I have often observed that General Bonaparte appeared much less moved when on the point of executing any great design than during the time of projecting it, so accustomed was he to think that what he had resolved on in his mind, was already done.
When I returned to Bonaparte he said to me, with a marked air of satisfaction, "Well, Bourrienne, to-night, at last, we shall sleep in the Tuileries. You are better off than I: you are not obliged to make a spectacle of yourself, but may go your own road there. I must, however, go in procession: that disgusts me; but it is necessary to speak to the eyes. That has a good effect on the people. The Directory was too simple, and therefore never enjoyed any consideration. In the army simplicity is in its proper place; but in a great city, in a palace, the Chief of the Government must attract attention in every possible way, yet still with prudence. Josephine is going to look out from Lebrun's apartments; go with her, if you like; but go to the cabinet as soon as you see me alight from my horse."
I did not go to the review, but proceeded to the Tuileries, to arrange in our new cabinet the papers which it was my duty to take care of, and to prepare everything for the First Consul's arrival. It was not until the evening that I learned, from the conversation in the salon, where there was a numerous party, what had taken place in the course of the day.
At one o'clock precisely Bonaparte left the Luxembourg. The procession was, doubtless, far from approaching the magnificent parade of the Empire: but as much pomp was introduced as the state of things in France permitted. The only real splendour of that period consisted in fine troops. Three thousand picked men, among whom was the superb regiment of the Guides, had been ordered out for the occasion: all marched in the greatest order; with music at the head of each corps. The generals and their staffs were on horseback, the Ministers in carriages, which were somewhat remarkable, as they were almost the only private carriages then in Paris, for hackney-coaches had been hired to convey the Council of State, and no trouble had been taken to alter them, except by pasting over the number a piece of paper of the same colour as the body of the vehicle. The Consul's carriage was drawn by six white horses. With the sight of those horses was associated the recollection of days of glory and of peace, for they had been presented to the General-in-Chief of the army of Italy by the Emperor of Germany after the treaty of Campo-Formio. Bonaparte also wore the magnificent sabre given him by the Emperor Francis. With Cambacérès on his left, and Lebrun in the front of the carriage, the First Consul traversed a part of Paris, taking the Rue de Thionville, and the Quai Voltaire to the Pont Royal. Everywhere he was greeted by acclamations of joy, which at that time were voluntary, and needed not to be commanded by the police.
From the wicket of the Carrousel to the gate of the Tuileries the troops of the Consular Guard were formed in two lines, through which the procession passed—a royal custom, which made a singular contrast with an inscription in front of which Bonaparte passed on entering the courtyard. Two guard-houses had been built, one on the right and another on the left of the centre gate. On the one to the right were written these words:
"THE TENTH of AUGUST 1792.—ROYALTY IN FRANCE
IS ABOLISHED; AND SHALL NEVER BE RE-ESTABLISHED!"
It was already re-established!
In the meantime the troops had been drawn up in line in the courtyard. As soon as the Consul's carriage stopped Bonaparte immediately alighted, and mounted, or, to speak more properly, leaped on his horse, and reviewed his troops, while the other two Consuls proceeded to the state apartments of the Tuileries, where the Council of State and the Ministers awaited them. A great many ladies, elegantly dressed in Greek costume, which was then the fashion, were seated with Madame Bonaparte at the windows of the Third Consul's apartments in the Pavilion of Flora. It is impossible to give an idea of the immense crowds which flowed in from all quarters. The windows looking to the Carrousel were let for very large sums; and everywhere arose, as if from one voice, shouts of "Long live the First Consul!" Who could help being intoxicated by so much enthusiasm?
Bonaparte prolonged the review for some time, passed down all the ranks, and addressed the commanders of corps in terms of approbation and praise. He then took his station at the gate of the Tuileries, with Murat on his right, and Lannes on his left, and behind him a numerous staff of young warriors, whose complexions had been browned by the sun of Egypt and Italy, and who had been engaged in more battles than they numbered years. When the colours of the 96th, 43d, and 34th demi-brigades, or rather their flagstaffs surmounted by some shreds, riddled by balls and blackened by powder, passed before him, he raised his hat and inclined his head in token of respect. Every homage thus paid by a great captain to standards which had been mutilated on the field of battle was saluted by a thousand acclamations. When the troops had finished defiling before him, the First Consul, with a firm step, ascended the stairs of the Tuileries.
The General's part being finished for the day, that of the Chief of the State began; and indeed it might already be said that the First Consul was the whole Consulate. At the risk of interrupting my narrative of what occurred on our arrival at the Tuileries, by a digression, which may be thought out of place, I will relate a fact which had no little weight in hastening Bonaparte's determination to assume a superiority over his colleagues. It may be remembered that when Roger Ducos and Sieyès bore the title of Consuls the three members of the Consular commission were equal, if not in fact at least in right. But when Cambacérès and Lebrun took their places, Talleyrand, who had at the same time been appointed to succeed M. Reinhart as Minister of Foreign Affairs, obtained a private audience of the First Consul in his cabinet, to which I was admitted. The observations of Talleyrand on this occasion were highly agreeable to Bonaparte, and they made too deep an impression on my mind to allow me to forget them.
"Citizen Consul," said he to him, "you have confided to me the office of Minister for Foreign Affairs, and I will justify your confidence; but I must declare to you that from this moment, I will not transact business with any but yourself. This determination does not proceed from any vain pride on my part, but is induced by a desire to serve France. In order that France may be well governed, in order that there may be a unity of action in the government, you must be First Consul, and the First Consul must have the control over all that relates directly to politics; that is to say, over the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Police, for Internal Affairs, and over my department, for Foreign Affairs; and, lastly, over the two great means of execution, the military and naval forces. It will therefore be most convenient that the Ministers of those five departments should transact business with you. The Administration of Justice and the ordering of the Finances are objects certainly connected with State politics by numerous links, which, however, are not of so intimate a nature as those of the other departments. If you will allow me, General, I should advise that the control over the Administration of Justice be given to the Second Consul, who is well versed in jurisprudence; and to the Third Consul, who is equally well acquainted with Finance, the control over that department. That will occupy and amuse them, and you, General, having at your disposal all the vital parts of the government, will be able to reach the end you aim at, the regeneration of France."
Bonaparte did not hear these remarkable words with indifference. They were too much in accordance with his own secret wishes to be listened to without pleasure; and he said to me as soon as Talleyrand had taken leave, "Do you know, Bourrienne, I think Talleyrand gives good advice. He is a man of great understanding."—"Such is the opinion," I replied, "of all who know him."—"He is perfectly right." Afterwards he added, smiling, "Tallyrand is evidently a shrewd man. He has penetrated my designs. What he advises you know I am anxious to do. But again I say, he is right; one gets on quicker by oneself. Lebrun is a worthy man, but he has no policy in his head; he is a book-maker. Cambacérès carries with him too many traditions of the Revolution. My government must be an entirely new one."
Talleyrand's advice had been so punctually followed that even on the occasion of the installation of the Consular Government, while Bonaparte was receiving all the great civil and military officers of the State in the hall of presentation, Cambacérès and Lebrun stood by more like spectators of the scene than two colleagues of the First Consul. The Minister of the Interior presented the civil authorities of Paris; the Minister of War, the staff of the 17th military division; the Minister of Marine, several naval officers; and the staff of the Consular Guard was presented by Murat. As our Consular republicans were not exactly Spartans, the ceremony of the presentations was followed by grand dinner- parties. The First Consul entertained at his table, the two other Consuls, the Ministers, and the Presidents of the great bodies of the State. Murat treated the heads of the army; and the members of the Council of State, being again seated in their hackney-coaches with covered numbers, drove off to dine with Lucien.
Before taking possession of the Tuileries we had frequently gone there to see that the repairs, or rather the whitewashing, which Bonaparte had directed to be done, was executed. On our first visit, seeing a number of red caps of liberty painted on the walls, he said to M. Lecomte, at that time the architect in charge, "Get rid of all these things; I do not like to see such rubbish."
The First Consul gave directions himself for what little alterations he wanted in his own apartments. A state bed—not that of Louis XVI.—was placed in the chamber next his cabinet, on the south side, towards the grand staircase of the Pavilion of Flora. I may as well mention here that he very seldom occupied that bed, for Bonaparte was very simple in his manner of living in private, and was not fond of state, except as a means of imposing on mankind. At the Luxembourg, at Malmaison, and during the first period that he occupied the Tuileries, Bonaparte, if I may speak in the language of common life, always slept with his wife. He went every evening down to Josephine by a small staircase leading from a wardrobe attached to his cabinet, and which had formerly been the chapel of Maria de Medici. I never went to Bonaparte's bedchamber but by this staircase; and when he came to our cabinet it was always by the wardrobe which I have mentioned. The door opened opposite the only window of our room, and it commanded a view of the garden.
As for our cabinet, where so many great, and also small events were prepared, and where I passed so many hours of my life, I can, even now, give the most minute description of it to those who like such details.
