By LOUIS ANTOINE FAUVELET DE BOURRIENNE
His Private Secretary
Edited by R. W. Phipps
Colonel, Late Royal Artillery
CHAPTER XIX. to CHAPTER XXVI. 1803-1804
Mr. Pitt—Motive of his going out of office—Error of the English
Government—Pretended regard for the Bourbons—Violation of the
treaty of Amiens—Reciprocal accusations—Malta—Lord Whitworth's
departure—Rome and Carthage—Secret satisfaction of Bonaparte—
Message to the Senate, the Legislative Body, and the Tribunate—
The King of England's renunciation of the title of King of France—
Complaints of the English Government—French agents in British ports
—Views of France upon Turkey—Observation made by Bonaparte to the
Legislative Body—Its false interpretation—Conquest of Hanover—
The Duke of Cambridge caricatured—The King of England and the
Elector of Hanover—First address to the clergy—Use of the word
"Monsieur"—The Republican weeks and months.
One of the circumstances which foretold the brief duration of the peace of Amiens was, that Mr. Pitt was out of office at the time of its conclusion. I mentioned this to Bonaparte, and I immediately perceived by his hasty "What do you say?" that my observation had been heard—but not liked. It did not, however, require any extraordinary shrewdness to see the true motive of Mr. Pitt's retirement. That distinguished statesman conceived that a truce under the name of a peace was indispensable for England; but, intending to resume the war with France more fiercely than ever, he for a while retired from office, and left to others the task of arranging the peace; but his intention was to mark his return to the ministry by the renewal of the implacable hatred he had vowed against France. Still, I have always thought that the conclusion of peace, however necessary to England, was an error of the Cabinet of London. England alone had never before acknowledged any of the governments which had risen up in France since the Revolution; and as the past could not be blotted out, a future war, however successful to England, could not take from Bonaparte's Government the immense weight it had acquired by an interval of peace. Besides, by the mere fact of the conclusion of the treaty England proved to all Europe that the restoration of the Bourbons was merely a pretext, and she defaced that page of her history which might have shown that she was actuated by nobler and more generous sentiments than mere hatred of France. It is very certain that the condescension of England in treating with the First Consul had the effect of rallying round him a great many partisans of the Bourbons, whose hopes entirely depended on the continuance of war between Great Britain and France. This opened the eyes of the greater number, namely, those who could not see below the surface, and were not previously aware that the demonstrations of friendship so liberally made to the Bourbons by the European Cabinets, and especially by England, were merely false pretences, assumed for the purpose of disguising, beneath the semblance of honourable motives, their wish to injure France, and to oppose her rapidly increasing power.
When the misunderstanding took place, France and England might have mutually reproached each other, but justice was apparently on the side of France. It was evident that England, by refusing to evacuate Malta, was guilty of a palpable infraction of the treaty of Amiens, while England could only institute against France what in the French law language is called a suit or process of tendency. But it must be confessed that this tendency on the part of France to augment her territory was very evident, for the Consular decrees made conquests more promptly than the sword. The union of Piedmont with France had changed the state of Europe. This union, it is true, was effected previously to the treaty of Amiens; but it was not so with the states of Parma and Piacenza, Bonaparte having by his sole authority constituted himself the heir of the Grand Duke, recently deceased. It may therefore be easily imagined how great was England's uneasiness at the internal prosperity of France and the insatiable ambition of her ruler; but it is no less certain that, with respect to Malta, England acted with decidedly bad faith; and this bad faith appeared in its worst light from the following circumstance:— It had been stipulated that England should withdraw her troops from Malta three months after the signing of the treaty, yet more than a year had elapsed, and the troops were still there. The order of Malta was to be restored as it formerly was; that is to say, it was to be a sovereign and independent order, under the protection of the Holy See. The three Cabinets of Vienna, Berlin, and St. Petersburg were to guarantee the execution of the treaty of Amiens. The English Ambassador, to excuse the evasions of his Government, pretended that the Russian Cabinet concurred with England in the delayed fulfilment of the conditions of the treaty; but at the very moment he was making that excuse a courier arrived from the Cabinet of St. Petersburg bearing despatches completely, at variance with the assertion of Lord Whitworth. His lordship left Paris on the night of the 12th May 1803, and the English Government, unsolicited, sent passports to the French embassy in London. The news of this sudden rupture made the English console fall four per cent., but did not immediately produce such a retrograde effect on the French funds, which were then quoted at fifty-five francs;—a very high point, when it is recollected that they were at seven or eight francs on the eve of the 18th Brumaire.
In this state of things France proposed to the English Government to admit of the mediation of Russia; but as England had declared war in order to repair the error she committed in concluding peace, the proposition was of course rejected. Thus the public gave the First Consul credit for great moderation and a sincere wish for peace. Thus arose between England and France a contest resembling those furious wars which marked the reigns of King John and Charles VII. Our beaux esprits drew splendid comparisons between the existing state of things and the ancient rivalry of Carthage and Rome, and sapiently concluded that, as Carthage fell, England must do so likewise.
Bonaparte was at St. Cloud when Lord Whitworth left Paris. A fortnight was spent in useless attempts to renew negotiations. War, therefore, was the only alternative. Before he made his final preparations the First Consul addressed a message to the Senate, the Legislative Body, and the Tribunate. In this message he mentioned the recall of the English Ambassador, the breaking out of hostilities, the unexpected message of the King of England to his Parliament, and the armaments which immediately ensued in the British ports. "In vain," he said, "had France tried every means to induce England to abide by the treaty. She had repelled every overture, and increased the insolence of her demands. France," he added, "will not submit to menaces, but will combat for the faith of treaties, and the honour of the French name, confidently trusting that the result of the contest will be such as she has a right to expect from the justice of her cause and the courage of her people."
This message was dignified, and free from that vein of boasting in which Bonaparte so frequently indulged. The reply of the Senate was accompanied by a vote of a ship of the line, to be paid for out of the Senatorial salaries. With his usual address Bonaparte, in acting for himself, spoke in the name of the people, just as he did in the question of the Consulate for life. But what he then did for his own interests turned to the future interests of the Bourbons. The very treaty which had just been broken off gave rise to a curious observation. Bonaparte, though not yet a sovereign, peremptorily required the King of England to renounce the empty title of King of France, which was kept up as if to imply that old pretensions were not yet renounced. The proposition was acceded to, and to this circumstance was owing the disappearance of the title of King of France from among the titles of the King of England, when the treaty of Paris was concluded on the return of the Bourbons.
The first grievance complained of by England was the prohibition of English merchandise, which had been more rigid since the peace than during the war. The avowal of Great Britain on this point might well have enabled her to dispense with any other subject of complaint; for the truth is, she was alarmed at the aspect of our internal prosperity, and at the impulse given to our manufactures. The English Government had hoped to obtain from the First Consul such a commercial treaty as would have proved a death-blow to our rising trade; but Bonaparte opposed this, and from the very circumstance of his refusal he might easily have foreseen the rupture at which he affected to be surprised. What I state I felt at the time, when I read with great interest all the documents relative to this great dispute between the two rival nations, which eleven years afterwards was decided before the walls of Paris.
It was evidently disappointment in regard to a commercial treaty which created the animosity of the English Government, as that circumstance was alluded to, by way of reproach, in the King of England's declaration. In that document it was complained that France had sent a number of persona into the ports of Great Britain and Ireland in the character of commercial agents, which character, and the privileges belonging to it, they could only have acquired by a commercial treaty. Such was, in my opinion, the real cause of the complaints of England; but as it would have seemed too absurd to make it the ground of a declaration of war, she enumerated other grievances, viz., the union of Piedmont and of the states of Parma and Piacenza with France, and the continuance of the French troops in Holland. A great deal was said about the views and projects of France with respect to Turkey, and this complaint originated in General Sebastiani's mission to Egypt. On that point I can take upon me to say that the English Government was not misinformed. Bonaparte too frequently spoke to are of his ideas respecting the East, and his project of attacking the English power in India, to leave any doubt of his ever having renounced them. The result of all the reproaches which the two Governments addressed to each other was, that neither acted with good faith.
The First Consul, in a communication to the Legislative Body on the state of France and on her foreign relations; had said, "England, single- handed, cannot cope with France." This sufficed to irritate the susceptibility of English pride, and the British Cabinet affected to regard it as a threat. However, it was no such thing. When Bonaparte threatened, his words were infinitely more energetic. The passage above cited was merely au assurance to France; and if we only look at the past efforts and sacrifices made by England to stir up enemies to France on the Continent, we may be justified in supposing that her anger at Bonaparte's declaration arose from a conviction of its truth. Singly opposed to France, England could doubtless have done her much harm, especially by assailing the scattered remnants of her navy; but she could have done nothing against France on the Continent. The two powers, unaided by allies, might have continued long at war without any considerable acts of hostility.
The first effect of the declaration of war by England was the invasion of Hanover by the French troops under General Mortier. The telegraphic despatch by which this news was communicated to Paris was as laconic as correct, and contained, in a few words, the complete history of the expedition. It ran as follows: "The French are masters of the Electorate of Hanover, and the enemy's army are made prisoners of war." A day or two after the shop windows of the print-sellers were filled with caricatures on the English, and particularly on the Duke of Cambridge. I recollect seeing one in which the Duke was represented reviewing his troops mounted on a crab. I mention these trifles because, as I was then living entirely at leisure, in the Rue Hauteville, I used frequently to take a stroll on the Boulevards, where I was sometimes much amused with these prints; and I could not help remarking, that in large cities such triffles have more influence on the public mind than is usually supposed.
The First Consul thought the taking of the prisoners in Hanover a good opportunity to exchange them for those taken from us by the English navy. A proposition to this effect was accordingly made; but the English Cabinet was of opinion that, though the King of England was also Elector of Hanover, yet there was no identity between the two Governments, of both which George III. was the head. In consequence of this subtle distinction the proposition for the exchange of prisoners fell to the ground. At this period nothing could exceed the animosity of the two Governments towards each other, and Bonaparte, on the declaration of war, marked his indignation by an act which no consideration can justify; I allude to the order for the arrest of all the English in France— a truly barbarious measure; for; can anything be more cruel and unjust than to visit individuals with the vengeance due to the Government whose subjects they may happen to be? But Bonaparte, when under the influence of auger, was never troubled by scruples.
I must here notice the fulfilment of a remark Bonaparte often made, use of to me during the Consulate. "You shall see, Bourrienne," he would say," what use I will make of the priests."
War being declared, the First Consul, in imitation of the most Christian kings of olden times, recommended the success of his arms to the prayers of the faithful through the medium of the clergy. To this end he addressed a circular letter, written in royal style, to the Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops of France.
It was as follows:
MONSIEUR—The motives of the present war are known throughout Europe. The bad faith of the King of England, who has violated his treaties by refusing to restore Malta to the order of St. John of Jerusalem, and attacked our merchant vessels without a previous declaration of war, together with the necessity of a just defence, forced us to have recourse to arms. I therefore wish you to order prayers to be offered up, in order to obtain the benediction of Heaven on our enterprises. The proofs I have received of your zeal for the public service give me an assurance of your readiness to conform with my wishes.
Given at St. Cloud, 18 Prairial, an XI. (7th June 1803).
This letter was remarkable in more than one respect. It astonished most of his old brothers-in-arms, who turned it into ridicule; observing that Bonaparte needed no praying to enable him to conquer Italy twice over. The First Consul, however, let them laugh on, and steadily followed the line he had traced out. His letter was admirably calculated to please the Court of Rome, which he wished should consider him in the light of another elder son of the Church. The letter was, moreover, remarkable for the use of the word "Monsieur," which the First Consul now employed for the first time in an act destined for publicity. This circumstance would seem to indicate that he considered Republican designations incompatible with the forms due to the clergy: the clergy were especially interested in the restoration of monarchy. It may, perhaps, be thought that I dwell too much on trifles; but I lived long enough in Bonaparte's confidence to know the importance he attached to trifles. The First Consul restored the old names of the days of the week, while he allowed the names of the months, as set down in the Republican calendar, to remain. He commenced by ordering the Moniteur to be dated "Saturday," such a day of "Messidor." "See," said he one day, "was there ever such an inconsistency? We shall be laughed at! But I will do away with the Messidor. I will efface all the inventions of the Jacobins."
The clergy did not disappoint the expectations of the First Consul. They owed him much already, and hoped for still more from him. The letter to the Bishops, etc., was the signal for a number of circulars full of eulogies on Bonaparte.
These compliments were far from displeasing to the First Consul, who had no objection to flattery though he despised those who meanly made themselves the medium of conveying it to him. Duroc once told me that they had all great difficulty in preserving their gravity when the cure of a parish in Abbeville addressed Bonaparte one day while he was on his journey to the coast. "Religion," said the worthy cure, with pompous solemnity, "owes to you all that it is, we owe to you all that we are; and I, too, owe to you all that I am."
—[Not so fulsome as some of the terms used a year later when Napoleon was made Emperor. "I am what I am," was placed over a seat prepared for the Emperor. One phrase, "God made Napoleon and then rested," drew from Narbonne the sneer that it would have been better if the Deity had rested sooner. "Bonaparte," says Joseph de Maistre, "has had himself described in his papers as the 'Messenger of God.' Nothing more true. Bonaparte comes straight from heaven, like a thunderbolt." (Saints-Benve, Caureries, tome iv. p. 203.)]
Presentation of Prince Borghese to Bonaparte—Departure for Belgium Revival of a royal custom—The swans of Amiens—Change of formula in the acts of Government—Company of performers in Bonaparte's suite—Revival of old customs—Division of the institute into four classes—Science and literature—Bonaparte's hatred of literary men —Ducis—Bernardin de Saint-Pierre—Chenier and Lemercier— Explanation of Bonaparte's aversion to literature—Lalande and his dictionary—Education in the hands of Government—M. de Roquelaure, Archbishop of Malines.
In the month of April 1803 Prince Borghese, who was destined one day to become Bonaparte's brother-in-law by marrying the widow of Leclerc, was introduced to the First Consul by Cardinal Caprara.
About the end of June Bonaparte proceeded, with Josephine, on his journey to Belgium and the seaboard departments. Many curious circumstances were connected with this journey, of which I was informed by Duroc after the First Consul's return. Bonaparte left Paris on the 24th of June, and although it was not for upwards of a year afterwards that his brow was encircled with the imperial-diadem, everything connected with the journey had an imperial air. It was formerly the custom, when the Kings of France entered the ancient capital of Picardy, for the town of Amiens to offer them in homage some beautiful swans. Care was taken to revive this custom, which pleased Bonaparte greatly, because it was treating him like a King. The swans were accepted, and sent to Paris to be placed in the basin of the Tuileries, in order to show the Parisians the royal homage which the First Consul received when absent from the capital.