There were two tables. The best, which was the First Consul's, stood in the middle of the room, and his armchair was turned with its back to the fireplace, having the window on the right. To the right of this again was a little closet where Duroc sat, through which we could communicate with the clerk of the office and the grand apartments of the Court. When the First Consul was seated at his table in his chair (the arms of which he so frequently mutilated with his penknife) he had a large bookcase opposite to him. A little to the right, on one side of the bookcase, was another door, opening into the cabinet which led directly to the state bedchamber which I have mentioned. Thence we passed into the grand Presentation Saloon, on the ceiling of which Lebrun had painted a likeness of Louis XIV. A tri-coloured cockade placed on the forehead of the great King still bore witness of the imbecile turpitude of the Convention. Lastly came the hall of the Guards, in front of the grand staircase of the Pavilion of Flora.
My writing-table, which was extremely plain, stood near the window, and in summer I had a view of the thick foliage of the chestnut-trees; but in order to see the promenaders in the garden I was obliged to raise myself from my seat. My back was turned to the General's side, so that it required only a slight movement of the head to speak to each other. Duroc was seldom in his little cabinet, and that was the place where I gave some audiences. The Consular cabinet, which afterwards became the Imperial, has left many impressions on my mind; and I hope the reader, in going through these volumes, will not think that they have been of too slight a description.
The Tuileries—Royalty in perspective—Remarkable observation— Presentations—Assumption of the prerogative of mercy—M. Defeu— M. de Frotte—Georges Cadoudal's audience of Bonaparte—Rapp's precaution and Bonaparte's confidence—The dignity of France— Napper Tandy and Blackwell delivered up by the Senate of Hamburg— Contribution in the Egyptian style—Valueless bill—Fifteen thousand francs in the drawer of a secretaire—Josephine's debts—Evening walks with Bonaparte.
The morning after that ardently wished-for day on which we took possession of the Palace of the Kings of France I observed to Bonaparte on entering his chamber, "Well, General, you have got here without much difficulty, and with the applause of the people! Do you remember what you said to me in the Rue St. Anne nearly two years ago?"—"Ay, true enough, I recollect. You see what it is to have the mind set on a thing. Only two years have gone by! Don't you think we have not worked badly since that time? Upon the whole I am very well content. Yesterday passed off well. Do you imagine that all those who came to flatter me were sincere? No, certainly not: but the joy of the people was real. They know what is right. Besides, consult the grand thermometer of opinion, the price of the funds: on the 17th Brumaire at 11 francs, on the 20th at 16 and to-day at 21. In such a state of things I may let the Jacobins prate as they like. But let them not talk too loudly either!"
As soon as he was dressed we went to look through the Gallery of Diana and examine the statues which had been placed there by his orders. We ended our morning's work by taking complete possession of our new residence. I recollect Bonaparte saying to me, among other things, "To be at the Tuileries, Bourrienne, is not all. We must stay here. Who, in Heaven's name, has not already inhabited this palace? Ruffians, conventionalists! But hold! there is your brother's house! Was it not from those windows I saw the Tuileries besieged, and the good Louis XVI. carried off? But be assured they will not come here again!"
The Ambassadors and other foreign Ministers then in Paris were presented to the First Consul at a solemn audience. On this occasion all the ancient ceremonials belonging to the French Court were raked up, and in place of chamberlains and a grand master of ceremonies a Counsellor of State, M. Benezech, who was once Minister for Foreign Affairs, officiated.
When the Ambassadors had all arrived M. Benezech conducted them into the cabinet, in which were the three Consuls, the Ministers, and the Council of State. The Ambassadors presented their credentials to the First Consul, who handed them to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. These presentations were followed by others; for example, the Tribunal of Cassation, over which the old advocate, Target, who refused to defend Louis XVI., then presided. All this passed in view of the three Consuls; but the circumstance which distinguished the First Consul from his colleagues was, that the official personages, on leaving the audience- chamber, were conducted to Madame Bonaparte's apartments, in imitation of the old practice of waiting on the Queen after presentation to the King.
Thus old customs of royalty crept by degrees into the former abodes of royalty. Amongst the rights attached to the Crown, and which the Constitution of the year VIII. did not give to the First Consul, was one which he much desired to possess, and which, by the most happy of all usurpations, he arrogated to himself. This was the right of granting pardon. Bonaparte felt a real pleasure in saving men under the sentence of the law; and whenever the imperious necessity of his policy, to which, in truth, he sacrificed everything, permitted it, he rejoiced in the exercise of mercy. It would seem as if he were thankful to the persons to whom he rendered such service merely because he had given them occasion to be thankful to him. Such was the First Consul: I do not speak of the Emperor. Bonaparte, the First Consul, was accessible to the solicitations of friendship in favour of persons placed under proscription. The following circumstance, which interested me much, affords an incontestable proof of what I state:—
Whilst we were still at the Luxembourg, M. Defeu, a French emigrant, was taken in the Tyrol with arms in his hand by the troops of the Republic. He was carried to Grenoble, and thrown into the military prison of that town. In the course of January General Ferino, then commanding at Grenoble, received orders to put the young emigrant on his trial. The laws against emigrants taken in arms were terrible, and the judges dared not be indulgent. To be tried in the morning, condemned in the course of the day, and shot in the evening, was the usual course of those implacable proceedings. One of my cousins, the daughter of M. Poitrincourt, came from Sens to Paris to inform me of the dreadful situation of M. Defeu. She told me that he was related to the most respectable families of the town of Sens, and that everybody felt the greatest interest in his fate.
I had escaped for a few moments to keep the appointment I made with Mademoiselle Poitrincourt. On my return I perceived the First Consul surprised at finding himself alone in the cabinet, which I was not in the habit of quitting without his knowledge. "Where have you been?" said he. "I have been to see one of my relations, who solicits a favour of you."— "What is it?" I then informed him of the unfortunate situation of M. Defeu. His first answer was dreadful. "No pity! no pity for emigrants! Whoever fights against his country is a child who tries to kill his mother!" This first burst of anger being over, I returned to the charge. I urged the youth of M. Defeu, and the good effect which clemency would produce. "Well," said he, "write—
"The First Consul orders the judgment on M. Defeu to be suspended."
He signed this laconic order, which I instantly despatched to General Ferino. I acquainted my cousin with what had passed, and remained at ease as to the result of the affair.
Scarcely had I entered the chamber of the First Consul the next morning when he said to me, "Well, Bourrienne, you say nothing about your M. Defeu. Are you satisfied?"—"General, I cannot find terms to express my gratitude."—"Ah, bah! But I do not like to do things by halves. Write to Ferino that I wish M. Defeu to be instantly set at liberty. Perhaps I am serving one who will prove ungrateful. Well, so much the worse for him. As to these matters, Bourrienne, always ask them from me. When I refuse, it is because I cannot help it."
I despatched at my own expense an extraordinary courier, who arrived in time to save M. Defeu's life. His mother, whose only son he was, and M. Blanchet, his uncle, came purposely from Sens to Paris to express their gratitude to me. I saw tears of joy fall from the eyes of a mother who had appeared to be destined to shed bitter drops, and I said to her as I felt, "that I was amply recompensed by the success which had attended my efforts."
Emboldened by this success, and by the benevolent language of the First Consul, I ventured to request the pardon of M. de Frotte, who was strongly recommended to me by most honourable persons. Comte Louis de Frotte had at first opposed all negotiation for the pacification of La Vendée. At length, by a series of unfortunate combats, he was, towards the end of January, reduced to the necessity of making himself the advances which he had rejected when made by others. At this period he addressed a letter to General Guidal, in which he offered pacificatory proposals. A protection to enable him to repair to Alençon was transmitted to him. Unfortunately for M. de Frotte, he did not confine himself to writing to General Guidal, for whilst the safe-conduct which he had asked was on the way to him, he wrote to his lieutenants, advising them not to submit or consent to be disarmed. This letter was intercepted. It gave all the appearance of a fraudulent stratagem to his proposal to treat for peace. Besides, this opinion appeared to be confirmed by a manifesto of M. de Frotte, anterior, it is true, to the offers of pacification, but in which he announced to all his partisans the approaching end of Bonaparte's "criminal enterprise."
I had more trouble than in M. Defeu's case to induce the First Consul to exercise his clemency. However, I pressed him so much, I laboured so hard to convince him of the happy effect of such indulgence, that at length I obtained an order to suspend the judgment. What a lesson I then experienced of the evil which may result from the loss of time! Not supposing that matters were so far advanced as they were, I did not immediately send off the courier with the order for the suspension of the judgment. Besides, the Minister-of-Police had marked his victim, and he never lost time when evil was to be done. Having, therefore, I know not for what motive, resolved on the destruction of M. de Frotte, he sent an order to hasten his trial.