It was also during this journey that Bonaparte began to date his decrees from the places through which he passed. He had hitherto left a great number of signatures in Paris, in order that he might be present, as it were, even during his absence, by the acts of his Government. Hitherto public acts had been signed in the name of the Consuls of the Republic. Instead of this formula, he substituted the name of the Government of the Republic. By means of this variation, unimportant as it might appear, the Government was always in the place where the First Consul happened to be. The two other Consuls were now mere nullities, even in appearance. The decrees of the Government, which Cambaceres signed during the campaign of Marengo, were now issued from all the towns of France and Belgium which the First Consul visited during his six weeks' journey. Having thus centred the sole authority of the Republic in himself, the performers of the theatre of the Republic became, by a natural consequence, his; and it was quite natural that they should travel in his suite, to entertain the inhabitants of the towns in which he stopped by their performances. But this was not all. He encouraged the renewal of a host of ancient customs. He sanctioned the revival of the festival of Joan of Arc at Orleans, and he divided the Institute into four classes, with the intention of recalling the recollection of the old academies, the names of which, however, he rejected, in spite of the wishes and intrigues of Suard and the Abby Morellet, who had gained over Lucien upon this point.
However, the First Consul did not give to the classes of the Institute the rank which they formerly possessed as academies. He placed the class of sciences in the first rank, and the old French Academy in the second rank. It must be acknowledged that, considering the state of literature and science at that period, the First Consul did not make a wrong estimate of their importance.
Although the literature of France could boast of many men of great talent, such as La Harpe, who died during the Consulate, Ducis, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Chenier, and Lemercier, yet they could not be compared with Lagrange, Laplace, Monge, Fourcroy, Berthollet, and Cuvier, whose labours have so prodigiously extended the limits of human knowledge. No one, therefore, could murmur at seeing the class of sciences in the Institute take precedence of its elder sister. Besides, the First Consul was not sorry to show, by this arrangement, the slight estimation in which he held literary men. When he spoke to me respecting them he called them mere manufacturers of phrases. He could not pardon them for excelling him in a pursuit in which he had no claim to distinction. I never knew a man more insensible than Bonaparte to the beauties of poetry or prose. A certain degree of vagueness, which was combined with his energy of mind, led him to admire the dreams of Ossian, and his decided character found itself, as it were, represented in the elevated thoughts of Corneille. Hence his almost exclusive predilection for these two authors With this exception, the finest works in our literature were in his opinion merely arrangements of sonorous words, void of sense, and calculated only for the ear.
Bonaparte's contempt, or, more properly speaking, his dislike of literature, displayed itself particularly in the feeling he cherished towards some men of distinguished literary talent. He hated Chenier, and Ducis still more. He could not forgive Chenier for the Republican principles which pervaded his tragedies; and Ducis excited in him; as if instinctively, an involuntary hatred. Ducis, on his part, was not backward in returning the Consul's animosity, and I remember his writing some verses which were inexcusably violent, and overstepped all the bounds of truth. Bonaparte was so singular a composition of good and bad that to describe him as he was under one or other of these aspects would serve for panegyric or satire without any departure from truth. Bonaparte was very fond of Bernardin Saint-Pierre's romance of 'Paul and Virginia', which he had read in his boyhood. I remember that he one day tried to read 'Les etudes de la Nature', but at the expiration of a quarter of an hour he threw down the book, exclaiming, "How can any one read such silly stuffy. It is insipid and vapid; there is nothing in it. These are the dreams of a visionary! What is nature? The thing is vague and unmeaning. Men and passions are the subjects to write about—there is something there for study. These fellows are good for nothing under any government. I will, however, give them pensions, because I ought to do so, as Head of the State. They occupy and amuse the idle. I will make Lagrange a Senator—he has a head."
Although Bonaparte spoke so disdainfully of literary men it must not be taken for granted that he treated them ill. On the contrary, all those who visited at Malmaison were the objects of his attention, and even flattery. M. Lemercier was one of those who came most frequently, and whom Bonaparte received with the greatest pleasure. Bonaparte treated M. Lemercier with great kindness; but he did not like him. His character as a literary man and poet, joined to a polished frankness, and a mild but inflexible spirit of republicanism, amply sufficed to explain Bonaparte's dislike. He feared M. Lemercier and his pen; and, as happened more than once, he played the part of a parasite by flattering the writer. M. Lemercier was the only man I knew who refused the cross of the Legion of Honour.
Bonaparte's general dislike of literary men was less the result of prejudice than circumstances. In order to appreciate or even to read literary works time is requsite, and time was so precious to him that he would have wished, as one may say, to shorten a straight line. He liked only those writers who directed their attention to positive and precise things, which excluded all thoughts of government and censures on administration. He looked with a jealous eye on political economists and lawyers; in short, as all persons who in any way whatever meddled with legislation and moral improvements. His hatred of discussions on those subjects was strongly displayed on the occasion of the classification of the Institute. Whilst he permitted the reassembling of a literary class, to the number of forty, as formerly, he suppressed the class of moral and political science. Such was his predilection for things of immediate and certain utility that even in the sciences he favoured only such as applied to terrestrial objects. He never treated Lalande with so much distinction as Monge and Lagrange. Astronomical discoveries could not add directly to his own greatness; and, besides, he could never forgive Lalande for having wished to include him in a dictionary of atheists precisely at the moment when he was opening negotiations with the court of Rome.
Bonaparte wished to be the sole centre of a world which he believed he was called to govern. With this view he never relaxed in his constant endeavour to concentrate the whole powers of the State in the hands of its Chief. His conduct upon the subject of the revival of public instruction affords evidence of this fact. He wished to establish 6000 bursaries, to be paid by Government, and to be exclusively at his disposal, so that thus possessing the monopoly of education, he could have parcelled it out only to the children of those who were blindly devoted to him. This was what the First Consul called the revival of public instruction. During the period of my closest intimacy with him he often spoke to me on this subject, and listened patiently to my observations. I remember that one of his chief arguments was this: "What is it that distinguishes men? Education—is it not? Well, if the children of nobles be admitted into the academies, they will be as well educated as the children of the revolution, who compose the strength of my government. Ultimately they will enter into my regiments as officers, and will naturally come in competition with those whom they regard as the plunderers of their families. I do not wish that!"
My recollections have caused me to wander from the journey of the First Consul and Madame Bonaparte to the seabord departments and Belgium. I have, however, little to add to what I have already stated on the subject. I merely remember that Bonaparte's military suite, and Lauriston and Rapp in particular, when speaking to me about the journey, could not conceal some marks of discontent on account of the great respect which Bonaparte had shown the clergy, and particularly to M. de Roquelaure, the Archbishop of Malines (or Mechlin). That prelate, who was a shrewd man, and had the reputation of having been in his youth more addicted to the habits of the world than to those of the cloister, had become an ecclesiastical courtier. He went to Antwerp to pay his homage to the First Consul, upon whom he heaped the most extravagant praises. Afterwards, addressing Madame Bonaparte, he told her that she was united to the First Consul by the sacred bonds of a holy alliance. In this harangue, in which unction was singularly blended with gallantry, surely it was a departure from ecclesiastical propriety to speak of sacred bonds and holy alliance when every one knew that those bonds and that alliance existed only by a civil contract. Perhaps M. de Roquelaure merely had recourse to what casuists call a pious fraud in order to engage the married couple to do that which he congratulated them on having already done. Be this as it may, it is certain that this honeyed language gained M. de Roquelaure the Consul's favour, and in a short time after he was appointed to the second class of the Institute.
The Temple—The intrigues of Europe—Prelude to the Continental system—Bombardment of Granville—My conversation with the First Consul on the projected invasion of England—Fauche Borel—Moreau and Pichegru—Fouche's manoeuvres—The Abbe David and Lajolais— Fouche's visit to St. Cloud—Regnier outwitted by Fouche— My interview with the First Consul—His indignation at the reports respecting Hortense—Contradiction of these calumnies—The brothers Faucher—Their execution—The First Consul's levee—My conversation with Duroc—Conspiracy of Georges, Moreau, and Pichegru—Moreau averse to the restoration of the Bourbons—Bouvet de Lozier's attempted suicide—Arrest of Moreau—Declaration of MM. de Polignac and de Riviere—Connivance of the police—Arrest of M. Carbonnet and his nephew.
The time was passed when Bonaparte, just raised to the Consulate, only proceeded to the Temple to release the victims of the "Loi des suspects" by his sole and immediate authority. This state prison was now to be filled by the orders of his police. All the intrigues of Europe were in motion. Emissaries came daily from England, who, if they could not penetrate into the interior of France, remained in the towns near the frontiers, where they established correspondence, and published pamphlets, which they sent to Paris by post, in the form of letters.
The First Consul, on the other hand, gave way, without reserve, to the natural irritation which that power had excited by her declaration of war. He knew that the most effective war he could carry on against England would be a war against her trade.
As a prelude to that piece of madness, known by the name of the Continental system, the First Consul adopted every possible preventive measure against the introduction of English merchandise. Bonaparte's irritation against the English was not without a cause. The intelligence which reached Paris from the north of France was not very consolatory. The English fleets not only blockaded the French ports, but were acting on the offensive, and had bombarded Granville. The mayor of the town did his duty, but his colleagues, more prudent, acted differently. In the height of his displeasure Bonaparte issued a decree, by which he bestowed a scarf of honour on Letourneur, the mayor, and dismissed his colleagues from office as cowards unworthy of trust. The terms of this decree were rather severe, but they were certainly justified by the conduct of those who had abandoned their posts at s critical moment.
I come now to the subject of the invasion of England, and what the First Consul said to me respecting it. I have stated that Bonaparte never had any idea of realising the pretended project of a descent on England. The truth of this assertion will appear from a conversation which I had with him after he returned from his journey to the north. In this conversation he repeated what he had often before mentioned to me in reference to the projects and possible steps to which fortune might compel him to resort.
The peace of Amiens had been broken about seven months when, on the 15th of December 1803, the First Consul sent for me to the Tuileries. His incomprehensible behaviour to me was fresh in my mind; and as it was upwards of a year since I had seen him, I confess I did not feel quite at ease when I received the summons. He was perfectly aware that I possessed documents and data for writing his history which would describe facts correctly, and destroy the illusions with which his flatterers constantly, entertained the public. I have already stated that at that period I had no intention of the kind; but those who laboured constantly to incense him against me might have suggested apprehensions on the subject. At all events the fact is, that when he sent for me I took the precaution of providing myself with a night-cap, conceiving it to be very likely that I should be sent to sleep at Vincennes. On the day appointed for the interview Rapp was on duty. I did not conceal from him my opinion as to the possible result of my visit. "You need not be afraid," said Rapp; "the First Consul merely wishes to talk with you." He then announced me.
Bonaparte came into the grand salon where I awaited him, and addressing me in the most good-humoured way said, "What do the gossips say of my preparations for the invasion of England?"—"There is a great difference of opinion on the subject, General," I replied. "Everyone speaks according to his own views. Suchet, for instance, who comes to see me very often, has no doubt that it will take place, and hopes to give you on the occasion fresh proofs of his gratitude and fidelity."—"But Suchet tells me that you do not believe it will be attempted."—"That is true, I certainly do not."—"Why?"—"Because you told me at Antwerp, five years ago, that you would not risk France on the cast of a die—that the adventure was too hazardous—and circumstances have not altered since that time."—"You are right. Those who look forward to the invasion of England are blockheads. They do not see the affair in its true light. I can, doubtless, land in England with 100,000 men. A great battle will be fought, which I shall gain; but I must reckon upon 30,000 men killed, wounded, and prisoners. If I march on London, a second battle must be fought. I will suppose myself again victorious; but what should I do in London with an army diminished three-fourths and without the hope of reinforcements? It would be madness. Until our navy acquires superiority it is useless to think of such a project. The great assemblage of troops in the north has another object. My Government must be the first in the world, or it must fall." Bonaparte then evidently wished it to be supposed that he entertained the design of invading England in order to divert the attention of Europe to that direction.
From Dunkirk the First Consul proceeded to Antwerp, where also he had assembled experienced men to ascertain their opinions respecting the surest way of attempting a landing, the project of which was merely a pretence. The employment of large ships of was, after rang discussions, abandoned in favour of a flotilla.
—[At this period a caricature (by Gillray) appeared in London. which was sent to Paris, and strictly sought after by the police. One of the copies was shown to the First Consul, who was highly indignant at it. The French fleet was represented by a number of nut-shells. An English sailor, seated on a rock, was quietly smoking his pipe, the whiffs of which were throwing the whole squadron into disorder.—Bourrienne. Gillray's caricatures should be at the reader's side during the perusal of this work, also English Caricature and Satire on Napoleon I., by J. Ashton Chatto: and Windus, 1884.]—
After visiting Belgium, and giving directions there, the First Consul returned from Brussels to Paris by way of Maestricht, Liege, and Soissons.
Before my visit to the Tuileries, and even before the rupture of the peace of Amiens, certain intriguing speculators, whose extravagant zeal was not less fatal to the cause of the Bourbons than was the blind subserviency of his unprincipled adherents to the First Consul, had taken part in some underhand manoeuvres which could have no favourable result. Amongst these great contrivers of petty machinations the well-known Fauche Borel, the bookseller of Neufchatel, had long been conspicuous. Fauche Borel, whose object was to create a stir, and who wished nothing better than to be noticed and paid, failed not to come to France as soon as the peace of Amiens afforded him the opportunity. I was at that time still with Bonaparte, who was aware of all these little plots, but who felt no personal anxiety on the subject, leaving to his police the care of watching their authors.
The object of Fauche Borel's mission was to bring about a reconciliation between Moreau and Pichegru. The latter general, who was banished on the 18th Fructidor 4th (September 1797), had not obtained the First Consul's permission to return to France. He lived in England, where he awaited a favourable opportunity for putting his old projects into execution. Moreau was in Pains, but no longer appeared at the levees or parties of the First Consul, and the enmity of both generals against Bonaparte, openly avowed on the part of Pichegru; and still disguised by Moreau, was a secret to nobody. But as everything was prosperous with Bonaparte he evinced contempt rather than fear of the two generals. His apprehensions were, indeed, tolerably allayed by the absence of the one and the character of the other. Moreau's name had greater weight with the army than that of Pichegru; and those who were plotting the overthrow of the Consular Government knew that that measure could not be attempted with any chance of success without the assistance of Moreau. The moment was inopportune; but, being initiated in some secrets of the British Cabinet, they knew that the peace was but a truce, and they determined to profit by that truce to effect a reconciliation which might afterwards secure a community of interests. Moreau and Pichegru had not been friends since Moreau sent to the Directory the papers seized in M. de Klinglin's carriage, which placed Pichegru's treason in so clear a light. Since that period Pichegru's name possessed no influence over the minds of the soldiers, amongst whom he had very few partisans, whilst the name of Moreau was dear to all who had conquered under his command.
Fauche Borel's design was to compromise Moreau without bringing him to any decisive step. Moreau's natural indolence, and perhaps it may be said his good sense, induced him to adopt the maxim that it was necessary to let men and things take their course; for temporizing policy is often as useful in politics as in war. Besides, Moreau was a sincere Republican; and if his habit of indecision had permitted him to adopt any resolution, it is quite certain that he would not then have assisted in the reestablishment of the Bourbons, as Pichegru wished.
What I have stated is an indispensable introduction to the knowledge of plots of more importance which preceded the great event that marked the close of the Consulship: I allude to the conspiracy of Georges, Cadoudal, Moreau, and Pichegru, and that indelible stain on the character of Napoleon,—the death of the Duc d'Enghien. Different opinions have been expressed concerning Georges' conspiracy. I shall not contradict any of them. I will relate what I learned and what I saw, in order to throw some light on that horrible affair. I am far from believing what I have read in many works, that it was planned by the police in order to pave the First Consul's way to the throne. I think that it was contrived by those who were really interested in it, and encouraged by Fouche in order to prepare his return to office.
To corroborate my opinion respecting Fouche's conduct and his manoeuvres I must remind the reader that about the close of 1803 some persons conceived the project of reconciling Moreau and Pichegru. Fouche, who was then out of the Ministry, caused Moreau to be visited by men of his own party, and who were induced, perhaps unconsciously, by Fouche's art, to influence and irritate the general's mind. It was at first intended that the Abbe David, the mutual friend of Moreau and Pichegru, should undertake to effect their reconciliation; but he, being arrested and confined in the Temple, was succeeded by a man named Lajolais, whom every circumstance proves to have been employed by Fouche. He proceeded to London, and, having prevailed on Pichegru and his friends to return to France, he set off to announce their arrival and arrange everything for their reception and destruction. Moreau's discontent was the sole foundation of this intrigue. I remember that one day, about the end of January 1804, I called on Fouche, who informed me that he had been at St. Cloud, where he had had a long conversation with the First Consul on the situation of affairs. Bonaparte told him that he was satisfied with the existing police, and hinted that it was only to make himself of consequence that he had given a false colouring to the picture. Fouche asked him what he would say if he told him that Georges and Pichegru had been for some time in Paris carrying on the conspiracy of which he had received information. The First Consul, apparently delighted at what he conceived to be Fouche's mistake, said, with an air of contempt, "You are well informed, truly! Regnier has just received a letter from London stating that Pichegru dined three days ago at Kingston with one of the King of England's ministers."
As Fouche, however, persisted in his assertion, the First Consul sent to Paris for the Grand Judge, Regnier, who showed Fouche the letter he had received. The First Consul triumphed at first to see Fouche at fault; but the latter so clearly proved that Georges and Pichegru were actually in Paris that Regnier began to fear he had been misled by his agents, whom his rival paid better than he did. The First Consul, convinced that his old minister knew more than his new one, dismissed Regnier, and remained a long time in consultation with Fouche, who on that occasion said nothing about his reinstatement for fear of exciting suspicion. He only requested that the management of the business might be entrusted to Real, with orders to obey whatever instructions he might receive from him. I will return hereafter to the arrest of Moreau and the other persons accused, and will now subjoin the account of a long interview which I had with Bonaparte in the midst of these important events.
On the 8th of March 1804, some time after the arrest but before the trial of General Moreau, I had an audience of the First Consul, which was unsought on my part. Bonaparte, after putting several unimportant questions to me as to what I was doing, what I expected he should do for me, and assuring me that he would bear me in mind, gave a sudden turn to the conversation, and said, "By the by, the report of my connection with Hortense is still kept up: the most abominable rumours have been spread as to her first child. I thought at the time that these reports had only been admitted by the public in consequence of the great desire that I should not be childless. Since you and I separated have you heard them repeated?"—"Yes, General, oftentimes; and I confess I could not have believed that this calumny would have existed so long."—"It is truly frightful to think of! You know the truth—you have seen all—heard all —nothing could have passed without your knowledge; you were in her full confidence during the time of her attachment to Duroc. I therefore expect, if you should ever write anything about me, that you will clear me from this infamous imputation. I would not have it accompany my name to posterity. I trust in you. You have never given credit to the horrid accusation?"—"No, General, never." Napoleon then entered into a number of details on the previous life of Hortense; on the way in which she conducted herself, and on the turn which her marriage had taken. "It has not turned out," he said, "as I wished: the union has not been a happy one. I am sorry for it, not only because both are dear to me, but because the circumstance countenances the infamous reports that are current among the idle as to my intimacy with her." He concluded the conversation with these words:—"Bourrienne, I sometimes think of recalling you; but as there is no good pretext for so doing, the world would say that I have need of you, and I wish it to be known that I stand in need of nobody." He again said a few words about Hortense. I answered that it would fully coincide with my conviction of the truth to do what he desired, and that I would do it; but that suppressing the false reports did not depend on me.
Hortense, in fact, while she was Mademoiselle BEAUHARNAIS, regarded Napoleon with respectful awe. She trembled when she spoke to him, and never dared to ask him a favour. When she had anything to solicit she applied to me; and if I experienced any difficulty in obtaining for her what she sought, I mentioned her as the person for whom I pleaded. "The little simpleton!" Napoleon would say, "why does she not ask me herself: is the girl afraid of me?" Napoleon never cherished for her any feeling but paternal tenderness. He loved her after his marriage with her mother as he would have loved his own child. During three years I was a witness to all their most private actions, and I declare that I never saw or heard anything that could furnish the least ground for suspicion, or that afforded the slightest trace of the existence of a culpable intimacy. This calumny must be classed among those with which malice delights to blacken the characters of men more brilliant than their fellows, and which are so readily adopted by the light-minded and unreflecting. I freely declare that did I entertain the smallest doubt with regard to this odious charge, of the existence of which I was well aware before Napoleon spoke to me on the subject, I would candidly avow it. He is no more: and let his memory be accompanied only by that, be it good or bad, which really belongs to it. Let not this reproach be one of those charged against him by the impartial historian. I must say, in concluding this delicate subject, that the principles of Napoleon on points of this kind were rigid in the utmost degree, and that a connection of the nature of that charged against him was neither in accordance with his morals nor his tastes.
I cannot tell whether what followed was a portion of his premeditated conversation with me, or whether it was the result of the satisfaction he had derived from ascertaining my perfect conviction of the purity of his conduct with regard to Hortense, and being assured that I would express that conviction. Be this as it may, as I was going out at the door he called me back, saying, "Oh! I have forgotten something." I returned. "Bourrienne," said he, "do you still keep up your acquaintance with the Fauchers?"—"Yes, General; I see them frequently."—"You are wrong."— "Why should I not? They are clever, well-educated men, and exceedingly pleasant company, especially Caesar. I derive great pleasure from their society; and then they are almost the only persons whose friendship has continued faithful to me since I left you. You know people do not care for those who can render them no service."—"Maret will not see the Fauchers."—"That may be, General; but it is nothing to me; and you must recollect that as it was through him I was introduced to them at the Tuileries, I think he ought to inform me of his reasons for dropping their acquaintance."—"I tell you again he has closed his door against them. Do you the same; I advise you." As I did not seem disposed to follow this advice without some plausible reason, the First Consul added, "You must know, then, that I learn from Caesar all that passes in your house. You do not speak very ill of me yourself, nor does any one venture to do so in your presence. You play your rubber and go to bed. But no sooner are you gone than your wife, who never liked me, and most of those who visit at your house, indulge in the most violent attacks upon me. I receive a bulletin from Caesar Faucher every day when he visits at your house; this is the way in which he requites you for your kindness, and for the asylum you afforded his brother.—[Constantine Rancher had been condemned in contumacy for the forgery of a public document.—Bourrienne.]—But enough; you see I know all—farewell;" and he left me.
The grave having closed over these two brothers,—[The Fauchers were twin brothers, distinguished in the war of the Revolution, and made brigadier- generals at the same time on the field of battle. After the Cent Jours they refused to recognise the Bourbons, and were shot by sentence of court-martial at Bordeaux. (Bouillet)]—I shall merely state that they wrote me a letter the evening preceding their execution, in which they begged me to forgive their conduct towards me. The following is an extract from this letter:
In our dungeon we hear our sentence of death being cried in the streets. To-morrow we shall walk to the scaffold; but we will meet death with such calmness and courage as shall make our executioners blush. We are sixty years old, therefore our lives will only be shortened by a brief apace. During our lives we have shared in common, illness, grief, pleasure, danger, and good fortune. We both entered the world on the same day, and on the same day we shall both depart from it. As to you, sir….
I suppress what relates to myself.
The hour of the grand levee arrived just as the singular interview which I have described terminated. I remained a short time to look at this phantasmagoria. Duroc was there. As soon as he saw me he came up, and taking me into the recess of a window told me that Moreau's guilt was evident, and that he was about to be put on his trial. I made some observations on the subject, and in particular asked whether there were sufficient proofs of his guilt to justify his condemnation? "They should be cautious," said I; "it is no joke to accuse the conqueror of Hohenlinden." Duroc's answer satisfied me that he at least had no doubt on the subject. "Besides," added he, "when such a general as Moreau has been between two gendarmes he is lost, and is good for nothing more. He will only inspire pity." In vain I tried to refute this assertion so entirely contrary to facts, and to convince Duroc that Moreau would never be damaged by calling him "brigand," as was the phrase then, without proofs. Duroc persisted in his opinion. As if a political crime ever sullied the honour of any one! The result has proved that I judged rightly.
No person possessing the least degree of intelligence will be convinced that the conspiracy of Moreau, Georges, Pichegru, and the other persons accused would ever have occurred but for the secret connivance of Fouche's police.
Moreau never for a moment desired the restoration of the Bourbons. I was too well acquainted with M. Carbonnet, his most intimate friend, to be ignorant of his private sentiments. It was therefore quite impossible that he could entertain the same views as Georges, the Polignacs, Riviera, and others; and they had no intention of committing any overt acts. These latter persons had come to the Continent solely to investigate the actual state of affairs, in order to inform the Princes of the House of Bourbon with certainty how far they might depend on the foolish hopes constantly held out to them by paltry agents, who were always ready to advance their own interests at the expense of truth. These agents did indeed conspire, but it was against the Treasury of London, to which they looked for pay.
Without entering into all the details of that great trial I will relate some facts which may assist in eliciting the truth from a chaos of intrigue and falsehood.
Most of the conspirators had been lodged either in the Temple or La Force, and one of them, Bouvet de Lozier, who was confined in the Temple, attempted to hang himself. He made use of his cravat to effect his purpose, and had nearly succeeded, when a turnkey by chance entered and found him at the point of death. When he was recovered he acknowledged that though he had the courage to meet death, he was unable to endure the interrogatories of his trial, and that he had determined to kill himself, lest he might be induced to make a confession. He did in fact confess, and it was on the day after this occurred that Moreau was arrested, while on his way from his country-seat of Grosbois to Paris.
Fouche, through the medium of his agents, had given Pichegru, Georges, and some other partisans of royalty, to understand that they might depend on Moreau, who, it was said, was quite prepared. It is certain that Moreau informed Pichegru that he (Pichegru) had been deceived, and that he had never been spoken to on the subject. Russillon declared on the trial that on the 14th of March the Polignacs said to some one, "Everything is going wrong—they do not understand each other. Moreau does not keep his word. We have been deceived." M. de Riviera declared that he soon became convinced they had been deceived, and was about to return to England when he was arrested. It is certain that the principal conspirators obtained positive information which confirmed their suspicions. They learned Moreau's declaration from Pichegru. Many of the accused declared that they soon discovered they had been deceived; and the greater part of them were about to quit Paris, when they were all arrested, almost at one and the same moment. Georges was going into La Vendee when he was betrayed by the man who, with the connivance of the police, had escorted him ever since his departure from London, and who had protected him from any interruption on the part of the police so long as it was only necessary to know where he was, or what he was about. Georges had been in Paris seven months before it was considered that the proper moment had arrived for arresting him.
The almost simultaneous arrest of the conspirators proves clearly that the police knew perfectly well where they could lay their hands upon them.
When Pichegru was required to sign his examination he refused. He said it was unnecessary; that, knowing all the secret machinery of the police, he suspected that by some chemical process they would erase all the writing except the signature, and afterwards fill up the paper with statements which he had never made. His refusal to sign the interrogatory, he added, would not prevent him from repeating before a court of justice the truth which he had stated in answer to the questions proposed to him. Fear was entertained of the disclosures he might make respecting his connection with Moreau, whose destruction was sought for, and also with respect to the means employed by the agents of Fouche to urge the conspirators to effect a change which they desired.
On the evening of the 15th of February I heard of Moreau's arrest, and early next morning I proceeded straight to the Rue St. Pierre, where M. Carbonnet resided with his nephew. I was anxious to hear from him the particulars of the general's arrest. What was my surprise! I had hardly time to address myself to the porter before he informed me that M. Carbonnet and his nephew were both arrested. "I advise you, sir," added the man, "to retire without more ado, for I can assure you that the persons who visit M. Carbonnet are watched."—"Is he still at home?" said I. "Yes, Sir; they are examining his papers."—" Then," said I, "I will go up." M. Carbonnet, of whose friendship I had reason to be proud, and whose memory will ever be dear to me, was more distressed by the arrest of his nephew and Moreau than by his own. His nephew was, however, liberated after a few hours. M. Carbonnet's papers were sealed up, and he was placed in solitary confinement at St. Pelagic.
Thus the police, who previously knew nothing, were suddenly informed of all. In spite of the numerous police agents scattered over France, it was only discovered by the declarations of Bouvet de Lozier that three successive landings had been effected, and that a fourth was expected, which, however, did not take place, because General Savary was despatched by the First Consul with orders to seize the persons whose arrival was looked for. There cannot be a more convincing proof of the fidelity of the agents of the police to their old chief, and their combined determination of trifling with their new one,
The events of 1804—Death of the Due d'Enghien—Napoleon's arguments at St. Helena—Comparison of dates—Possibility of my having saved the Due d'Enghien's life—Advice given to the Duc d'Enghien—Sir Charles Stuart—Delay of the Austrian Cabinet—Pichegru and the mysterious being—M. Massias—The historians of St. Helena— Bonaparte's threats against the emigrants and M. Cobentzel— Singular adventure of Davoust's secretary—The quartermaster— The brigand of La Vendee.
In order to form a just idea of the events which succeeded each other so rapidly at the commencement of 1804 it is necessary to consider them both separately and connectedly. It must be borne in mind that all Bonaparte's machinations tended to one object, the foundation of the French Empire in his favour; and it is also essential to consider how the situation of the emigrants, in reference to the First Consul, had changed since the declaration of war. As long as Bonaparte continued at peace the cause of the Bourbons had no support in foreign Cabinets, and the emigrants had no alternative but to yield to circumstances; but on the breaking out of a new war all was changed. The cause of the Bourbons became that of the powers at war with France; and as many causes concurred to unite the emigrants abroad with those who had returned but half satisfied, there was reason to fear something from their revolt, in combination with the powers arrayed against Bonaparte.