Comte Louis de Frotte was brought to trial on the 28th Pluviôse, condemned the same day, and executed the next morning, the day before we entered the Tuileries. The cruel precipitation of the Minister rendered the result of my solicitations abortive. I had reason to think that after the day on which the First Consul granted me the order for delay he had received some new accusation against M. de Frotte, for when he heard of his death he appeared to me very indifferent about the tardy arrival of the order for suspending judgment. He merely said to me, with unusual insensibility, "You should take your measures better. You see it is not my fault."
Though Bonaparte put no faith in the virtue of men, he had confidence in their honour. I had proof of this in a matter which deserves to be recorded in history. When, during the first period of our abode at the Tuileries, he had summoned the principal chiefs of La Vendée to endeavour to bring about the pacification of that unhappy country, he received Georges Cadoudal in a private audience. The disposition in which I beheld him the evening before the day appointed for this audience inspired me with the most flattering hopes. Rapp introduced Georges into the grand salon looking into the garden. Rapp left him alone with the First Consul, but on returning to the cabinet where I was he did not close either of the two doors of the state bedchamber which separated the cabinet from the salon. We saw the First Consul and Georges walk from the window to the bottom of the salon—then return—then go back again. This lasted for a long time. The conversation appeared very animated, and we heard several things, but without any connection. There was occasionally a good deal of ill-humour displayed in their tone and gestures. The interview ended in nothing. The First Consul, perceiving that Georges entertained some apprehensions for his personal safety, gave him assurances of security in the most noble manner, saying, "You take a wrong view of things, and are wrong in not coming to some understanding; but if you persist in wishing to return to your country you shall depart as freely as you came to Paris." When Bonaparte returned to his cabinet he said to Rapp, "Tell me, Rapp, why you left these doors open, and stopped with Bourrienne?" Rapp replied, "If you had closed the doors I would have opened them again. Do you think I would have left you alone with a man like that? There would have been danger in it."—"No, Rapp," said Bonaparte, "you cannot think so." When we were alone the First Consul appeared pleased with Rapp's attachment, but very vexed at Georges' refusal. He said, "He does not take a correct view of things; but the extravagance of his principles has its source in noble sentiments, which must give him great influence over his countrymen. It is necessary, however, to bring this business soon to an end."
Of all the actions of Louis XIV. that which Bonaparte most admired was his having made the Doge of Genoa send ambassadors to Paris to apologise to him. The slightest insult offered in a foreign country to the rights and dignity of France put Napoleon beside himself. This anxiety to have the French Government respected exhibited itself in an affair which made much noise at the period, but which was amicably arranged by the soothing influence of gold.
Two Irishmen, Napper Tandy and Blackwell, who had been educated in France, and whose names and rank as officers appeared in the French army list, had retired to Hamburg. The British Government claimed them as traitors to their country, and they were given up; but, as the French Government held them to be subjects of France, the transaction gave rise to bitter complaints against the Senate of Hamburg.
Blackwell had been one of the leaders of the united Irishmen. He had procured his naturalisation in France, and had attained the rank of chef d'escadron. Being sent on a secret mission to Norway, the ship in which he was embarked was wrecked on the coast of that kingdom. He then repaired to Hamburg, where the Senate placed him under arrest on the demand of Mr. Crawford, the English Minister. After being detained in prison a whole year he was conveyed to England to be tried. The French Government interfered, and preserved, if not his liberty, at least his life.
Napper Tandy was also an Irishman. To escape the search made after him, on account of the sentiments of independence which had induced him to engage in the contest for the liberty of his country, he got on board a French brig, intending to land at Hamburg and pass into Sweden. Being exempted from the amnesty by the Irish Parliament, he was claimed by the British Government, and the Senators of Hamburg forgot honour and humanity in their alarm at the danger which at that moment menaced their little republic both from England and France. The Senate delivered up Napper Tandy; he was carried to Ireland, and condemned to death, but owed the suspension of his execution to the interference of France. He remained two years in prison, when M. Otto, who negotiated with Lord Hawkesbury the preliminaries of peace, obtained the release of Napper Tandy, who was sent back to France.
The First Consul spoke at first of signal vengeance; but the Senate of Hamburg sent him a memorial, justificatory of its conduct, and backed the apology with a sum of four millions and a half, which mollified him considerably. This was in some sort a recollection of Egypt—one of those little contributions with which the General had familiarised the pashas; with this difference, that on the present occasion not a single sous went into the national treasury. The sum was paid to the First Consul through the hands of M. Chapeau Rouge.
—[A solemn deputation from the Senate arrived at the Tuileries to make public apologies to Napoleon. He again testified his indignation: and when the envoys urged their weakness he said to them. "Well and had you not the resource of weak states? was it not in your power to let them escape?" (Napoleon's Memoirs).]—
I kept the four millions and a half in Dutch bonds in a secretaire for a week. Bonaparte then determined to distribute them; after paying Josephine's debts, and the whole of the great expenses incurred at Malmaison, he dictated to me a list of persons to whom he wished to make presents. My name did not escape his lips, and consequently I had not the trouble to transcribe it; but some time after he said to me, with the most engaging kindness, "Bourrienne, I have given you none of the money which came from Hamburg, but I will make you amends for it." He took from his drawer a large and broad sheet of printed paper, with blanks filled up in his own handwriting, and said to me, "Here is a bill for 300,000 Italian livres on the Cisalpine Republic, for the price of cannon furnished. It is endorsed Halter and Collot—I give it you." To make this understood, I ought to state that cannon had been sold to the Cisalpine Republic, for the value of which the Administrator-general of the Italian finances drew on the Republic, and the bills were paid over to M. Collot, a provision contractor, and other persons. M. Collot had given one of these bills for 300,000 livres to Bonaparte in quittance of a debt, but the latter had allowed the bill to run out without troubling himself about it. The Cisalpine Republic kept the cannons and the money, and the First Consul kept his bill. When I had examined it I said, "General, it has been due for a long time; why have you not got it paid? The endorsers are no longer liable."—"France is bound to discharge debts of this kind;" said he; "send the paper to de Fermont: he will discount it for three per cent. You will not have in ready money more than about 9000 francs of rentes, because the Italian livre is not equal to the franc." I thanked him, and sent the bill to M. de Fermont. He replied that the claim was bad, and that the bill would not be liquidated because it did not come within the classifications made by the laws passed in the months the names of which terminated in 'aire, ose, al, and or'.
I showed M. de Fermont's answer to the First Consul, who said, "Ah, bah! He understands nothing about it—he is wrong: write." He then dictated a letter, which promised very favourably for the discounting of the bill; but the answer was a fresh refusal. I said, "General, M. de Fermont does not attend to you any more than to myself." Bonaparte took the letter, read it, and said, in the tone of a man who knew beforehand what he was about to be informed of, "Well, what the devil would you have me do, since the laws are opposed to it? Persevere; follow the usual modes of liquidation, and something will come of it!" What finally happened was, that by a regular decree this bill was cancelled, torn, and deposited in the archives. These 300,000 livres formed part of the money which Bonaparte brought from Italy. If the bill was useless to me it was also useless to him. This scrap of paper merely proves that he brought more than 25,000 francs from Italy.
I never had, from the General-in-Chief of the army of Italy, nor from the General in-Chief of the army of Egypt, nor from the First Consul, for ten years, nor from the Consul for life, any fixed salary: I took from his drawer what was necessary for my expenses as well as his own. He never asked me for any account. After the transaction of the bill on the insolvent Cisalpine Republic he said to me, at the beginning of the winter of 1800, "Bourrienne, the weather is becoming very bad; I will go but seldom to Malmaison. Whilst I am at council get my papers and little articles from Malmaison; here is the key of my secretaire, take out everything that is there." I got into the carriage at two o'clock and returned at six. When he had dined I placed upon the table of his cabinet the various articles which I had found in his secretaire including 15,000 francs (somewhere about L 600 of English money) in banknotes which were in the corner of a little drawer. When he looked at them he said, "Here is money—what is the meaning of this?" I replied, "I know nothing about it, except that it was in your secretaire."— "Oh yes; I had forgotten it. It was for my trifling expenses. Here, take it." I remembered well that one summer morning he had given me his key to bring him two notes of 1000 francs for some incidental expense, but I had no idea that he had not drawn further on his little treasure.
I have stated the appropriation of the four millions and a half, the result of the extortion inflicted on the Senate of Hamburg, in the affair of Napper Tandy and Blackwell.
The whole, however, was not disposed of in presents. A considerable portion was reserved for paying Josephine's debts, and this business appears to me to deserve some remarks.