Such was the state of things with regard to the emigrants when the leaders and accomplices of Georges' conspiracy were arrested at the very beginning of 1804. The assassination of the Due d'Enghien
—[Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon, Duc d'Enghien (1772-1804), son of the Duc de Bourbon, and grandson of the Prince de Conde, served against France in the army of Conde. When this force was disbanded he stayed at Ettenheim on account of a love affair with the Princesse Charlotte de Rohan-Rochefort. Arrested in the territory of Baden, he was taken to Vincennes, and after trial by court- martial shot is the moat, 21st May 1804. With him practically ended the house of Bourbon-Conde as his grandfather died in 1818, leaving only the Duc de Bourbon, and the Princesee Louise Adelaide, Abbesse de Remiremont, who died in 1824.]—
took place on the 21st of March; on the 30th of April appeared the proposition of the Tribunate to found a Government in France under the authority of one individual; on the 18th of May came the 'Senatus- consulte', naming Napoleon Bonaparte EMPEROR, and lastly, on the 10th. of June, the sentence of condemnation on Georges and his accomplices. Thus the shedding of the blood of a Bourbon, and the placing of the crown of France on the head of a soldier of fortune were two acts interpolated in the sanguinary drama of Georges' conspiracy. It must be remembered, too, that during the period of these events we were at war with England, and on the point of seeing Austria and the Colossus of the north form a coalition against the new Emperor.
I will now state all I know relative to the death of the Due d'Enghien. That unfortunate Prince, who was at Ettenheim, in consequence of a love affair, had no communication whatever with those who were concocting a plot in the interior. Machiavelli says that when the author of a crime cannot be discovered we should seek for those to whose advantage it turns. In the present case Machiavelli's advice will find an easy application, since the Duke's death could be advantageous only to Bonaparte, who considered it indispensable to his accession to the crown of France. The motives may be explained, but can they be justified? How could it ever be said that the Due d'Enghien perished as a presumed accomplice in the conspiracy of Georges?
Moreau was arrested on the 15th of February 1804, at which time the existence of the conspiracy was known. Pichegru and Georges were also arrested in February, and the Due d'Enghien not till the 15th of March. Now if the Prince had really been concerned in the plot, if even he had a knowledge of it, would he have remained at Ettenheim for nearly a month after the arrest of his presumed accomplices, intelligence of which he might have obtained in the space of three days? Certainly not. So ignorant was he of that conspiracy that when informed at Ettenheim of the affair he doubted it, declaring that if it were true his father and grandfather would have made him acquainted with it. Would so long an interval have been suffered to elapse before he was arrested? Alas! cruel experience has shown that that step would have been taken in a few hours.
The sentence of death against Georges and his accomplices was not pronounced till the 10th of June 1804, and the Due d'Enghien was shot on the 21st of March, before the trials were even commenced. How is this precipitation to be explained? If, as Napoleon has declared, the young Bourbon was an accomplice in the crime, why was he not arrested at the time the others were? Why was he not tried along with them, on the ground of his being an actual accomplice; or of being compromised, by communications with them; or, in short, because his answers might have thrown light on that mysterious affair? How was it that the name of the illustrious accused was not once mentioned in the course of that awful trial?
It can scarcely be conceived that Napoleon could say at St. Helena, "Either they contrived to implicate the unfortunate Prince in their project, and so pronounced his doom, or, by omitting to inform him of what was going on, allowed him imprudently to slumber on the brink of a precipice; for he was only a stone's cast from the frontier when they were about to strike the great blow in the name and for the interest of his family."
This reasoning is not merely absurd, it is atrocious. If the Duke was implicated by the confession of his accomplices, he should have been arrested and tried along with them. Justice required this. If he was not so implicated, where is the proof of his guilt? Because some individuals, without his knowledge, plotted to commit a crime in the name of his family he was to be shot! Because he was 130 leagues from the scene of the plot, and had no connection with it, he was to die! Such arguments cannot fail to inspire horror. It is absolutely impossible any reasonable person can regard the Due d'Enghien as an accomplice of Cadoudal; and Napoleon basely imposed on his contemporaries and posterity by inventing such falsehoods, and investing them with the authority of his name.
Had I been then in the First Consul's intimacy I may aver, with as much confidence as pride, that the blood of the Due d'Enghien would not have imprinted an indelible stain on the glory of Bonaparte. In this terrible matter I could have done what no one but me could even attempt, and this on account of my position, which no one else has since held with Bonaparte. I quite admit that he would have preferred others to me, and that he would have had more friendship for them than for me, supposing friendship to be compatible with the character of Bonaparte, but I knew him better than any one else. Besides, among those who surrounded him I alone could have permitted myself some return to our former familiarity on account of our intimacy of childhood. Certainly, in a matter which permanently touched the glory of Bonaparte, I should not have been restrained by the fear of some transitory fit of anger, and the reader has seen that I did not dread disgrace. Why should I have dreaded it? I had neither portfolio, nor office, nor salary, for, as I have said, I was only with Bonaparte as a friend, and we had, as it were, a common purse. I feel a conviction that it would have been very possible for me to have dissuaded Bonaparte from his fatal design, inasmuch as I positively know that his object, after the termination of the peace, was merely to frighten the emigrants, in order to drive them from Ettenheim, where great numbers, like the Due d'Enghien, had sought refuge. His anger was particularly directed against a Baroness de Reith and a Baroness d'Ettengein, who had loudly vituperated him, and distributed numerous libels on the left bank of the Rhine. At that period Bonaparte had as little design against the Due d'Enghien's life as against that of any other emigrant. He was more inclined to frighten than to harm him, and certainly his first intention was not to arrest the Prince, but, as I have said, to frighten the 'emigres', and to drive them to a distance. I must, however, admit that when Bonaparte spoke to Rapp and Duroc of the emigrants on the other side of the Rhine he expressed himself with much irritability: so much so, indeed, that M. de Talleyrand, dreading its effects for the Due d'Enghien, warned that Prince, through the medium of a lady to whom he was attached, of his danger, and advised him to proceed to a greater distance from the frontier. On receiving this notice the Prince resolved to rejoin his grandfather, which he could not do but by passing through the Austrian territory. Should any doubt exist as to these facts it may be added that Sir Charles Stuart wrote to M. de Cobentzel to solicit a passport for the Duc d'Enghien; and it was solely owing to the delay of the Austrian Cabinet that time was afforded for the First Consul to order the arrest of the unfortunate Prince as soon as he had formed the horrible resolution of shedding the blood of a Bourbon. This resolution could have originated only with himself, for who would have dared to suggest it to him? The fact is, Bonaparte knew not what he did. His fever of ambition amounted to delirium; and he knew not how he was losing himself in public opinion because he did not know that opinion, to gain which he would have made every sacrifice.
When Cambaceres (who, with a slight reservation, had voted the death of
Louis XVI.) warmly opposed in the Council the Duc d'Enghien's arrest, the
First Consul observed to him, "Methinks, Sir, you have grown very chary
of Bourbon blood!"
Meanwhile the Due d'Enghien was at Ettenheim, indulging in hope rather than plotting conspiracies. It is well known that an individual made an offer to the Prince de Conde to assassinate the First Consul, but the Prince indignantly rejected the proposition, and nobly refused to recover the rights of the Bourbons at the price of such a crime. The individual above-mentioned was afterwards discovered to be an agent of the Paris police, who had been commissioned to draw the Princes into a plot which would have ruined them, for public feeling revolts at assassination under any circumstances.
It has been alleged that Louis XVIII.'s refusal to treat with Bonaparte led to the fatal catastrophe of the Due d'Enghien's death. The first correspondence between Louis XVIII. and the First Consul, which has been given in these Memoirs, clearly proves the contrary. It is certainly probable that Louis XVIII.'s refusal to renounce his rights should have irritated Bonaparte. But it was rather late to take his revenge two years after, and that too on a Prince totally ignorant of those overtures. It is needless to comment on such absurdities. It is equally unnecessary to speak of the mysterious being who often appeared at meetings in the Faubourg St. Germain, and who was afterwards discovered to be Pichegru.
A further light is thrown on this melancholy catastrophe by a conversation Napoleon had, a few days after his elevation to the imperial throne, with M. Masaias, the French Minister at the Court of the Grand Duke of Baden. This conversation took place at Aix-la-Chapelle. After some remarks on the intrigues of the emigrants Bonaparte observed, "You ought at least to have prevented the plots which the Due d'Enghien was hatching at Ettenheim."—"Sire, I am too old to learn to tell a falsehood. Believe me, on this subject your Majesty's ear has been abused."—"Do you not think, then, that had the conspiracy of Georges and Pichegru proved successful, the Prince would have passed the Rhine, and have come post to Paris?"
M. Massias, from whom I had these particulars, added, "At this last question of the Emperor I hung down my head and was silent, for I saw he did not wish to hear the truth."
Now let us consider, with that attention which the importance of the subject demands, what has been said by the historians of St. Helena.
Napoleon said to his companions in exile that "the Due d'Enghien's death must be attributed either to an excess of zeal for him (Napoleon), to private views, or to mysterious intrigues. He had been blindly urged on; he was, if he might say so, taken by surprise. The measure was precipitated, and the result predetermined."
This he might have said; but if he did so express himself, how are we to reconcile such a declaration with the statement of O'Meara? How give credit to assertions so very opposite?
Napoleon said to M. de Las Casas:
"One day when alone, I recollect it well, I was taking my coffee, half seated on the table at which I had just dined, when suddenly information was brought to me that a new conspiracy had been discovered. I was warmly urged to put an end to these enormities; they represented to me that it was time at last to give a lesson to those who had been day after day conspiring against my life; that this end could only be attained by shedding the blood of one of them; and that the Due d'Enghien, who might now be convicted of forming part of this new conspiracy, and taken in the very act, should be that one. It was added that he had been seen at Strasburg; that it was even believed that he had been in Paris; and that the plan was that he should enter France by the east at the moment of the explosion, whilst the Due de Berri was disembarking in the west. I should tell you," observed the Emperor, "that I did not even know precisely who the Due d'Enghien was (the Revolution having taken place when I was yet a very young man, and I having never been at Court), and that I was quite in the dark as to where he was at that moment. Having been informed on those points I exclaimed that if such were the case the Duke ought to be arrested, and that orders should be given to that effect. Everything had been foreseen and prepared; the different orders were already drawn up, nothing remained to be done but to sign them, and the fate of the young Prince was thus decided."
Napoleon next asserts that in the Duke's arrest and condemnation all the usual forms were strictly observed. But he has also declared that the death of that unfortunate Prince will be an eternal reproach to those who, carried away by a criminal zeal, waited not for their Sovereign's orders to execute the sentence of the court-martial. He would, perhaps, have allowed the Prince to live; but yet he said, "It is true I wished to make an example which should deter."
It has been said that the Due d'Enghien addressed a letter to Napoleon, which was not delivered till after the execution. This is false and absurd! How could that Prince write to Bonaparte to offer him his services and to solicit the command of an army? His interrogatory makes no mention of this letter, and is in direct opposition to the sentiments which that letter would attribute to him. The truth is, no such letter ever existed. The individual who was with the Prince declared he never wrote it. It will never be believed that any one would have presumed to withhold from Bonaparte a letter on which depended the fate of so august a victim.
In his declarations to his companions in exile Napoleon endeavoured either to free himself of this crime or to justify it. His fear or his susceptibility was such, that in discoursing with strangers he merely said, that had he known of the Prince's letter, which was not delivered to him.—God knows why!—until after he had breathed his last, he would have pardoned him. But at a subsequent date he traced, with his own hand, his last thoughts, which he supposed would be consecrated in the minds of his contemporaries, and of posterity. Napoleon, touching on the subject which he felt would be one of the most important attached to his memory, said that if the thing were to do again he would act as he then did. How does this declaration tally with his avowal, that if he had received the Prince's letter he should have lived? This is irreconcilable. But if we compare all that Napoleon said at St. Helena, and which has been transmitted to us by his faithful followers; if we consider his contradictions when speaking of the Due d'Enghien's death to strangers, to his friends, to the public, or to posterity, the question ceases to be doubtful Bonaparte wished to strike a blow which would terrify his enemies. Fancying that the Duc de Berri was ready to land in France, he despatched his aide de camp Savary, in disguise, attended by gendarmes, to watch the Duke's landing at Biville, near Dieppe. This turned out a fruitless mission. The Duke was warned in time not to attempt the useless and dangerous enterprise, and Bonaparte, enraged to see one prey escape him, pounced upon another. It is well known that Bonaparte often, and in the presence even of persons whom he conceived to have maintained relations with the partisans of the Bourbons at Paris, expressed himself thus: "I will put an end to these conspiracies. If any of the emigrants conspire they shall be shot. I have been told that Cobentzel harbours some of them. I do not believe this; but if it be true, Cobentzel shall be arrested and shot along with them. I will let the Bourbons know I am not to be trifled with." The above statement of facts accounts for the suppositions respecting the probable influence of the Jacobins in this affair. It has been said, not without some appearance of reason, that to get the Jacobins to help him to ascend the throne Bonaparte consented to sacrifice a victim of the blood royal, as the only pledge capable of ensuring them against the return of the proscribed family. Be this as it may, there are no possible means of relieving Bonaparte from his share of guilt in the death of the Due d'Enghien.
To the above facts, which came within my own knowledge, I may add the following curious story, which was related to me by an individual who himself heard it from the secretary of General Davoust.
Davoust was commanding a division in the camp of Boulogne, and his secretary when proceeding thither to join him met in the diligence a man who seemed to be absorbed in affliction. This man during the whole journey never once broke silence but by some deep sighs, which he had not power to repress. General Davoust's secretary observed him with curiosity and interest, but did not venture to intrude upon his grief by any conversation. The concourse of travellers from Paris to the camp was, however, at that time very great, and the inn at which the diligence stopped in the evening was so crowded that it was impossible to assign a chamber to each traveller. Two, therefore, were put into one room, and it so happened that the secretary was lodged with his mysterious travelling companion.
When they were alone he addressed him in a torso of interest which banished all appearance of intrusion. He inquired whether the cause of his grief was of a nature to admit of any alleviation, and offered to render him any assistance in his power. "Sir," replied the stranger, "I am much obliged for the sympathy you express for me—I want nothing. There is no possible consolation for me. My affliction can end only with my life. You shall judge for yourself, for the interest you seem to take in my misfortune fully justifies my confidence. I was quartermaster in the select gendarmerie, and formed part of a detachment which was ordered to Vincennes. I passed the night there under arms, and at daybreak was ordered down to the moat with six men. An execution was to take place. The prisoner was brought out, and I gave the word to fire. The man fell, and after the execution I learned that we had shot the Due d'Enghien. Judge of my horror! . . . I knew the prisoner only by the name of the brigand of La Vendee! . . . I could no longer remain in the service —I obtained my discharge, and am about to retire to my family. Would that I had done so sooner!" The above has been related to me and other persons by Davoust's secretary, whom I shall not name.
General Ordener's mission—Arrest of the Due d'Enghien—Horrible night-scene—-Harrel's account of the death of the Prince—Order for digging the grave—The foster-sister of the Duo d'Enghien—Reading the sentence—The lantern—General Savary—The faithful dog and the police—My visit to Malmaison—Josephine's grief— The Duc d'Enghien's portrait and lock of hair—Savary's emotion— M. de Chateaubriand's resignation—M. de Chatenubriand's connection with Bonaparte—Madame Bacciocchi and M. de Fontanes—Cardinal Fesch —Dedication of the second edition of the 'Genie du Christianisme' —M. de Chateaubriand's visit to the First Consul on the morning of the Due d'Enghien's death—Consequences of the Duo d'Enghien's death—Change of opinion in the provinces—The Gentry of the Chateaus—Effect of the Due d'Enghien's death on foreign Courts— Remarkable words of Mr. Pitt—Louis XVIII. sends back the insignia of the Golden Fleece to the King of Spain.