The estate of Malmaison had cost 160,000 francs. Josephine had purchased it of M. Lecouteulx while we were in Egypt. Many embellishments, and some new buildings, had been made there; and a park had been added, which had now become beautiful. All this could not be done for nothing, and besides, it was very necessary that what was due for the original purchase should be entirely discharged; and this considerable item was not the only debt of Josephine. The creditors murmured, which had a bad effect in Paris; and I confess I was so well convinced that the First Consul would be extremely displeased that I constantly delayed the moment of speaking to him on the subject. It was therefore with extreme satisfaction I learned that M. de Talleyrand had anticipated me. No person was more capable than himself of gilding the pill, as one may say, to Bonaparte. Endowed with as much independence of character as of mind, he did him the service, at the risk of offending him, to tell him that a great number of creditors expressed their discontent in bitter complaints respecting the debts contracted by Madame Bonaparte during his expedition to the East. Bonaparte felt that his situation required him promptly to remove the cause of such complaints. It was one night about half-past eleven o'clock that M. Talleyrand introduced this delicate subject. As soon he was gone I entered the little cabinet; Bonaparte said to me, "Bourrienne, Talleyrand has been speaking to me about the debts of my wife. I have the money from Hamburg—ask her the exact amount of her debts: let her confess all. I wish to finish, and not begin again. But do not pay without showing me the bills of those rascals: they are a gang of robbers."
Hitherto the apprehension of an unpleasant scene, the very idea of which made Josephine tremble, had always prevented me from broaching this subject to the First Consul; but, well pleased that Talleyrand had first touched upon it, I resolved to do all in my power to put an end to the disagreeable affair.
The next morning I saw Josephine. She was at first delighted with her husband's intentions; but this feeling did not last long. When I asked her for an exact account of what she owed she entreated me not to press it, but content myself with what she should confess. I said to her, "Madame, I cannot deceive you respecting the disposition of the First Consul. He believes that you owe a considerable sum, and is willing to discharge it. You will, I doubt not, have to endure some bitter reproaches, and a violent scene; but the scene will be just the same for the whole as for a part. If you conceal a large proportion of your debts at the end of some time murmurs will recommence, they will reach the ears of the First Consul, and his anger will display itself still more strikingly. Trust to me—state all; the result will be the same; you will hear but once the disagreeable things he will say to you; by reservations you will renew them incessantly." Josephine said, "I can never tell all; it is impossible. Do me the service to keep secret what I say to you. I owe, I believe, about 1,200,000 francs, but I wish to confess only 600,000; I will contract no more debts, and will pay the rest little by little out of my savings."—"Here, Madame, my first observations recur. As I do not believe he estimates your debts at so high a sum as 600,000 francs, I can warrant that you will not experience more displeasure for acknowledging to 1,200,000 than to 600,000; and by going so far you will get rid of them for ever."—"I can never do it, Bourrienne; I know him; I can never support his violence." After a quarter of an hour's further discussion on the subject I was obliged to yield to her earnest solicitation, and promise to mention only the 600,000 francs to the First Consul.
The anger and ill-humour of Bonaparte may be imagined. He strongly suspected that his wife was dissembling in some respect; but he said, "Well, take 600,000 francs, but liquidate the debts for that sum, and let me hear nothing more on the subject. I authorise you to threaten these tradesmen with paying nothing if they do not reduce their enormous charges. They ought to be taught not to be so ready in giving credit." Madame Bonaparte gave me all her bills. The extent to which the articles had been overcharged, owing to the fear of not being paid for a long period, and of deductions being made from the amount, was inconceivable. It appeared to me, also, that there must be some exaggeration in the number of articles supplied. I observed in the milliner's bill thirty- eight new hats, of great price, in one month. There was likewise a charge of 1800 francs for heron plumes, and 800 francs for perfumes. I asked Josephine whether she wore out two hats in one day? She objected to this charge for the hats, which she merely called a mistake. The impositions which the saddler attempted, both in the extravagance of his prices and in charging for articles which he had not furnished, were astonishing. I need say nothing of the other tradesmen, it was the same system of plunder throughout.
I availed myself fully of the First Consul's permission, and spared neither reproaches nor menaces. I am ashamed to say that the greater part of the tradesmen were contented with the half of what they demanded. One of them received 35,000 francs for a bill of 80,000; and he had the impudence to tell me that he made a good profit nevertheless. Finally, I was fortunate enough, after the most vehement disputes, to settle everything for 600,000 francs. Madame Bonaparte, however, soon fell again into the same excesses, but fortunately money became more plentiful. This inconceivable mania of spending money was almost the sole cause of her unhappiness. Her thoughtless profusion occasioned permanent disorder in her household until the period of Bonaparte's second marriage, when, I am informed, she became regular in her expenditure. I could not say so of her when she was Empress in 1804.
—[Notwithstanding her husband's wish, she could never bring her establishment into any order or rule. He wished that no tradesmen should ever reach her, but he was forced to yield on this point. The small inner rooms were filled with them, as with artists of all sorts. She had a mania for having herself painted, and gave her portraits to whoever wished for one, relations, 'femmes de chambre', even to tradesmen. They never ceased bringing her diamonds, jewels, shawls, materials for dresses, and trinkets of all kinds; she bought everything without ever asking the price; and generally forgot what she had purchased. . . All the morning she had on a shawl which she draped on her shoulders with a grace I have seen in no one else. Bonaparte, who thought her shawls covered her too much, tore them off, and sometimes threw them into the fire; then she sent for another (Rémusat, tome ii. pp. 343-345). After the divorce her income, large as it was, was insufficient, but the Emperor was more compassionate then, and when sending the Comte Mollien to settle her affairs gave him strict orders "not to make her weep" (Meneval, tome iii. p.237]—
The amiable Josephine had not less ambition in little things than her husband had in great. She felt pleasure in acquiring and not in possessing. Who would suppose it? She grew tired of the beauty of the park of Malmaison, and was always asking me to take her out on the high road, either in the direction of Nanterre, or on that of Marly, in the midst of the dust occasioned by the passing of carriages. The noise of the high road appeared to her preferable to the calm silence of the beautiful avenues of the park, and in this respect Hortense had the same taste as her mother. This whimsical fancy astonished Bonaparte, and he was sometimes vexed at it. My intercourse with Josephine was delightful; for I never saw a woman who so constantly entered society with such an equable disposition, or with so much of the spirit of kindness, which is the first principle of amiability. She was so obligingly attentive as to cause a pretty suite of apartments to be prepared at Malmaison for me and my family.
She pressed me earnestly, and with all her known grace, to accept it; but almost as much a captive at Paris as a prisoner of state, I wished to have to myself in the country the moments of liberty I was permitted to enjoy. Yet what was this liberty? I had bought a little house at Ruel, which I kept during two years and a half. When I saw my friends there, it had to be at midnight, or at five o'clock in the morning; and the First Consul would often send for me in the night when couriers arrived. It was for this sort of liberty I refused Josephine's kind offer. Bonaparte came once to see me in my retreat at Ruel, but Josephine and Hortense came often. It was a favourite walk with these ladies.
At Paris I was less frequently absent from Bonaparte than at Malmaison. We sometimes in the evening walked together in the garden of the Tuileries after the gates were closed. In these evening walks he always wore a gray greatcoat, and a round hat. I was directed to answer, "The First Consul," to the sentinel's challenge of, "Who goes there?" These promenades, which were of much benefit to Bonaparte, and me also, as a relaxation from our labours, resembled those which we had at Malmaison. As to our promenades in the city, they were often very amusing.
At the period of our first inhabiting the Tuileries, when I saw Bonaparte enter the cabinet at eight o'clock in the evening in his gray coat, I knew he would say, "Bourrienne, come and take a turn." Sometimes, then, instead of going out by the garden arcade, we would take the little gate which leads from the court to the apartments of the Duc d'Angoulême. He would take my arm, and we would go to buy articles of trifling value in the shops of the Rue St. Honoré; but we did not extend our excursions farther than Rue de l'Arbre Sec. Whilst I made the shopkeeper exhibit before us the articles which I appeared anxious to buy he played his part in asking questions.
Nothing was more amusing than to see him endeavouring to imitate the careless and jocular tone of the young men of fashion. How awkward was he in the attempt to put on dandy airs when pulling up the corners of his cravat he would say, "Well, Madame, is there anything new to-day? Citizen, what say they of Bonaparte? Your shop appears to be well supplied. You surely have a great deal of custom. What do people say of that buffoon, Bonaparte?" He was made quite happy one day when we were obliged to retire hastily from a shop to avoid the attacks drawn upon us by the irreverent tone in which Bonaparte spoke of the First Consul.
War and monuments—Influence of the recollections of Egypt—
First improvements in Paris—Malmaison too little—St. Cloud taken
—The Pont des Arts—Business prescribed for me by Bonaparte—
Pecuniary remuneration—The First Consul's visit to the Pritanée—
His examination of the pupils—Consular pensions—Tragical death of
Miackzinski—Introduction of vaccination—Recall of the members of
the Constituent Assembly—The "canary" volunteers—Tronchet and
Target—Liberation of the Austrian prisoners—Longchamps and sacred
The destruction of men and the construction of monuments were two things perfectly in unison in the mind of Bonaparte. It may be said that his passion for monuments almost equalled his passion for war;
—[Take pleasure, if you can, in reading your returns. The good condition of my armies is owing to my devoting to them one or two hours in every day. When the monthly returns of my armies and of my fleets, which form twenty thick volumes, are sent to me, I give up every other occupation in order to read them in detail and to observe the difference between one monthly return and another. No young girl enjoys her novel so much as I do these returns! (Napoleon to Joseph, 20th August 1806—Du Casse, tome iii. p. 145).]—
but as in all things he disliked what was little and mean, so he liked vast constructions and great battles. The sight of the colossal ruins of the monuments of Egypt had not a little contributed to augment his natural taste for great structures. It was not so much the monuments themselves that he admired, but the historical recollections they perpetuate, the great names they consecrate, the important events they attest. What should he have cared for the column which we beheld on our arrival in Alexandria had it not been Pompey's pillar? It is for artists to admire or censure its proportions and ornaments, for men of learning to explain its inscriptions; but the name of Pompey renders it an object of interest to all.
When endeavouring to sketch the character of Bonaparte, I ought to have noticed his taste for monuments, for without this characteristic trait something essential is wanting to the completion of the portrait. This taste, or, as it may more properly be called, this passion for monuments, exercised no small influence on his thoughts and projects of glory; yet it did not deter him from directing attention to public improvements of a less ostentatious kind. He wished for great monuments to perpetuate the recollection of his glory; but at the same time he knew how to appreciate all that was truly useful. He could very rarely be reproached for rejecting any plan without examination; and this examination was a speedy affair, for his natural tact enabled him immediately to see things in their proper light.
Though most of the monuments and embellishments of Paris are executed from the plans of men of talent, yet some owe their origin to circumstances merely accidental. Of this I can mention an example.
I was standing at the window of Bonaparte's' cabinet, which looked into the garden of the Tuileries. He had gone out, and I took advantage of his absence to arise from my chair, for I was tired of sitting. He had scarcely been gone a minute when he unexpectedly returned to ask me for a paper. "What are you doing there, Bourrienne? I'll wager anything you are admiring the ladies walking on the terrace."—"Why, I must confess I do sometimes amuse myself in that way," replied I; "but I assure you, General, I was now thinking of something else. I was looking at that villainous left bank of the Seine, which always annoys me with the gaps in its dirty quay, and the floodings which almost every winter prevent communication with the Faubourg St. Germain; and I was thinking I would speak to you on the subject." He approached the window, and, looking out, said, "You are right, it is very ugly; and very offensive to see dirty linen washed before our windows. Here, write immediately: 'The quay of the École de Natation is to be finished during next campaign.' Send that order to the Minister of the Interior." The quay was finished the year following.
An instance of the enormous difference which frequently appears between the original estimates of architects and their subsequent accounts I may mention what occurred in relation to the Palace of St. Cloud. But I must first say a word about the manner in which Bonaparte originally refused and afterwards took possession of the Queen's pleasure-house. Malmaison was a suitable country residence for Bonaparte as long as he remained content with his town apartments in the little Luxembourg; but that Consular 'bagatelle' was too confined in comparison with the spacious apartments in the Tuileries. The inhabitants of St. Cloud, well-advised, addressed a petition to the Legislative Body, praying that their deserted chateau might be made the summer residence of the First Consul. The petition was referred to the Government; but Bonaparte, who was not yet Consul for life, proudly declared that so long as he was at the head of affairs, and, indeed, for a year afterwards, he would accept no national recompense. Sometime after we went to visit the palace of the 18th Brumaire. Bonaparte liked it exceedingly, but all was in a state of complete dilapidation. It bore evident marks of the Revolution. The First Consul did not wish, as yet, to burden the budget of the State with his personal expenses, and he was alarmed at the enormous sum required to render St. Cloud habitable. Flattery had not yet arrived at the degree of proficiency which it subsequently attained; but even then his flatterers boldly assured him he might take possession of St. Cloud for 25,000 francs. I told the First Consul that considering the ruinous state of the place, I could to say that the expense would amount to more than 1,200,000 francs. Bonaparte determined to have a regular estimate of the expense, and it amounted to nearly 3,000,000. He thought it a great sum; but as he had resolved to make St. Cloud his residence he gave orders for commencing the repairs, the expense of which, independently of the furniture, amounted to 6,000,000. So much for the 3,000,000 of the architect and the 25,000 francs of the flatterers.
When the First Consul contemplated the building of the Pont des Arts we had a long conversation on the subject. I observed that it would be much better to build the bridge of stone. "The first object of monuments of this kind," said I, "is public utility. They require solidity of appearance, and their principal merit is duration. I cannot conceive, General, why, in a country where there is abundance of fine stone of every quality, the use of iron should be preferred."—"Write," said Bonaparte, "to Fontaine and Percier, the architects, and ask what they think of it." I wrote and they stated in their answer that "bridges were intended for public utility and the embellishment of cities. The projected bridge between the Louvre and the Quatre-Nations would unquestionably fulfil the first of these objects, as was proved by the great number of persons who daily crossed the Seine at that point in boats; that the site fixed upon between the Pont Neuf and the Tuileries appeared to be the best that could be chosen for the purpose; and that on the score of ornament Paris would gain little by the construction of an iron bridge, which would be very narrow, and which, from its light form, would not correspond with the grandeur of the two bridges between which it would be placed."
When we had received the answer of MM. Percier and Fontaine, we again had a conversation on the subject of the bridge. I told the First Consul that I perfectly concurred in the opinion of MM. Fontaine and Percier; however, he would have his own way, and thus was authorised the construction of the toy which formed a communication between the Louvre and the Institute. But no sooner was the Pont des Arts finished than Bonaparte pronounced it to be mean and out of keeping with the other bridges above and below it. One day when visiting the Louvre he stopped at one of the windows looking towards the Pont des Arts and said, "There is no solidity, no grandeur about that bridge. In England, where stone is scarce, it is very natural that iron should be used for arches of large dimensions. But the case is different in France, where the requisite material is abundant."
The infernal machine of the 3d Nivôse, of which I shall presently speak more at length, was the signal for vast changes in the quarter of the Tuileries. That horrible attempt was at least so far attended by happy results that it contributed to the embellishment of Paris. It was thought more advisable for the Government to buy and pull down the houses which had been injured by the machine than to let them be put under repair. As an example of Bonaparte's grand schemes in building I may mention that, being one day at the Louvre, he pointed towards St. Germain l'Auxerrois and said to me, "That is where I will build an imperial street. It shall run from here to the Barrière du Trône. It shall be a hundred feet broad, and have arcades and plantations. This street shall be the finest in the world."
The palace of the King of Rome, which was to face the Pont de Jena and the Champ de Mars, would have been in some measure isolated from Paris, with which, however, it was to be connected by a line of palaces. These were to extend along the quay, and were destined as splendid residences for the Ambassadors of foreign sovereigns, at least as long as there should be any sovereigns in Europe except Napoleon. The Temple of Glory, too, which was to occupy the site of the Church of la Madeleine, was never finished. If the plan of this monument proved the necessity. which Bonaparte felt of constantly holding out stimulants to his soldiers, its relinquishment was at least a proof of his wisdom. He who had reestablished religious worship in France, and had restored to its destination the church of the Invalides, which was for a time metamorphosed into the Temple of Mars, foresaw that a Temple of Glory would give birth to a sort of paganism incompatible with the ideas of the age.
The recollection of the magnificent Necropolis of Cairo frequently recurred to Bonaparte's mind. He had admired that city of the dead, which he had partly contributed to people; and his design was to make, at the four cardinal points of Paris, four vast cemeteries on the plan of that at Cairo.
Bonaparte determined that all the new streets of Paris should be 40 feet wide, and be provided with foot-pavements; in short, he thought nothing too grand for the embellishment of the capital of a country which he wished to make the first in the world. Next to war, he regarded the embellishment of Paris as the source of his glory; and he never considered a victory fully achieved until he had raised a monument to transmit its memory to posterity. He, wanted glory, uninterrupted glory, for France as well as for himself. How often, when talking over his schemes, has he not said, "Bourrienne, it is for France I am doing all this! All I wish, all I desire, the end of all my labours is, that my name should be indissolubly connected with that of France!"
Paris is not the only city, nor is France the only kingdom, which bears traces of Napoleon's passion for great and useful monuments. In Belgium, in Holland, in Piedmont, in all Italy, he executed great improvements. At Turin a splendid bridge was built over the Po, in lieu of an old bridge which was falling in ruins.
How many things were undertaken and executed in Napoleon's short and eventful reign! To obviate the difficulty of communication between Metz and Mayence a magnificent road was made, as if by magic, across impracticable marshes and vast forests. Mountains were cut through and ravines filled up. He would not allow nature more than man to resist him. One day when he was proceeding to Belgium by the way of Givet, he was detained for a short time at Little Givet, on the right bank of the Meuse, in consequence of an accident which happened to the ferry-boat. He was within a gunshot of the fortress of Charlemont, on the left bank, and in the vexation which the delay occasioned he dictated the following decree: "A bridge shall be built over the Meuse to join Little Givet to Great Givet. It shall be terminated during the ensuing campaign." It was completed within the prescribed time. In the great work of bridges and highways Bonaparte's chief object was to remove the obstacles and barriers which nature had raised up as the limits of old France so as to form a junction with the provinces which he successively annexed to the Empire. Thus in Savoy a road, smooth as a garden-walk, superseded the dangerous ascents and descents of the wood of Bramant; thus was the passage of Mont Cenis a pleasant promenade at almost every season of the year; thus did the Simplon bow his head, and Bonaparte might have said, "There are now my Alps," with more reason than Louis XIV. said, "There are now no Pyrenees."