I will now narrate more fully the sanguinary scene which took place at Vincennes. General Ordener, commanding the mounted grenadiers of the Guard, received orders from the War Minister to proceed to the Rhine, to give instructions to the chiefs of the gendarmerie of New Brissac, which was placed at his disposal. General Ordener sent a detachment of gendarmerie to Ettenheim, where the Due d'Enghien was arrested on the 15th of March. He was immediately conducted to the citadel of Strasburg, where he remained till the 18th, to give time for the arrival of orders from Paris. These orders were given rapidly, and executed promptly, for the carriage which conveyed the unfortunate Prince arrived at the barrier at eleven o'clock on the morning of the 20th, where it remained for five hours, and afterwards proceeded by the exterior boulevards on the road to Vincennes, where it arrived at night. Every scene of this horrible drama was acted under the veil of night: the sun did not even shine upon its tragical close. The soldiers received orders to proceed to Vincennes at night. It was at night that the fatal gates of the fortress were closed upon the Prince. At night the Council assembled and tried him, or rather condemned him without trial. When the clock struck six in the morning the orders were given to fire, and the Prince ceased to exist.
Here a reflection occurs to me. Supposing one were inclined to admit that the Council held on the 10th of March had some connection with the Due d'Enghien's arrest, yet as no Council was held from the time of the Duke's arrival at the barrier to the moment of his execution, it could only be Bonaparte himself who issued the orders which were too punctually obeyed. When the dreadful intelligence of the Duc d'Enghien's death was spread in Paris it excited a feeling of consternation which recalled the recollection of the Reign of Terror. Could Bonaparte have seen the gloom which pervaded Paris, and compared it with the joy which prevailed on the day when he returned victorious from the field of Marengo, he would have felt that he had tarnished his glory by a stain which could never be effaced.
About half-past twelve on the 22d of March I was informed that some one wished to speak with me. It was Harrel.
—[Harrel, who had been unemployed till the plot of Arena and Ceracchi on the 18th Vendemiairean IX (10th October 1800) which he had feigned to join, and had then revealed to the police (see ante), had been made Governor of Vincennes.]—
I will relate word for word what he communicated to me. Harrel probably thought that he was bound in gratitude to acquaint me with these details; but he owed me no gratitude, for it was much against my will that he had encouraged the conspiracy of Ceracchi, and received the reward of his treachery in that crime. The following is Harrel's statement:—
"On the evening of the day before yesterday, when the Prince arrived, I was asked whether I had a room to lodge a prisoner in; I replied, No— that there were only my apartments and the Council-chamber. I was told to prepare instantly a room in which a prisoner could sleep who was to arrive that evening. I was also desired to dig a pit in the courtyard.
—[This fact must be noted. Harrel is told to dig a trench before the sentence. Thus it was known that they had come to kill the Duc d'Enghien. How can this be answered? Can it possibly be supposed that anyone, whoever it was, would have dared to give each an order in anticipation if the order had not been the carrying out of a formal command of Bonaparte? That is incredible.—Bourrienne.]—
"I replied that that could not be easily done, as the courtyard was paved. The moat was then fixed upon, and there the pit was dug. The Prince arrived at seven o'clock in the evening; he was perishing with cold and hunger. He did not appear dispirited. He said he wanted something to eat, and to go to bed afterwards. His apartment not being yet sufficiently aired, I took him into my own, and sent into the village for some refreshment. The Prince sat down to table, and invited me to eat with him. He then asked me a number of questions respecting Vincennes— what was going on there, and other particulars. He told me that he had been brought up in the neighbourhood of the castle, and spoke to me with great freedom and kindness. 'What do they want with me?' he said. What do they mean to do with me?' But these questions betrayed no uneasiness or anxiety. My wife, who was ill, was lying in the same room in an alcove, closed by a railing. She heard, without being perceived, all our conversation, and she was exceedingly agitated, for she recognised the Prince, whose foster-sister she was, and whose family had given her a pension before the Revolution.
"The Prince hastened to bed, but before he could have fallen asleep the judges sent to request his presence in the Council-chamber. I was not present at his examination; but when it was concluded he returned to his chamber, and when they came to read his sentence to him he was in a profound sleep. In a few moments after he was led out for execution. He had so little suspicion of the fate that awaited him that on descending the staircase leading to the moat he asked where they were taking him. He received no answer. I went before the Prince with a lantern. Feeling the cold air which came up the staircase he pressed my arm and said, 'Are they going to put me into a dungeon?'"
The rest is known. I can yet see Harrel shuddering while thinking of this action of the Prince's.
Much has been said about a lantern which it is pretended was attached to one of the Due d'Enghien's button-holes. This is a pure invention. Captain Dautancourt, whose sight was not very good, took the lantern out of Harrel's hand to read the sentence to the victim, who had been condemned with as little regard to judicial forms as to justice. This circumstance probably gave rise to the story about the lantern to which I have just alluded. The fatal event took place at six o'clock on the morning of the 21st of March, and it was then daylight.
General Savary did not dare to delay the execution of the sentence, although the Prince urgently demanded to have an interview with the First Consul. Had Bonaparte seen the prince there can be little doubt but that he would have saved his life. Savary, however, thought himself bound to sacrifice his own opinions to the powerful faction which then controlled the First Consul; and whilst he thought he was serving his master, he was in fact only serving the faction to which, I must say, he did not belong. The truth is, that General Savary can only be reproached for not having taken upon himself to suspend the execution, which very probably would not have taken place had it been suspended. He was merely an instrument, and regret on his part would, perhaps, have told more in his favour than his vain efforts to justify Bonaparte. I have just said that if there had been any suspension there would have been no execution; and I think this is almost proved by the uncertainty which must have existed in the mind of the First Consul. If he had made up his mind all the measures would have been taken in advance, and if they had been, the carriage of the Duke would certainly not have been kept for five hours at the barriers. Besides, it is certain that the first intention was to take the Prince to the prison of the Temple.
From all that I have stated, and particularly from the non-suspension of the execution, it appears to me as clear as day that General Savary had received a formal order from Bonaparte for the Due d'Enghien's death, and also a formal order that it should be so managed as to make it impossible to speak to Bonaparte again on the subject until all should be over. Can there be a more evident, a more direct proof of this than the digging of the grave beforehand? I have repeated Harrel's story just as he related it to me. He told it me without solicitation, and he could not invent a circumstance of this nature.
General Savary was not in the moat during the execution, but on the bank, from whence he could easily see all that passed. Another circumstance connected with the Due d'Enghien's death has been mentioned, which is true. The Prince had a little dog; this faithful animal returned incessantly to the fatal spot in the moat. There are few who have not seen that spot. Who has not made a pilgrimage to Vincennes and dropped a tear where the victim fell? The fidelity of the poor dog excited so much interest that the police prevented any one from visiting the fatal spot, and the dog was no longer heard to howl over his master's grave.
I promised to state the truth respecting the death of the Due d'Enghien, and I have done so, though it has cost me some pain. Harrel's narrative, and the shocking circumstance of the grave being dug beforehand, left me no opportunity of cherishing any doubts I might have wished to entertain; and everything which followed confirmed the view I then took of the subject. When Harrel left me on the 22d I determined to go to Malmaison to see Madame Bonaparte, knowing, from her sentiments towards the House of Bourbon, that she would be in the greatest affliction. I had previously sent to know whether it would be convenient for her to see me, a precaution I had never before observed, but which I conceived to be proper upon that occasion. On my arrival I was immediately introduced to her boudoir, where she was alone with Hortense and Madame de Remusat. They were all deeply afflicted. "Bourrienne," exclaimed Josephine, as soon as she perceived me, "what a dreadful event! Did you but know the state of mind Bonaparte is in! He avoids, he dreads the presence of every one! Who could have suggested to him such an act as this?" I then acquainted Josephine with the particulars which I had received from Harrel. "What barbarity!" she resumed. "But no reproach can rest upon me, for I did everything to dissuade him from this dreadful project. He did not confide the secret to me, but I guessed it, and he acknowledged all. How harshly he repelled my entreaties! I clung to him! I threw myself at his feet! 'Meddle with what concerns you!' he exclaimed angrily. 'This is not women's business! Leave me!' And he repulsed me with a violence which be had never displayed since our first interview after your return from Egypt. Heavens! what will become of us?"
I could say nothing to calm affliction and alarm in which I participated, for to my grief for the death of the Due d'Enghien was added my regret that Bonaparte should be capable of such a crime. "What," said Josephine, "can be thought of this in Paris? He must be the object of universal, imprecation, for even here his flatterers appear astounded when they are out of his presence. How wretched we have been since yesterday; and he!…. You know what he is when be is dissatisfied with himself. No one dare speak to him, and all is mournful around us. What a commission he gave to Savary! You know I do not like the general, because he is one of those whose flatteries will contribute to ruin Bonaparte. Well! I pitied Savary when he came yesterday to fulfil a commission which the Due d'Enghien had entrusted to him. Here," added Josephine, "is his portrait and a lock of his hair, which he has requested me to transmit to one who was dear to him. Savary almost shed tears when he described to me the last moments of the Duke; then, endeavouring to resume his self-possession, he said: 'It is in vain to try to be indifferent, Madame! It is impossible to witness the death of such a man unmoved!'"
Josephine afterwards informed me of the only act of courage which occurred at this period—namely, the resignation which M. de Chateaubriand had sent to Bonaparte. She admired his conduct greatly, and said: "What a pity he is not surrounded by men of this description! It would be the means of preventing all the errors into which he is led by the constant approbation of those about him." Josephine thanked me for my attention in coming to see her at such an unhappy juncture; and I confess that it required all the regard I cherished for her to induce me to do so, for at that moment I should not have wished to see the First Consul, since the evil was irreparable. On the evening of that day nothing was spoken of but the transaction of the 21st of March, and the noble conduct of M. de Chateaubriand. As the name of that celebrated man is for ever written in characters of honour in the history of that period, I think I may with propriety relate here what I know respecting his previous connection with Bonaparte.
I do not recollect the precise date of M. de Chateaubriand's return to France; I only know that it was about the year 1800, for we were, I think, still at the Luxembourg: However, I recollect perfectly that Bonaparte began to conceive prejudices against him; and when I one day expressed my surprise to the First Consul that M. de Chateaubriand's name did not appear on any of the lists which he had ordered to be presented to him for filling up vacant places, he said: "He has been mentioned to me, but I replied in a way to check all hopes of his obtaining any appointment. He has notions of liberty and independence which will not suit my system. I would rather have him my enemy than my forced friend. At all events, he must wait awhile; I may, perhaps, try him first in a secondary place, and, if he does well, I may advance him."
The above is, word for word, what Bonaparte said the: first time I conversed with him about M. de Chateaubriand. The publication of 'Atala' and the 'Genie du Christianisme' suddenly gave Chateaubriand celebrity, and attracted the attention of the First Consul. Bonaparte who then meditated the restoration of religious worship: in France, found himself wonderfully supported by the publication of a book which excited the highest interest, and whose superior merit led the public mind to the consideration of religious topics. I remember Madame Bacciocchi coming one day to visit her brother with a little volume in her hand; it was 'Atala'. She presented it to the First Consul, and begged he would read it. "What, more romances!" exclaimed he. "Do you think I have time to read all your fooleries?" He, however, took the book from his sister and laid it down on my desk. Madame Bacciocchi then solicited the erasure of M. de Chateaubriand's name from the list of emigrants. "Oh! oh!" said Bonaparte, "it is Chateaubriand's book, is it? I will read it, then. Bourrienne, write to Fouche to erase his name from the list."
Bonaparte, at that time paid so little attention to what was doing in the literary world that he was not aware of Chateaubriand being the author of 'Atala'. It was on the recommendation of M. de Fontanel that Madame Bacciocchi tried this experiment, which was attended by complete success. The First Consul read 'Atala', and was much pleased with it. On the publication of the 'Genie du Christianisme' some time after, his first prejudices were wholly removed. Among the persons about him there were many who dreaded to see a man of de Chateaubriand's talent approach the First Consul, who knew how to appreciate superior merit when it did not exite his envy.
Our relations with the Court of the Vatican being renewed, and Cardinal Fesch appointed Ambassador to the Holy See, Bonaparte conceived the idea of making M. de Chateaubriand first secretary to the Embassy, thinking that the author of the 'Genie du Christianisme' was peculiarly fitted to make up for his uncle's deficiency of talent in the capital of the Christian world, which was destined to become the second city of the Empire.
It was not a little extraordinary to let a man, previously, a stranger to diplomatic business; stepping over all the intermediate degrees; and being at once invested with the functions of first secretary to an important Embassy. I oftener than once heard the First Consul congratulate himself on having made the appointment. I knew, though Bonaparte was not aware of the circumstance at the time, that Chateaubriand at first refused the situation, and that he was only induced to accept it by the entreaties of the head of the clergy, particularly of the Abby Emery, a man of great influence. They represented to the author of the' Genie du Christianisme that it was necessary he should accompany the uncle of the First Consul to Rome; and M. de Chateaubriand accordingly resolved to do so.
However, clouds, gathered; I do not know from what cause, between the ambassador and his secretary. All I know is, that on Bonaparte being informed of the circumstance he took the part of the Cardinal, and the friends of M. de Chateaubriand expected to see him soon deprived of his appointment, when, to the great astonishment of every one, the secretary to the Roman Embassy, far from being disgraced, was raised by the First Consul to the rank of Minister Plenipotentiary to the Valais, with leave to travel in Switzerland and Italy, together with the promise of the first vacant Embassy.
This favour excited a considerable sensation at the Tuileries; but as it was known to be the will and pleasure of the First Consul all expression of opinion on the subject was confined to a few quiet murmurs that Bonaparte had done for the name of Chateaubriand what, in fact, he had done only on account of his talent. It was during the continuance of this favour that the second edition of the 'Genie du Christianisme' was dedicated to the First Consul.
M. de Chateaubriand returned to France previously to entering on the fulfilment of his new mission. He remained for some months in Paris, and on the day appointed for his departure he went to take leave of the First Consul. By a singular chance it happened to be the fatal morning of the 21st of March, and consequently only a few hours after the Duc d'Enghien had been shot. It is unnecessary to observe that M. de Chateaubriand was ignorant of the fatal event. However, on his return home he said to his friends that he had remarked a singular change in the appearance of the First Consul, and that there was a sort of sinister expression in his countenance. Bonaparte saw his new minister amidst the crowd who attended the audience, and several times seemed inclined to step forward to speak to him, but as often turned away, and did not approach him the whole morning. A few hours after, when M. de Chatenubriand mentioned his observations to some of his friends; he was made acquainted with the cause of that agitation which, in spite of all his strength of mind and self-command, Bonaparte could not disguise.
M. de Chateaubriand instantly resigned his appointment of Minister Plenipotentiary to the Valais. For several days his friends were much alarmed for his safety, and they called every morning early to ascertain whether he had not been carried off during the night. Their fears were not without foundation. I must confess that I, who knew Bonaparte well, was somewhat surprised that no serious consequence attended the anger he manifested on receiving the resignation of the man who had dedicated his work to him. In fact, there was good reason for apprehension, and it was not without considerable difficulty that Elisa succeeded in averting the threatened storm. From this time began a state of hostility between Bonaparte and Chateaubriand which only terminated at the Restoration.
I am persuaded, from my knowledge of Bonaparte's character, that though he retained implacable resentment against a returned emigrant who had dared to censure his conduct in so positive a manner, yet, his first burst of anger being soothed, that which was the cause of hatred was at the same time the ground of esteem. Bonaparte's animosity was, I confess, very natural, for he could not disguise from himself the real meaning of a resignation made under such circumstances. It said plainly, "You have committed a crime, and I will not serve your Government, which is stained with the blood of a Bourbon!" I can therefore very well imagine that Bonaparte could never pardon the only man who dared to give him such a lesson in the midst of the plenitude of his power. But, as I have often had occasion to remark, there was no unison between Bonaparte's feelings and his judgment.
I find a fresh proof of this in the following passage, which he dictated to M. de Montholon at St. Helena (Memoires, tome iv. p 248). "If," said he, "the royal confidence had not been placed in men whose minds were unstrung by too important circumstances, or who, renegade to their country, saw no safety or glory for their master's throne except under the yoke of the Holy Alliance; if the Duc de Richelieu, whose ambition was to deliver his country from the presence of foreign bayonets; if Chateaubriand, who had just rendered valuable services at Ghent; if they had had the direction of affairs, France would have emerged from these two great national crises powerful and redoubtable. Chateaubriand had received from Nature the sacred fire-his works show it! His style is not that of Racine but of a prophet. Only he could have said with impunity in the chamber of peers, 'that the redingote and cocked hat of Napoleon, put on a stick on the coast of Brest, would make all Europe run to arms.'"
The immediate consequences of the Duc d'Enghien's death were not confined to the general consternation which that unjustifiable stroke of state policy produced in the capital. The news spread rapidly through the provinces and foreign countries, and was everywhere accompanied by astonishment and sorrow. There is in the departments a separate class of society, possessing great influence, and constituted entirely of persons usually called the "Gentry of the Chateaux," who may be said to form the provincial Faubourg St. Germain, and who were overwhelmed by the news. The opinion of the Gentry of the Chateaux was not hitherto unfavourable to the First Consul, for the law of hostages which he repealed had been felt very severely by them. With the exception of some families accustomed to consider themselves, in relation to the whole world, what they were only within the circle of a couple of leagues; that is to say, illustrious personages, all the inhabitants of the provinces, though they might retain some attachment to the ancient order of things, had viewed with satisfaction the substitution of the Consular for the Directorial government, and entertained no personal dislike to the First Consul. Among the Chateaux, more than anywhere else, it had always been the custom to cherish Utopian ideas respecting the management of public affairs, and to criticise the acts of the Government. It is well known that at this time there was not in all France a single old mansion surmounted by its two weathercocks which had not a systems of policy peculiar to itself, and in which the question whether the First Consul would play the part of Cromwell or Monk was not frequently canvassed. In those innocent controversies the little news which the Paris papers were allowed to publish was freely discussed, and a confidential letter from Paris sometimes furnished food for the conversation of a whole week.
While I was with Bonaparte he often talked to me about the life in the Chateaux, which he considered as the happiest for men with sufficient income and exempt from ambition. He knew and could appreciate this sort of life, for he often told me the period of his life which he remembered. with the greatest pleasure was that which he had passed in a Chateau of the family of Boulat du Colombier near Valence. Bonaparte set great value on the opinion of the Chateaux, because while living in the country he had observed the moral influence which their inhabitants exercise over their neighbourhood. He had succeeded to a great degree in conciliating them, but the news of the death of the Due d'Enghien alienated from him minds which were still wavering, and even those which had already declared in his favour. That act of tyranny dissolved the charm which had created hope from his government and awakened affections which had as yet only slumbered. Those to whom this event was almost indifferent also joined in condemning it; for there are certain aristocratic ideas which are always fashionable in a certain class of society. Thus for different causes this atrocity gave a retrograde direction to public opinion, which had previously been favourably disposed to Bonaparte throughout the whole of France.
The consequences were not less important, and might have been disastrous with respect to foreign Courts. I learned, through a channel which does not permit me to entertain any doubt of the correctness of my information, that as soon as the Emperor Alexander received the news it became clear that England might conceive a well-founded hope of forming a new coalition against France. Alexander openly expressed his indignation. I also learned with equal certainty that when Mr. Pitt was informed of the death of the French Prince he said, "Bonaparte has now done himself more mischief than we have done him since the last declaration of war."
—[The remark made on this murder by the astute cold-blooded Fouche is well known. He said, "It was worse than a crime—it was a blunder!"—Editor of 1836 Edition.]—
Pitt was not the man to feel much concern for the death of any one; but he understood and seized all the advantages afforded to him by this great error of policy committed by the most formidable enemy of England. In all the Treasury journals published in London Bonaparte was never spoken of under any other name than that of the "assassin of the Duc d'Enghien." The inert policy of the Cabinet of Vienna prevented the manifestation of its displeasure by remonstrances, or by any outward act. At Berlin, in consequence of the neighbourhood of the French troops in Hanover, the commiseration for the death of the Due d'Enghien was also confined to the King's cabinet, and more particularly to the salons of the Queen of Prussia; but it is certain that that transaction almost everywhere changed the disposition of sovereigns towards the First Consul, and that if it did not cause, it at least hastened the success of the negotiations which England was secretly carrying on with Austria and Prussia. Every Prince of Germany was offended by the violation of the Grand Duke of Baden's territory, and the death of a Prince could not fail everywhere to irritate that kind of sympathy of blood and of race which had hitherto always influenced the crowned heads and sovereign families of Europe; for it was felt as an injury to all of them.
When Louis XVIII. learned the death of the Due d'Enghien he wrote to the
King of Spain, returning him the insignia of the Order of the Golden
Fleece (which had also been conferred on Bonaparte), with the
SIRE, MONSIEUR, AND DEAR COUSIN—It is with regret that I send back to you the insignia of the Order of the Golden Fleece which his Majesty, your father, of glorious memory conferred upon me. There can be nothing in common between me and the great criminal whom audacity and fortune have placed on my throne, since he has had the barbarity to stain himself with the blood of a Bourbon, the Duc d'Enghien.
Religion might make me pardon an assassin, but the tyrant of my
people must always be my enemy.
In the present age it is more glorious to merit a sceptre than to
Providence, for incomprehensible reasons, may condemn me to end my
days in exile, but neither my contemporaries nor posterity shall
ever have to say, that in the period of adversity I showed my self
unworthy of occupying the throne of my ancestors.
The death of the Due d'Enghien was a horrible episode in the proceedings of the great trial which was then preparing, and which was speedily followed by the accession of Bonaparte to the Imperial dignity. It was not one of the least remarkable anomalies of the epoch to see the judgment by which criminal enterprises against the Republic were condemned pronounced in the name of the Emperor who had so evidently destroyed that Republic. This anomaly certainly was not removed by the subtlety, by the aid of which he at first declared himself Emperor of the Republic, as a preliminary to his proclaiming himself Emperor of the French. Setting aside the means, it must be acknowledged that it is impossible not to admire the genius of Bonaparte, his tenacity in advancing towards his object, and that adroit employment of suppleness and audacity which made him sometimes dare fortune, sometimes avoid difficulties which he found insurmountable, to arrive, not merely at the throne of Louis XVI., but at the reconstructed throne of Charlemagne.
Pichegru betrayed—His arrest—His conduct to his old aide de camp— Account of Pichegru's family, and his education at Brienne— Permission to visit M. Carbonnet—The prisoners in the Temple— Absurd application of the word "brigand"—Moreau and the state of public opinion respecting him—Pichegru's firmness—Pichegru strangled in prison—Public opinion at the time—Report on the death of Pichegru.
I shall now proceed to relate what I knew at the time and what I have since learnt of the different phases of the trial of Georges, Pichegru, Moreau and the other persons accused of conspiracy,—a trial to all the proceedings of which I closely attended. From those proceedings I was convinced that Moreau was no conspirator, but at the same time I must confess that it is very probable the First Consul might believe that he had been engaged in the plot, and I am also of opinion that the real conspirators believed Moreau to be their accomplice and their chief; for the object of the machinations of the police agents was to create a foundation for such a belief, it being important to the success of their scheme.
It has been stated that Moreau was arrested on the day after the confessions made by Bouvet de Lozier; Pichegru was taken by means of the most infamous treachery that a man can be guilty of. The official police had at last ascertained that he was in Paris, but they could not learn the place of his concealment. The police agents had in vain exerted all their efforts to discover him, when an old friend, who had given him his last asylum, offered to deliver him up for 100,000 crowns. This infamous fellow gave an enact description of the chamber which Pichegru occupied in the Rue de Chabanais, and in consequence of his information Comminges, commissary of police, proceeded thither, accompanied by some determined men. Precautions were necessary, because it was known that Pichegru was a man of prodigious bodily strength, and that besides, as he possessed the means of defence, he would not allow himself to be taken without making a desperate resistance. The police entered his chamber by using false keys, which the man who had sold him had the baseness to get made for them. A light was burning on his night table. The party of police, directed by Comminges, overturned the table, extinguished the light, and threw themselves on the general, who struggled with all his strength, and cried out loudly. They were obliged to bind him, and in this state the conqueror of Holland was removed to the Temple, out of which he was destined never to come alive.
It must be owned that Pichegru was far from exciting the same interest as Moreau. The public, and more especially the army, never pardoned him for his negotiations with the Prince de Conde prior to the 18th Fructidor. However, I became acquainted with a trait respecting him while he was in Paris which I think does him much honour. A son of M. Lagrenee, formerly director of the French Academy at Rome, had been one of Pichegru's aides de camp. This young man, though he had obtained the rank of captain, resigned on the banishment of his general, and resumed the pencil, which he had lad aside for the sword. Pichegru, while he was concealed in Paris; visited his former aide de camp, who insisted upon giving him an asylum; but Pichegru positively refused to accept M. Lagrenee's offer, being determined not to commit a man who had already given him so strong a proof of friendship. I learned this fact by a singular coincidence. At this period Madame de Bourrienne wished to have a portrait of one of our children; she was recommended to M. Lagrenee, and he related the circumstance to her.
It was on the night of the 22d of February that Pichegru was arrested in the manner I have described. The deceitful friend who gave him up was named Le Blanc, and he went to settle at Hamburg with the reward of his treachery, I had entirely lost sight of Pichegru since we left Brienne, for Pichegru was also a pupil of that establishment; but, being older than either Bonaparte or I, he was already a tutor when we were only scholars, and I very well recollect that it was he who examined Bonaparte in the four first rules of arithmetic.
Pichegru belonged to an agricultural family of Franche-Comte. He had a relation, a minim,' in that country. The minim, who had the charge of educating the pupils of the Military School of Brienne, being very poor, and their poverty not enabling them to hold out much inducement to other persons to assist them, they applied to the minims of Franche-Comte. In consequence of this application Pichegru's relation, and some other minims, repaired to Brienne. An aunt of Pichegru, who was a sister of the order of charity, accompanied them, and the care of the infirmary was entrusted to her. This good woman took her nephew to Brienne with her, and he was educated at the school gratuitously. As soon as his age permitted, Pichegru was made a tutor; but all, his ambition was to become a minim. He was, however, dissuaded from that pursuit by his relation, and he adopted the military profession. There is this further remarkable circumstance in the youth of Pichegru, that, though he was older by several years than Bonaparte, they were both made lieutenants of artillery at the same time. What a difference in their destiny! While the one was preparing to ascend a throne the other was a solitary prisoner in the dungeon of the Temple.
I had no motive to induce me to visit either the Temple or La Force, but I received at the time circumstantial details of what was passing in those prisons, particularly in the former; I went, however, frequently to St. Pelagie, where M. Carbonnet was confined. As soon as I knew that he was lodged in that prison I set about getting an admission from Real, who smoothed all difficulties. M. Carbonnet was detained two months in solitary confinement. He was several times examined, but the interrogatories produced no result, and, notwithstanding the desire to implicate him in consequence of the known intimacy between him and Moreau, it was at last found impossible to put him on trial with the other parties accused.
The Temple had more terrors than St. Pelagie, but not for the prisoners who were committed to it, for none of those illustrious victims of police machination displayed any weakness, with the exception of Bouvet de Lozier, who, being sensible of his weakness, wished to prevent its consequences by death. The public, however, kept their attention riveted on the prison in which Moreau was confined. I have already mentioned that Pichegru was conveyed thither on the night of the 22d of February; a fortnight later Georges was arrested, and committed to the same prison.
Either Real or Desmarets, and sometimes both together, repaired to the Temple to examine the prisoners. In vain the police endeavoured to direct public odium against the prisoners by placarding lists of their names through the whole of Paris, even before they were arrested. In those lists they were styled "brigands," and at the head of "the brigands," the name of General Moreau shone conspicuously. An absurdity without a parallel. The effect produced was totally opposite to that calculated on; for, as no person could connect the idea of a brigand with that of a general who was the object of public esteem, it was naturally concluded that those whose names were placarded along with his were no more brigands than he.
Public opinion was decidedly in favour of Moreau, and every one was indignant at seeing him described as a brigand. Far from believing him guilty, he was regarded as a victim fastened on because his reputation embarrassed Bonaparte; for Moreau had always been looked up to as capable of opposing the accomplishment of the First Consul's ambitious views. The whole crime of Moreau was his having numerous partisans among those who still clung to the phantom of the Republic, and that crime was unpardonable in the eyes of the First Consul, who for two years had ruled the destinies of France as sovereign master. What means were not employed to mislead the opinion of the public respecting Moreau? The police published pamphlets of all sorts, and the Comte de Montgaillard was brought from Lyons to draw up a libel implicating him with Pichegru and the exiled Princes. But nothing that was done produced the effect proposed.
The weak character of Moreau is known. In fact, he allowed himself to be circumvented by a few intriguers, who endeavoured to derive advantage from the influence of his name. But he was so decidedly opposed to the reestablishment of the ancient system that he replied to one of the agents who addressed' him, "I cannot put myself at the head of any movement for the Bourbons, and such an attempt would not succeed. If Pichegru act on another principle—and even in that case I have told him that the Consuls and the Governor of Paris must disappear—I believe that I have a party strong enough in the Senate to obtain possession of authority, and I will immediately make use of it to protect his friends; public opinion will then dictate what may be fit to be done, but I will promise nothing in writing." Admitting these words attributed to Moreau to be true, they prove that he was dissatisfied with the Consular Government, and that he wished a change; but there is a great difference between a conditional wish and a conspiracy.