—[Metternich (tome iv. p. 187) says on this subject, 'If you look closely at the course of human affairs you will make strange discoveries. For instance, that the Simplon Pass has contributed as surely to Napoleon's immortality as the numerous works done in the reign of the Emperor Francis will fail to add to his.]—
Such was the implicit confidence which Bonaparte reposed in me that I was often alarmed at the responsibility it obliged me to incur.
—[Of this confidence the following instructions for me, which he
dictated to Duroc, afford sufficient proof:—
"1st. Citizen Bourrienne shall open all the letters addressed to the First Consul, Vol, and present them to him three times a day, or oftener in case of urgent business. The letters shall be deposited in the cabinet when they are opened. Bourrienne is to analyse all those which are of secondary interest, and write the First Consul's decision on each letter. The hours for presenting the letters shall be, first, when the Consul rises; second, a quarter of an hour before dinner; and third, at eleven at night.
"2d. He is to have the superintendence of the Topographical office, and of an office of Translation, in which there shall be a German and an English clerk. Every day he shall present to the First Consul, at the hours above mentioned the German and English journals, together with a translation. With respect to the Italian journals, it will only be necessary to mark what the First Consul is to read.
"3d. He shall keep a register of appointments to offices under Government; a second, for appointments to judicial posts; a third for appointments to places abroad; and a fourth, for the situations of receivers and great financial posts, where he is to inscribe the names of all the individuals whom the First Consul may refer to him. These registers must be written by his own hand, and must be kept entirely private.
"4th. Secret correspondence, and the different reports of surveillance, are to be addressed directly to Bourrienne, and transmitted by him to the hand of the First Consul, by whom they will be returned without the intervention of any third party.
"6th. There shall be a register for all that relates to secret extraordinary expenditure. Bourrienne shall write the whole with his own hand, in order that the business may be kept from the knowledge of any one.
"7th. He shall despatch all the business which may be referred to him, either from Citizen Duroc, or from the cabinet of the First Consul, taking care to arrange everything so as to secure secrecy.
"(Signed) "BONAPARTE, First Council.
"Paris, 13th Germinal, year VIII. "(3d. April 1800.)"]—
Official business was not the only labour that devolved upon me. I had to write to the dictation of the First Consul during a great part of the day, or to decipher his writing, which was always the most laborious part of my duty. I was so closely employed that I scarcely ever went out; and when by chance I dined in town, I could not arrive until the very moment of dinner, and I was obliged to run away immediately after it. Once a month, at most, I went without Bonaparte to the Comédie Française, but I was obliged to return at nine o'clock, that being the hour at which we resumed business. Corvisart, with whom I was intimately acquainted, constantly expressed his apprehensions about my health; but my zeal carried me through every difficulty, and during our stay at the Tuileries I cannot express how happy I was in enjoying the unreserved confidence of the man on whom the eyes of all Europe were filed. So perfect was this confidence that Bonaparte, neither as General, Consul, nor Emperor, ever gave me any fixed salary. In money matters we were still comrades: I took from his funds what was necessary to defray my expenses, and of this Bonaparte never once asked me for any account.
He often mentioned his wish to regenerate public education, which he thought was ill managed. The central schools did not please him; but he could not withhold his admiration from the Polytechnic School, the finest establishment of education that was ever founded, but which he afterwards spoiled by giving it a military organisation. In only one college of Paris the old system of study was preserved: this was the Louis-le-Grand, which had received the name of Pritanée. The First Consul directed the Minister of the Interior to draw up a report on that establishment; and he himself went to pay an unexpected visit to the Pritanée, accompanied by M. Lebrun and Duroc. He remained there upwards of an hour, and in the evening he spoke to me with much interest on the subject of his visit. "Do you know, Bourrienne," said he, "that I have been performing the duties of professor?"—"You, General!"—"Yes! and I did not acquit myself badly. I examined the pupils in the mathematical class; and I recollected enough of my Bezout to make some demonstrations before them. I went everywhere, into the bedrooms and the dining-room. I tasted the soup, which is better than we used to have at Brienne. I must devote serious attention to public education and the management of the colleges. The pupils must have a uniform. I observed some well and others ill dressed. That will not do. At college, above all places, there should be equality. But I was much pleased with the pupils of the Pritanée. I wish to know the names of those I examined, and I have desired Duroc to report them to me. I will give them rewards; that stimulates young people. I will provide for some of them."
On this subject Bonaparte did not confine himself to an empty scheme. After consulting with the headmaster of the Pritanée, he granted pensions of 200 francs to seven or eight of the most distinguished pupils of the establishment, and he placed three of them in the department of Foreign Affairs, under the title of diplomatic pupils.
—[This institution of diplomatic pupils was originally suggested by
M. de Talleyrand.]—
What I have just said respecting the First Consul's visit to the Pritanée reminds me of a very extraordinary circumstance which arose out of it. Among the pupils at the Pritanée there was a son of General Miackzinski, who died fighting under the banners of the Republic. Young Miackzinski was then sixteen or seventeen years of age. He soon quitted the college, entered the army as a volunteer, and was one of a corps reviewed by Bonaparte, in the plain of Sablons. He was pointed out to the First Consul, who said to him, "I knew your father. Follow his example, and in six months you shall be an officer." Six months elapsed, and Miackzinski wrote to the First Consul, reminding him of his promise. No answer was returned, and the young man then wrote a second letter as follows:
You desired me to prove myself worthy of my father; I have done so. You promised that I should be an officer in six months; seven have elapsed since that promise was made. When you receive this letter I shall be no more. I cannot live under a Government the head of which breaks his word.
Poor Miackzinski kept his word but too faithfully. After writing the above letter to the First Consul he retired to his chamber and blew out his brains with a pistol. A few days after this tragical event Miackzinski's commission was transmitted to his corps, for Bonaparte had not forgotten him. A delay in the War Office had caused the death of this promising young man. Bonaparte was much affected at the circumstance, and he said to me, "These Poles have such refined notions of honour…. Poor Sulkowski, I am sure, would have done the same."
At the commencement of the Consulate it was gratifying to see how actively Bonaparte was seconded in the execution of plans for the social regeneration of France; all seemed animated with new life, and every one strove to do good as if it were a matter of competition.
Every circumstance concurred to favour the good intentions of the First Consul. Vaccination, which, perhaps, has saved as many lives as war has sacrificed, was introduced into France by M. d Liancourt; and Bonaparte, immediately appreciating the value of such a discovery, gave it his decided approbation. At the same time a council of Prizes was established, and the old members of the Constituent Assembly were invited to return to France. It was for their sake and that of the Royalists that the First Consul recalled them, but it was to please the Jacobins, whom he was endeavouring to conciliate, that their return was subject to restrictions. At first the invitation to return to France extended only to those who could prove that they had voted in favour of the abolition of nobility. The lists of emigrants were closed, and committees were appointed to investigate their claims to the privilege of returning.
From the commencement of the month of Germinal the reorganisation of the army of Italy had proceeded with renewed activity. The presence in Paris of the fine corps of the Consular Guard, added to the desire of showing themselves off in gay uniforms, had stimulated the military ardour of many respectable young men of the capital. Taking advantage of this circumstance the First Consul created a corps of volunteers destined for the army of reserve, which was to remain at Dijon. He saw the advantage of connecting a great number of families with his cause, and imbuing them with the spirit of the army. This volunteer corps wore a yellow uniform which, in some of the salons of Paris where it was still the custom to ridicule everything, obtained for them the nickname of "canaries." Bonaparte, who did not always relish a joke, took this in very ill part, and often expressed to me his vexation at it. However, he was gratified to observe in the composition of this corps a first specimen of privileged soldiers; an idea which he acted upon when he created the orderly gendarmes in the campaign of Jena, and when he organised the guards of honour after the disasters of Moscow.
In every action of his life Bonaparte had some particular object in view. I recollect his saying to me one day, "Bourrienne, I cannot yet venture to do anything against the regicides; but I will let them see what I think of them. To-morrow I shall have some business with Abrial respecting the organisation of the court of Cassation. Target, who is the president of that court, would not defend Louis XVI. Well, whom do you think I mean to appoint in his place? . . . Tronchet, who did defend the king. They may say what they please; I care not."
—[On this, as on many other occasions, the cynicism of Bonaparte's language does not admit of a literal translation.]—
Tronchet was appointed.