The commander of the principal guard of the Temple was General Savory, and he had reinforced that guard by his select gendarmerie. The prisoners did not dare to communicate one with another for fear of mutual injury, but all evinced a courage which created no little alarm as to the consequences of the trial. Neither offers nor threats produced any confessions in the course of the interrogatories. Pichegru, in particular, displayed an extraordinary firmness, and Real one day, on leaving the chamber where he had been examining him, said aloud in the presence of several persons, "What a man that Pichegru is!"
Forty days elapsed after the arrest of General Pichegru when, on the morning of the 6th of April, he was found dead in the chamber he occupied in the Temple. Pichegru had undergone ten examinations; but he had made no confessions, and no person was committed by his replies.
All his declarations, however, gave reason to believe that he would speak out, and that too in a lofty and energetic manner during the progress of the trial. "When I am before my judges," said he, "my language shall be conformable to truth and the interests of my country." What would that language have been? Without doubt there was no wish that it should be heard. Pichegru would have kept his promise, for he was distinguished for his firmness of character above everything, even above his qualities as a soldier; differing in this respect from Moreau, who allowed himself to be guided by his wife and mother-in-law, both of whom displayed ridiculous pretensions in their visits to Madame Bonaparte.
The day on which Real spoke before several persons of Pichegru in the way I have related was the day of his last examination. I afterwards learned, from a source on which I can rely, that during his examination Pichegru, though careful to say nothing which could affect the other prisoners, showed no disposition to be tender of him who had sought and resolved his death, but evinced a firm resolution to unveil before the public the odious machinery of the plot into which the police had drawn him. He also declared that he and his companions had no longer any object but to consider of the means of leaving Paris, with the view of escaping from the snares laid for them when their arrest took place. He declared that they had all of them given up the idea of overturning the power of Bonaparte, a scheme into which they had been enticed by shameful intrigues. I am convinced the dread excited by his manifestation of a resolution to speak out with the most rigid candour hastened the death of Pichegru. M. Real, who is still living, knows better than any one else what were Pichegru's declarations, as he interrogated him. I know not whether that gentleman will think fit, either at the present or some future period, to raise the veil of mystery which hangs over these events, but of this I am sure, he will be unable to deny anything I advance. There is evidence almost amounting to demonstration that Pichegru was strangled in prison, and consequently all idea of suicide must be rejected as inadmissible. Have I positive and substantive proof of what I assert? I have not; but the concurrence of facts and the weight of probabilities do not leave me in possession of the doubts I should wish to entertain on that tragic event. Besides, there exists a certain popular instinct, which is rarely at fault, and it must be in the recollection of many, not only that the general opinion favoured the notion of Pichegru's assassination, but that the pains taken to give that opinion another direction, by the affected exhibition of the body, only served to strengthen it. He who spontaneously says, I have not committed such or such a crime, at least admits there is room for suspecting his guilt.
The truth is, the tide of opinion never set in with such force against Bonaparte as during the trial of Moreau; nor was the popular sentiment in error on the subject of the death of Pichegru, who was clearly strangled in the Temple by secret agents. The authors, the actors, and the witnesses of the horrible prison scenes of the period are the only persons capable of removing the doubts which still hang over the death of Pichegru; but I must nevertheless contend that the preceding circumstances, the general belief at the time, and even probability, are in contradiction with any idea of suicide on the part of Pichegru. His death was considered necessary, and this necessity was its real cause.
Arrest of Georges—The fruiterer's daughter of the Rue de La Montagne—St. Genevieve—Louis Bonaparte's visit to the Temple— General Lauriston—Arrest of Villeneuve and Barco—Villeneuve wounded—Moreau during his imprisonment—Preparations for leaving the Temple—Remarkable change in Georges—Addresses and congratulations—Speech of the First Consul forgotten—Secret negotiations with the Senate—Official proposition of Bonaparte's elevation to the Empire—Sitting of the Council of State— Interference of Bonaparte—Individual votes—Seven against twenty— His subjects and his people—Appropriateness of the title of Emperor—Communications between Bonaparte and the Senate—Bonaparte first called Sire by Cambaceres—First letter signed by Napoleon as Emperor—Grand levee at the Tuileries—Napoleon's address to the Imperial Guard—Organic 'Senatus-consulte'—Revival of old formulas and titles—The Republicanism of Lucien—The Spanish Princess— Lucien's clandestine marriage—Bonaparte's influence on the German Princes—Intrigues of England—Drake at Munich—Project for overthrowing Bonaparte's Government—Circular from the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the members of the Diplomatic Body—Answers to that circular.
Georges was arrested about seven o'clock, on the evening of the 9th of March, with another conspirator, whose name, I think, was Leridan. Georges was stopped in a cabriolet on the Place de l'Odeon, whither he had no doubt been directed by the police agent, who was constantly about him. In not seizing him at his lodgings, the object, probably, was to give more publicity to his arrest, and to produce an effect upon the minds of the multitude. This calculation cost the life of one man, and had well-nigh sacrificed the lives of two, for Georges, who constantly carried arms about him, first shot dead the police officer who seized the horse's reins, and wounded another who advanced to arrest him is the cabriolet. Besides his pistols there was found upon him a poniard of English manufacture.
Georges lodged with a woman named Lemoine, who kept a fruiterer's shop in the Rue de la Montagne St. Genevieve, and on the evening of the 9th of March he had just left his lodging to go, it was said, to a perfumer's named Caron. It is difficult to suppose that the circumstance of the police being on the spot was the mere effect of chance. The fruiterer's daughter was putting into the cabriolet a parcel belonging to Georges at the moment of his arrest. Georges, seeing the officers advance to seize him, desired the girl to get out of the way, fearing lest he should shoot her when he fired on the officers. She ran into a neighbouring house, taking the parcel along with her. The police, it may readily be supposed, were soon after her. The master of the house in which she had taken refuge, curious to know what the parcel contained, had opened it, and discovered, among other things, a bag containing 1000 Dutch sovereigns, from which he acknowledged he had abstracted a considerable sum. He and his wife, as well as the fruiterer's daughter, were all arrested; as to Georges, he was taken that same evening to the Temple, where he remained until his removal to the Conciergerie when the trial commenced.
During the whole of the legal proceedings Georges and the other important prisoners were kept in solitary confinement. Immediately on Pichegru's death the prisoners were informed of the circumstance. As they were all acquainted with the general, and none believed the fact of his reported suicide, it may easily be conceived what consternation and horror the tragical event excited among them. I learned, and I was sorry to hear of it, that Louis Bonaparte, who was an excellent man, and, beyond all comparison, the best of the family, had the cruel curiosity to see Georges in his prison a few days after the death of Pichegru, and when the sensation of horror excited by that event in the interior of the Temple was at its height, Louis repaired to the prison, accompanied by a brilliant escort of staff-officers, and General Savary introduced him to the prisoners. When Louis arrived, Georges was lying on his bed with his hands strongly bound by manacles. Lauriston, who accompanied Louis, related to me some of the particulars of this visit, which, in spite of his sincere devotedness to the first Consul, he assured me had been very painful to him.
After the arrest of Georges there were still some individuals marked out as accomplices in the conspiracy who had found means to elude the search of the police. The persons last arrested were, I think, Villeneuve, one- of the principal confidants of Georges, Burban Malabre, who went by the name of Barco, and Charles d'Hozier. They were not taken till five days after the arrest of the Duc d'Enghien. The famous Commissioner Comminges, accompanied by an inspector and a detachment of gendarmes d'Elite, found Villeneuve and Burban Malabre in the house of a man named Dubuisson, in the Rue Jean Robert.
This Dubuisson and his wife had sheltered some of the principal persons proscribed by the police. The Messieurs de Polignac and M. de Riviere had lodged with them. When the police came to arrest Villeneuve and Burban Malabre the people with whom they lodged declared that they had gone away in the morning. The officers, however, searched the house, and discovered a secret door within a closet. They called, and receiving no answer, the gendarmerie had recourse to one of those expedients which were, unfortunately, too familiar to them. They fired a pistol through the door. Villeneuve, who went by the name of Joyau, was wounded in the arm, which obliged him and his companion to come from the place of their concealment, and they were then made prisoners.
Moreau was not treated with the degree of rigour observed towards the other prisoners. Indeed, it would not have been safe so to treat him, for even in his prison he received the homage and respect of all the military, not excepting even those who were his guards. Many of these soldiers had served under him, and it could not be forgotten how much he was beloved by the troops he had commanded. He did not possess that irresistible charm which in Bonaparte excited attachment, but his mildness of temper and excellent character inspired love and respect. It was the general opinion in Paris that a single word from Moreau to the soldiers in whose custody he was placed would in a moment have converted the gaoler-guard into a guard of honour, ready to execute all that might be required for the safety of the conqueror of Hohenlinden. Perhaps the respect with which he was treated and the indulgence of daily seeing his wife and child were but artful calculations for keeping him within the limits of his usual character. Besides, Moreau was so confident of the injustice of the charge brought against him that he was calm and resigned, and showed no disposition to rouse the anger of an enemy who would have been happy to have some real accusation against him. To these causes combined I always attributed the resignation; and I may say the indifference, of Moreau while he was in prison and on his trial.
When the legal preparations for the trial were ended the prisoners of the Temple were permitted to communicate with each other, and, viewing their fate with that indifference which youth, misfortune, and courage inspired, they amused themselves with some of those games which usually serve for boyish recreation. While they were thus engaged the order arrived for their removal to the Conciergerie. The firmness of all remained unshaken, and they made their preparations for departure as if they were going about any ordinary business. This fortitude was particularly remarkable in Georges, in whose manner a change had taken place which was remarked by all his companions in misfortune.
For some time past the agents of Government throughout France had been instructed to solicit the First Consul to grant for the people what the people did not want, but what Bonaparte wished to take while he appeared to yield to the general will, namely, unlimited sovereign authority, free from any subterfuge of denomination. The opportunity of the great conspiracy just discovered, and in which Bonaparte had not incurred a moment's danger, as he did at the time of the infernal machine, was not suffered to escape; that opportunity was, on the contrary, eagerly seized by the authorities of every rank, civil, ecclesiastical, and military, and a torrent of addresses, congratulations, and thanksgivings inundated the Tuileries. Most of the authors of these addressee did not confine themselves to mere congratulations; they entreated Bonaparte to consolidate his work, the true meaning of which was that it was time he should make himself Emperor and establish hereditary succession. Those who on other occasions had shown an officious readiness to execute Bonaparte's commands did not now fear to risk his displeasure by opposing the opinion he had expressed in the Council of State on the discussion of the question of the Consulate for life. Bonaparte then said, "Hereditary succession is absurd. It is irreconcilable with the principle of the sovereignty of the people, and impossible in France."
In this scene of the grand drama Bonaparte played his part with his accustomed talent, keeping himself in the background and leaving to others the task of preparing the catastrophe. The Senate, who took the lead in the way of insinuation, did not fail, while congratulating the First Consul on his escape from the plots of foreigners, or, as they were officially styled, the daggers of England, to conjure him not to delay the completion of his work. Six days after the death of the Due d'Enghien the Senate first expressed this wish. Either because Bonaparte began to repent of a useless crime, and felt the ill effect it must produce on the public mind, or because he found the language of the Senate somewhat vague, he left the address nearly a month unanswered, and then only replied by the request that the intention of the address might be more completely expressed. These negotiations between the Senate and the Head of the Government were not immediately published. Bonaparte did not like publicity except for what had arrived at a result; but to attain the result which was the object of his ambition it was necessary that the project which he was maturing should be introduced in the Tribunate, and the tribune Curee had the honour to be the first to propose officially, on the 30th of April 1804, the conversion of the Consular Republic into an Empire, and the elevation of Bonaparte to the title of Emperor; with the rights of hereditary succession.
If any doubts could exist respecting the complaisant part which Curee acted on this occasion one circumstance would suffice to remove them; that is, that ten days before the development of his proposition Bonaparte had caused the question of founding the Empire and establishing hereditary succession in his family to be secretly discussed in the Council of State. I learned from one of the Councillors of State all that passed on that occasion, and I may remark that Cambaceres showed himself particularly eager in the Council of State, as well as afterwards in the Senate, to become the exalted subject of him who had been his first colleague in the Consulate.
About the middle of April, the Council of State being assembled as for an ordinary sitting, the First Consul, who was frequently present at the sittings, did not appear. Cambaceres arrived and took the Presidency in his quality of Second Consul, and it was remarked that his air was more solemn than usual, though he at all times affected gravity.
The partisans of hereditary succession were the majority, and resolved to present an address to the First Consul. Those of the Councillors who opposed this determined on their part to send a counter-address; and to avoid this clashing of opinions Bonaparte signified his wish that each member of the Council should send him his opinion individually, with his signature affixed. By a singular accident it happened to be Berlier's task to present to the First Consul the separate opinions of the Council. Out of the twenty-seven Councillors present only seven opposed the question. Bonaparte received them all most graciously, and told them, among other things, that be wished for hereditary power only for the benefit of France; that the citizens would never be his subjects, and that the French people would never be his people. Such were the preliminaries to the official proposition of Curee to the Tribunate, and upon reflection it was decided that, as all opposition would be useless and perhaps dangerous to the opposing party, the minority should join the majority. This was accordingly done.
The Tribunate having adopted the proposition of Curee, there was no longer any motive for concealing the overtures of the Senate. Its address to the First Consul was therefore published forty days after its date: the pear was then ripe. This period is so important that I must not omit putting together the most remarkable facts which either came within my own observation, or which I have learned since respecting the foundation of the Empire.
Bonaparte had a long time before spoken to me of the title of Emperor as being the most appropriate for the new sovereignty which he wished to found in France. This, he observed, was not restoring the old system entirely, and he dwelt much on its being the title which Caesar had borne. He often said, "One may be the Emperor of a republic, but not the King of a republic, those two terms are incongruous."
In its first address the Senate had taken as a test the documents it had received from the Government in relation to the intrigues of Drake, who had been sent from England to Munich. That text afforded the opportunity for a vague expression of what the Senate termed the necessities of France. To give greater solemnity to the affair the Senate proceeded in a body to the Tuileries, and one thing which gave a peculiar character to the preconcerted advances of the Senate was that Cambaceres, the Second Consul, fulfilled his functions of President on this occasion, and delivered the address to the First Consul.
However, the First Consul thought the address of the Senate, which, I have been informed, was drawn up by Francois de Neufchateau, was not expressed with sufficient clearness; he therefore, after suffering a little interval to elapse, sent a message to the Senate signed by himself, in which he said, "Your address has been the object of my earnest consideration." And though the address contained no mention of hereditary succession, he added, "You consider the hereditary succession of the supreme magistracy necessary to defend the French people against the plots of our enemies and the agitation arising from rival ambition. At the same time several of our institutions appear to you to require improvement so as to ensure the triumph of equality and public liberty, and to offer to the nation and the Government the double guarantee they require." From the subsequent passages of the message it will be sufficient to extract the following: "We have been constantly guided by this great truth: that the sovereignty dwells with the French people, and that it is for their interest, happiness, and glory that the Supreme Magistracy, the Senate, the Council of State, the Legislative Body, the Electoral Colleges, and the different branches of the Government, are and must be instituted." The omission of the Tribunate in this enumeration is somewhat remarkable. It announced a promise which was speedily realised.