Nearly about the same time the First Consul, being informed of the escape of General Mack, said to me, "Mack may go where he pleases; I am not afraid of him. But I will tell you what I have been thinking. There are some other Austrian officers who were prisoners with Mack; among the number is a Count Dietrichstein, who belongs to a great family in Vienna. I will liberate them all. At the moment of opening a campaign this will have a good effect. They will see that I fear nothing; and who knows but this may procure me some admirers in Austria." The order for liberating the Austrian prisoners was immediately despatched. Thus Bonaparte's acts of generosity, as well as his acts of severity and his choice of individuals, were all the result of deep calculation.
This unvarying attention to the affairs of the Government was manifest in all he did. I have already mentioned the almost simultaneous suppression of the horrible commemoration of the month of January, and the permission for the revival of the opera balls. A measure something similar to this was the authorisation of the festivals of Longchamps, which had been forgotten since the Revolution. He at the same time gave permission for sacred music to be performed at the opera. Thus, while in public acts he maintained the observance of the Republican calendar, he was gradually reviving the old calendar by seasons of festivity. Shrove-Tuesday was marked by a ball, and Passion-week by promenades and concerts.
The Memorial of St. Helena—Louis XVIII.'s first letter to Bonaparte
—Josephine, Hortense, and the Faubourg St. Germain—
Madame Bonaparte and the fortune-teller—Louis XVIII's second letter
—Bonaparte's answer—Conversation respecting the recall of Louis
XVIII.—Peace and war—A battle fought with pins—Genoa and Melas—
Realisation of Bonaparte's military plans—Ironical letter to
Berthier—Departure from Paris—Instructions to Lucien and
Cambacérès—Joseph Bonaparte appointed Councillor of State—
Travelling conversation—Alexander and Caesar judged by Bonaparte.
It sometimes happens that an event which passes away unnoticed at the time of its occurrence acquires importance from events which subsequently ensue. This reflection naturally occurs to my mind now that I am about to notice the correspondence which passed between Louis XVIII. and the First Consul. This is certainly not one of the least interesting passages in the life of Bonaparte.
But I must first beg leave to make an observation on the 'Memorial of St. Helena.' That publication relates what Bonaparte said respecting the negotiations between Louis XVIII. and himself; and I find it necessary to quote a few lines on the subject, in order to show how far the statements contained in the Memorial differ from the autograph letters in my possession.
At St. Helena Napoleon said that he never thought of the princes of the House of Bourbon. This is true to a certain point. He did not think of the princes of the House of Bourbon with the view of restoring them to their throne; but it has been shown, in several parts of these Memoirs, that he thought of them very often, and on more than one occasion their very names alarmed him.
—[The Memorial states that "A letter was delivered to the First Consul by Lebrun who received it from the Abbé de Montesquieu, the secret agent of the Bourbons in Paris." This letter which was very cautiously written, said:—
"You are long delaying the restoration of my throne. It is to be feared you are suffering favourable moments to escape. You cannot secure the happiness of France without me, and I can do nothing for France without you. Hasten, then, to name the offices which you would choose for your friends."
The answer, Napoleon said, was as follows:—
"I have received your royal highness' letter. I have always taken a lively interest in your misfortunes, and those of your family. You must not think of appearing in France; you could only return here by trampling over a hundred thousand dead bodies. I shall always be happy to do anything that can alleviate your fate and help to banish the recollection of your misfortunes."—Bourrienne.]—
The substance of the two letters given in the 'Memorial of St. Helena' is correct. The ideas are nearly the same as those of the original letters. But it is not surprising that, after the lapse of so long an interval, Napoleon's memory should somewhat have failed him. However, it will not, I presume, be deemed unimportant if I present to the reader literal copies of this correspondence; together with the explanation of some curious circumstances connected with it.
The following is Louis XVIII's letter:—
SIR—Whatever may be their apparent conduct, men like you never inspire alarm. You have accepted an eminent station, and I thank you for having done so. You know better than any one how much strength and power are requisite to secure the happiness of a great nation. Save France from her own violence, and you will fulfil the first wish of my heart. Restore her King to her, and future generations will bless your memory. You will always be too necessary to the State for me ever to be able to discharge, by important appointments, the debt of my family and myself.
The First Consul was much agitated on the reception of this letter. Though he every day declared his determination to have nothing to do with the Princes, yet he hesitated whether or no he should reply to this overture. The numerous affairs which then occupied his mind favoured this hesitation. Josephine and Hortense conjured him to hold out hope to the King, as by so doing he would in no way pledge himself, and would gain time to ascertain whether he could not ultimately play a far greater part than that of Monk. Their entreaties became so urgent that he said to me, "These devils of women are mad! The Faubourg St. Germain has turned their heads! They make the Faubourg the guardian angel of the royalists; but I care not; I will have nothing to do with them."
Madame Bonaparte said she was anxious he should adopt the step she proposed in order to banish from his mind all thought of making himself King. This idea always gave rise to a painful foreboding which she could never overcome.
In the First Consul's numerous conversations with me he discussed with admirable sagacity Louis XVIII.'s proposition and its consequences. "The partisans of the Bourbons," said he, "are deceived if they suppose I am the man to play Monk's part." Here the matter rested, and the King's letter remained on the table. In the interim Louis XVIII. wrote a second letter, without any date. It was as follows:
You must have long since been convinced, General, that you possess my esteem. If you doubt my gratitude, fix your reward and mark out the fortune of your friends. As to my principles, I am a Frenchman, merciful by character, and also by the dictates of reason.
No, the victor of Lodi, Castiglione, and Arcola, the conqueror of Italy and Egypt, cannot prefer vain celebrity to real glory. But you are losing precious time. We may ensure the glory of France.
I say we, because I require the aid of Bonaparte, and he can do
nothing without me.
General, Europe observes you. Glory awaits you, and I am impatient
to restore peace to my people.
This dignified letter the First Consul suffered to remain unanswered for several weeks; at length he proposed to dictate an answer to me. I observed, that as the King's letters were autographs, it would be more proper that he should write himself. He then wrote with his own hand the following:
Sir—I have received your letter, and I thank you for the
compliments you address to me.
You must not seek to return to France. To do so you must trample
over a hundred thousand dead bodies.
Sacrifice your interest to the repose and happiness of France, and
history will render you justice.
I am not insensible to the misfortunes of your family. I shall
learn with pleasure, and shall willingly contribute to ensure, the
tranquillity of your retirement.
He showed me this letter, saying, "What do you think of it? is it not good? "He was never offended when I pointed out to him an error of grammar or style, and I therefore replied, "As to the substance, if such be your resolution, I have nothing to say against it; but," added I, "I must make one observation on the style. You cannot say that you shall learn with pleasure to ensure, etc." On reading the passage over again he thought he had pledged himself too far in saying that he would willingly contribute, etc. He therefore scored out the last sentence, and interlined, "I shall contribute with pleasure to the happiness and tranquillity of your retirement."
The answer thus scored and interlined could not be sent off, and it lay on the table with Bonaparte's signature affixed to it.
Some time after he wrote another answer, the three first paragraphs of which were exactly alike that first quoted; but far the last paragraph he substituted the following
"I am not insensible to the misfortunes of your family; and I shall learn with pleasure that you are surrounded with all that can contribute to the tranquillity of your retirement."
By this means he did not pledge himself in any way, not even in words, for he himself made no offer of contributing to the tranquillity of the retirement. Every day which augmented his power and consolidated his position diminished, he thought, the chances of the Bourbons; and seven months were suffered to intervene between the date of the King's first letter and the answer of the First Consul, which was written on the 2d Vendemiaire, year IX. (24th September 1800) just when the Congress of Luneville was on the point of opening.
Some days after the receipt of Louis XVIII.'s letter we were walking in the gardens of Malmaison; he was in good humour, for everything was going on to his mind. "Has my wife been saying anything more to you about the Bourbons?" said he.—"No, General."—"But when you converse with her you concur a little in her opinions. Tell me why you wish the Bourbons back? You have no interest in their return, nothing to expect from them. Your family rank is not high enough to enable you to obtain any great post. You would be nothing under them. Through the patronage of M. de Chambonas you got the appointment of Secretary of Legation at Stuttgart; but had it not been for the change you would have remained all your life in that or some inferior post. Did you ever know men rise by their own merit under kings? Everything depends on birth, connection, fortune, and intrigue. Judge things more accurately; reflect more maturely on the future."—"General," replied I, "I am quite of your opinion on one point. I never received gift, place, or favour from the Bourbons; and I have not the vanity to believe that I should ever have attained any important Appointment. But you must not forget that my nomination as Secretary of Legation at Stuttgart preceded the overthrow of the throne only by a few days; and I cannot infer, from what took place under circumstances unfortunately too certain, what might have happened in the reverse case. Besides, I am not actuated by personal feelings; I consider not my own interests, but those of France. I wish you to hold the reins of government as long as you live; but you have no children, and it is tolerably certain that you will have none by Josephine. What will become of us when you are gone? You talk of the future; but what will be the future fate of France? I have often heard you say that your brothers are not—"—"You are right," said he, abruptly interrupting me. "If I do not live thirty years to complete my work you will have a long series of civil wars after my death. My brothers will not suit France; you know what they are. A violent conflict will therefore arise among the most distinguished generals, each of whom will think himself entitled to succeed me."—"Well, General, why not take means to obviate the mischief you foresee?"—"Do you imagine I do not think of it? But look at the difficulties that stand in my way. How are so many acquired rights and material results to be secured against the efforts of a family restored to power, and returning with 80,000 emigrants and the influence of fanaticism? What would become of those who voted for the death of the King—the men who acted a conspicuous part in the Revolution—the national domains, and a multitude of things that have been done during twelve years? Can you see how far reaction would extend?"—"General, need I remind you that Louis, in his letter, guarantees the contrary of all you apprehend? I know what will be your answer; but are you not able to impose whatever conditions you may think fit? Grant what is asked of you only at that price. Take three or four years; in that time you may ensure the happiness of France by institutions conformable to her wants. Custom and habit would give them a power which it would not be easy to destroy; and even supposing such a design were entertained, it could not be accomplished. I have heard you say it is wished you should act the part of Monk; but you well know the difference between a general opposing the usurper of a crown, and one whom victory and peace have raised above the ruins of a subverted throne, and who restores it voluntarily to those who have long occupied it. You are well aware what you call ideology will not again be revived; and—"—"I know what you are going to say; but it all amounts to nothing. Depend upon it, the Bourbons will think they have reconquered their inheritance, and will dispose of it as they please. The most sacred pledges, the most positive promises, will be violated. None but fools will trust them. My resolution is formed; therefore let us say no more on the subject. But I know how these women torment you. Let them mind their knitting, and leave me to do what I think right."
Every one knows the adage, 'Si vis pacem para bellum'. Had Bonaparte been a Latin scholar he would probably have reversed it and said, 'Si vis bellum para pacem'. While seeking to establish pacific relations with the powers of Europe the First Consul was preparing to strike a great blow in Italy. As long as Genoa held out, and Massena continued there, Bonaparte did not despair of meeting the Austrians in those fields which not four years before had been the scenes of his success. He resolved to assemble an army of reserve at Dijon. Where there was previously nothing he created everything. At that period of his life the fertility of his imagination and the vigour of his genius must have commanded the admiration of even his bitterest enemies. I was astonished at the details into which he entered. While every moment was engrossed by the most important occupations he sent 24,000 francs to the hospital of Mont St. Bernard. When he saw that his army of reserve was forming, and everything was going on to his liking, he said to me, "I hope to fall on the rear of Melas before he is aware I am in Italy . . . that is to say, provided Genoa holds out. But MASSENA is defending it."
On the 17th of March, in a moment of gaiety and good humour, he desired me to unroll Chauchard's great map of Italy. He lay down upon it, and desired me to do likewise. He then stuck into it pins, the heads of which were tipped with wax, some red and some black. I silently observed him; and awaited with no little curiosity the result of this plan of campaign. When he had stationed the enemy's corps, and drawn up the pins with red heads on the points where he hoped to bring his own troops, he said to me, "Where do you think I shall beat Melas?"—"How the devil should I know?"—"Why, look here, you fool! Melas is at Alessandria with his headquarters. There he will remain until Genoa surrenders. He has in Alessandria his magazines, his hospitals, his artillery, and his reserves. Crossing the Alps here (pointing to the Great Mont St. Bernard) I shall fall upon Melas, cut off his communications with Austria, and meet him here in the plains of Scrivia" (placing a red, pin at San Giuliano). Finding that I looked on this manoeuvre of pins as mere pastime, he addressed to me some of his usual compliments, such as fool, ninny, etc., and then proceeded to demonstrate his plans more clearly on the map. At the expiration of a quarter of an hour we rose; I folded up the map, and thought no more of the matter.
Four months after this, when I was at San Giuliano with Bonaparte's portfolio and despatches, which I had saved from the rout which had taken place during the day, and when that very evening I was writing at Torre di Galifolo the bulletin of the battle to Napoleon's dictation, I frankly avowed my admiration of his military plans. He himself smiled at the accuracy of his own foresight.
The First Consul was not satisfied with General Berthier as War Minister, and he superseded him by Carnot,
—[There were special reasons for the appointment of Carnot, Berthier was required with his master in Italy, while Carnot, who had so long ruled the armies of the Republic, was better fitted to influence Moreau, at this time advancing into Germany. Carnot probably fulfilled the main object of his appointment when he was sent to Moreau, and succeeded in getting that general, with natural reluctance, to damage his own campaign by detaching a large body of troops into Italy. Berthier was reappointed to the Ministry on the 8th of October 1800,—a very speedy return if he had really been disgraced.]—
who had given great proofs of firmness and integrity, but who, nevertheless, was no favourite of Bonaparte, on account of his decided republican principles. Berthier was too slow in carrying out the measures ordered, [duplicated line removed here D.W.] and too lenient in the payment of past charges and in new contracts. Carnot's appointment took place on the 2d of April 1800; and to console Berthier, who, he knew, was more at home in the camp than in the office, he dictated to me the following letter for him:—
PARIS, 2d April 1800.
CITIZEN-GENERAL,—The military talents of which you have given so many proofs, and the confidence of the Government, call you to the command of an army. During the winter you have REORGANISED the War Department, and you have provided, as far as circumstances would permit, for the wants of our armies. During the spring and summer it must be your task to lead our troops to victory, which is the effectual means of obtaining peace and consolidating the Republic.
Bonaparte laughed heartily while he dictated this epistle, especially when he uttered the word which I have marked in italics [CAPS]. Berthier set out for Dijon, where he commenced the formation of the army of reserve.
The Consular Constitution did not empower the First Consul to command an army out of the territory of France. Bonaparte therefore wished to keep secret his long-projected plan of placing himself at the head of the army of Italy, which he then for the first time called the grand army. I observed that by his choice of Berthier nobody could be deceived, because it must be evident that he would have made another selection had he not intended to command in person. He laughed at my observation.
Our departure from Paris was fixed for the 6th of May, or, according to the republican calendar, the 16th Floréal. Bonaparte had made all his arrangements and issued all his orders; but still he did not wish it to be known that he was going to take the command of the army. On the eve of our departure, being in conference with the two other Consuls and the Ministers, he said to Lucien, "Prepare, to-morrow morning, a circular to the prefects, and you, Fouché, will publish it in the journals. Say I am gone to Dijon to inspect the army of reserve. You may add that I shall perhaps go as far as Geneva; but you must affirm positively that I shall not be absent longer than a fortnight. You, Cambacérès, will preside to- morrow at the Council of State. In my absence you are the Head of the Government. State that my absence will be but of short duration, but specify nothing. Express my approbation of the Council of State; it has already rendered great services, and I shall be happy to see it continue in the course it has hitherto pursued. Oh! I had nearly forgotten—you will at the same time announce that I have appointed Joseph a Councillor of State. Should anything happen I shall be back again like a thunderbolt. I recommend to you all the great interests of France, and I trust that I shall shortly be talked of in Vienna and in London."
We set out at two in the morning, taking the Burgundy road, which we had already so often travelled under very different circumstances.
On the journey Bonaparte conversed about the warriors of antiquity, especially Alexander, Caesar, Scipio, and Hannibal. I asked him which he preferred, Alexander or Caesar. "I place Alexander in the first rank," said he, "yet I admire Caesar's fine campaign in Africa. But the ground of my preference for the King of Macedonia is the plan, and above all the execution, of his campaign in Asia. Only those who are utterly ignorant of war can blame Alexander for having spent seven months at the siege of Tyre. For my part, I would have stayed there seven years had it been necessary. This is a great subject of dispute; but I look upon the siege of Tyre, the conquest of Egypt, and the journey to the Oasis of Ammon as a decided proof of the genius of that great captain. His object was to give the King of Persia (of whose force he had only beaten a feeble advance-guard at the Granicus and Issus) time to reassemble his troops, so that he might overthrow at a blow the colossus which he had as yet only shaken. By pursuing Darius into his states Alexander would have separated himself from his reinforcements, and would have met only scattered parties of troops who would have drawn him into deserts where his army would have been sacrificed. By persevering in the taking of Tyre he secured his communications with Greece, the country he loved as dearly as I love France, and in whose glory he placed his own. By taking possession of the rich province of Egypt he forced Darius to come to defend or deliver it, and in so doing to march half-way to meet him. By representing himself as the son of Jupiter he worked upon the ardent feelings of the Orientals in a way that powerfully seconded his designs. Though he died at thirty-three what a name he has left behind him!"
Though an utter stranger to the noble profession of arms, yet I could admire Bonaparte's clever military plans and his shrewd remarks on the great captains of ancient and modern times. I could not refrain from saying, "General, you often reproach me for being no flatterer, but now I tell you plainly I admire you." And certainly, I really spoke the true sentiments of my mind.