The will of Bonaparte being thus expressed in his message to the—Senate, that body, which was created to preserve the institutions consecrated by the Constitution of the year VIII., had no alternative but to submit to the intentions manifested by the First Consul. The reply to the message was, therefore, merely a counterpart of the message itself. It positively declared that hereditary government was essential to the happiness, the glory, and the prosperity of France, and that that government could be confided only to Bonaparte and his family. While the Senate so complaisantly played its part in this well-get-up piece, yet, the better to impose on the credulity of the multitude, its reply, like Bonaparte's message, resounded with the words liberty and equality. Indeed, it was impudently asserted in that reply that Bonaparte's accession to hereditary power would be a certain guarantee for the liberty of the press, a liberty which Bonaparte held in the greatest horror, and without which all other liberty is but a vain illusion.
By this reply of the Senate the most important step was performed. There now remained merely ceremonies to regulate and formulas to fill up. These various arrangements occasioned a delay of a fortnight. On the 18th of May the First Consul was greeted for the first time by the appellation of Sire by his former colleague, Cambaceres, who at the head of the Senate went to present to Bonaparte the organic 'Senatus-consulte' containing the foundation of the Empire. Napoleon was at St. Cloud, whither the Senate proceeded in state. After the speech of Cambaceres, in which the old designation of Majesty was for the first time revived, the EMPEROR replied:—
All that can contribute to the welfare of the country is essentially connected with my happiness. I accept the title which you believe to be conducive to the glory of the nation. I submit to the sanction of the people the law of hereditary succession. I hope that France will never repent the honours she may confer on my family. At all events, my spirit will not be with my posterity when they cease to merit the confidence and love of the great nation.
Cambaceres next went to congratulate the Empress, and then was realised to Josephine the prediction which I had made to her three years before at Malmaison.
—[In the original motion as prepared by Curee, the Imperial dignity was to be declared hereditary in the family of Napoleon. Previous to being formerly read before the Tribunate, the First Consul sent for the document, and when it was returned it was found that the word family was altered to descendants. Fabre, the President of the Tribunate, who received the altered document from Maret, seeing the effect the alteration would have on the brothers of Napoleon, and finding that Maret affected to crest the change as immaterial, took on himself to restore the original form, and in that shape it was read by the unconscious Curee to the Tribunals. On this curious, passage see Miot de Melito, tome ii, p. 179. As finally settled the descent of the crown in default of Napoleon's children was limited to Joseph and Louis and their descendants, but the power of adoption was given to Napoleon. The draft of the 'Senates-consulte' was heard by the Council of State in silence, and Napoleon tried in vain to get even the most talkative of the members now to speak. The Senate were not unanimous in rendering the 'Senatus-consulte'. The three votes given against it were said to have been Gregoire, the former constitutional Bishop of Blois, Carat, who as Minister of Justice had read to Louis XVI. the sentence of death, and Lanjuinais, one of the very few survivors of the Girondists, Thiers says there was only one dissentient voice. For the fury of the brothers of Napoleon, who saw the destruction of all their ambitions hopes in any measure for the descent of the crown except in the family, see Miot, tome ii. p.. 172, where Joseph is described as cursing the ambition of his brother, and desiring his death as a benefit for France and his family.]—
Bonaparte's first act as Emperor, on the very day of his elevation to the Imperial throne, was the nomination of Joseph to the dignity of Grand Elector, with the title of Imperial Highness. Louis was raised to the dignity of Constable, with the same title, and Cambaceres and Lebrun were created Arch-Chancellor and Arch-Treasurer of the Empire. On the same day Bonaparte wrote the following letter to Cambaceres, the first which he signed as Emperor, and merely with the name of Napoleon:—
CITIZEN CONSUL CAMBACERES—Your title has changed; but your functions and my confidence remain the same. In the high dignity with which you are now invested you will continue to manifest, as you have hitherto done in that of Consul, that wisdom and that distinguished talent which entitle you to so important a share in all the good which I may have effected. I have, therefore, only to desire the continuance of the sentiments you cherish towards the State and me.
Given at the Palace of St. Cloud, 28th Floreal, an XII.
(18th May 1804).
By the Emperor.
H. B. MARET.
I have quoted this first letter of the Emperor because it is characteristic of Bonaparte's art in managing transitions. It was to the Citizen Consul that the Emperor addressed himself, and it was dated according to the Republican calendar. That calendar, together with the delusive inscription on the coin, were all that now remained of the Republic. Next day the Emperor came to Paris to hold a grand levee at the Tuileries, for he was not the man to postpone the gratification that vanity derived from his new dignity and title. The assembly was more numerous and brilliant than on any former occasion. Bessieres having addressed the Emperor on the part of the Guards, the Emperor replied in the following terms: "I know the sentiments the Guards cherish towards me. I repose perfect confidence in their courage and fidelity. I constantly see, with renewed pleasure, companions in arms who have escaped so many dangers, and are covered with so many honourable wounds. I experience a sentiment of satisfaction when I look at the Guards, and think that there has not, for the last fifteen years, in any of the four quarters of the world, been a battle in which some of them have not taken part."
On the same day all the generals and colonels in Paris were presented to the Emperor by Louis Bonaparte, who had already begun to exercise his functions of Constable. In a few days everything assumed a new aspect; but in spite of the admiration which was openly expressed the Parisians secretly ridiculed the new courtiers. This greatly displeased Bonaparte, who was very charitably informed of it in order to check his prepossession in favour of the men of the old Court, such as the Comte de Segur, and at a later period Comte Louis de Narbonne.
To give all possible solemnity to his accession Napoleon ordered that the Senate itself should proclaim in Paris the organic 'Senates-consulte', which entirely changed the Constitution of the State. By one of those anomalies which I have frequently had occasion to remark, the Emperor fixed for this ceremony Sunday, the 30th Floral. That day was a festival in all Paris, while the unfortunate prisoners were languishing in the dungeons of the Temple.
On the day after Bonaparte's accession the old formulae were restored. The Emperor determined that the French Princes and Princesses should receive the title of Imperial Highness; that his sisters should take the same title; that the grand dignitaries of the Empire should be called Serene Highnesses; that the Princes and titularies of the grand dignitaries should be addressed by the title of Monseigneur; that M. Maret, the Secretary of State, should have the rank of Minister; that the ministers should retain the title of Excellency, to which should be added that of Monseigneur in the petitions addressed to them; and that the title of Excellency should be given to the President of the Senate.
At the same time Napoleon appointed the first Marshals of the Empire, and determined that they should be called Monsieur le Marechal when addressed verbally, and Monseigneur in writing. The following are the names of these sons of the Republic transformed into props of the Empire: Berthier, Murat, Moncey, Jourdan, Massena, Augereau, Bernadotte, Soult, Brune, Lannes, Mortier, Ney, Davoust, and Besaieres. The title of Marshal of the Empire was also granted to the generals Kellerman, Lefebvre, Perignon, and Serrurier, as having served as commander-in- chief.
The reader cannot have failed to observe that the name of Lucien has not been mentioned among the individuals of Bonaparte's family on whom dignities were conferred. The fact is, the two brothers were no longer on good terms with each other. Not, as it has been alleged, because Lucien wished to play the part of a Republican, but because he would not submit to the imperious will of Napoleon in a circumstance in which the latter counted on his brother's docility to serve the interests of his policy. In the conferences which preceded the great change in the form of government it was not Lucien but Joseph who, probably for the sake of sounding opinion, affected an opposition, which was by some mistaken for Republicanism. With regard to Lucien, as he had really rendered great services to Napoleon on the 19th Brumaire at St. Cloud, and as he himself exaggerated the value of those services, he saw no reward worthy of his ambition but a throne independent of his brother. It is certain that when at Madrid he had aspired to win the good graces of a Spanish Infanta, and on that subject reports were circulated with which I have nothing to do, because I never had any opportunity of ascertaining their truth. All I know is that, Lucien's first wife being dead, Bonaparte, wished him to marry a German Princess, by way of forming the first great alliance in the family. Lucien, however, refused to comply with Napoleon's wishes, and he secretly married the wife of an agent, named, I believe, Joubertou, who for the sake of convenience was sent to the West Indies, where he: died shortly after. When Bonaparte heard of this marriage from the priest by whom it had been clandestinely performed, he fell into a furious passion, and resolved not to confer on Lucien the title of French Prince, on account of what he termed his unequal match. Lucien, therefore, obtained no other dignity than that of Senator.
—[According to Lucien himself, Napoleon wished him to marry the Queen of Etruria Maria-Louise, daughter of Charles IV. of Spain, who had married, 1795 Louie de Bourbon, Prince of Parma, son of the Duke of Parma, to whom Napoleon had given Tuscany in 1801 as the Kingdom of, Etruria. Her husband had died in May 1808, and she governed in the name of her son. Lucien, whose first wife, Anne Christine Boyer, had died in 1801, had married his second wife, Alexandrine Laurence de Bleschamps, who had married, but who had divorced, a M. Jonberthon. When Lucien had been ambassador in Spain in 1801, charged among other things with obtaining Elba, the Queen, he says, wished Napoleon should marry an Infanta,—Donna Isabella, her youngest daughter, afterwards Queen of Naples, an overture to which Napoleon seems not to have made any answer. As for Lucien, he objected to his brother that the Queen was ugly, and laughed at Napoleon's representations as to her being "propre": but at last he acknowledged his marriage with Madame Jouberthon. This made a complete break between the brothers, and on hearing of the execution of the Due d'Enghien, Lucien said to his wife, "Alexandrine, let us go; he has tasted blood." He went to Italy, and in 1810 tried to go to the United States. Taken prisoner by the English, he was detained first at Malta, and then in England, at Ludlow Castle and at Thorngrove, till 1814, when he went to Rome. The Pope, who ever showed a kindly feeling towards the Bonapartes, made the ex- "Brutus" Bonaparte Prince de Canino and Due de Musignano. In 1815 he joined Napoleon and on the final fall of the Empire he was interned at Rome till the death of his brother.]—
Jerome, who pursued an opposite line of conduct, was afterwards made a
King. As to Lucien's Republicanism, it did not survive the 18th
Brumaire, and he was always a warm partisan of hereditary succession.
But I pass on to relate what I know respecting the almost incredible influence which, on the foundation of the Empire, Bonaparte exercised over the powers which did not yet dare to declare war against him. I studied Bonaparte's policy closely, and I came to this conclusion on the subject, that he was governed by ambition, by the passion of dominion, and that no relations, on a footing of equality, between himself and any other power, could be of long duration. The other States of Europe had only to choose one of two things—submission or war. As to secondary States, they might thenceforth be considered as fiefs of the French Government; and as they could not resist, Bonaparte easily accustomed them to bend to his yoke. Can there be a stronger proof of this arbitrary influence than what occurred at Carlsruhe, after the violation of the territory of Baden, by the arrest of the Due d'Enghien? Far from venturing to make any observation on that violation, so contrary to the rights of nations, the Grand Duke of Baden was obliged to publish, in his own State, a decree evidently dictated by Bonaparte. The decree stated, that many individuals formerly belonging to the army of Conde having come to the neighbourhood of Carlsruhe, his Electoral Highness had felt it his duty to direct that no individual coming from Conde's army, nor indeed any French emigrant, should, unless he had permission previously to the place, make a longer sojourn than was allowed to foreign travellers. Such was already the influence which Bonaparte exercised over Germany, whose Princes, to use an expression which he employed in a later decree, were crushed by the grand measures of the Empire.
But to be just, without however justifying Bonaparte, I must acknowledge that the intrigues which England fomented in all parts of the Continent were calculated to excite his natural irritability to the utmost degree. The agents of England were spread over the whole of Europe, and they varied the rumours which they were commissioned to circulate, according to the chances of credit which the different places afforded. Their reports were generally false; but credulity gave ear to them, and speculators endeavoured, each according to his interest, to give them support. The headquarters of all this plotting was Munich, where Drake, who was sent from England, had the supreme direction. His correspondence, which was seized by the French Government, was at first placed amongst the documents to be produced on the trial of Georges, Moreau, and the other prisoners; but in the course of the preliminary proceedings the Grand Judge received directions to detach them, and make them the subject of a special report to the First Consul, in order that their publication beforehand might influence public opinion, and render it unfavourable to those who were doomed to be sacrificed. The instructions given by Drake to his agents render it impossible to doubt that England wished to overthrow the Government of Bonaparte. Drake wrote as follows to a man who was appointed to travel through France:—
The principal object of your journey being the overthrow of the existing Government, one of the means of effecting it is to acquire a knowledge of the enemy's plans. For this purpose it is of the highest importance to begin, in the first place, by establishing communications with persons who may be depended upon in the different Government offices in order to obtain exact information of all plans with respect to foreign or internal affairs. The knowledge of these plans will supply the best means of defeating them; and failure is the way to bring the Government into complete discredit—the first and most important step towards the end proposed. Try to gain over trustworthy agents in the different Government departments. Endeavour, also, to learn what passes in the secret committee, which is supposed to be established at St Cloud, and composed of the friends of the First Consul. Be careful to furnish information of the various projects which Bonaparte may entertain relative to Turkey and Ireland. Likewise send intelligence respecting the movements of troops, respecting vessels and ship-building, and all military preparations.
Drake, in his instructions, also recommended that the subversion of Bonaparte's Government should, for the time, be the only object in view, and that nothing should be said about the King's intentions until certain information could be obtained respecting his views; but most of his letters and instructions were anterior to 1804. The whole bearing of the seized documents proved what Bonaparte could not be ignorant of, namely, that England was his constant enemy; but after examining them, I was of opinion that they contained nothing which could justify the belief that the Government of Great Britain authorised any attempt at assassination.
When the First Consul received the report of the Grand Judge relative to Drake's plots' against his Government he transmitted a copy of it to the Senate, and it was in reply to this communication that the Senate made those first overtures which Bonaparte thought vague, but which, nevertheless, led to the formation of the Empire. Notwithstanding this important circumstance, I have not hitherto mentioned Drake, because his intrigues for Bonaparte'soverthrow appeared to me to be more immediately connected with the preliminaries of the trial of Georges and Moreau, which I shall notice in my next chapter.
—[These were not plots for assassination. Bonaparte, in the same way, had his secret agents in every country of Europe, without excepting England. Alison (chap. xxxvii. par. 89) says on this matter of Drake that, though the English agents were certainly attempting a counter-revolution, they had no idea of encouraging the assassination of Napoleon, while "England was no match for the French police agents in a transaction of this description, for the publication of Regular revealed the mortifying fact that the whole correspondence both of Drake and Spencer Smith had been regularly transmitted, as fast as it took place, to the police of Paris, and that their principal corresponded in that city, M. Mehu de la Tonche, was himself an agent of the police, employed to tempt the British envoys into this perilous enterprise."]—
At the same time that Bonaparte communicated to the Senate the report of the Grand Judge, the Minister for Foreign Affairs addressed the following circular letter to the members of the Diplomatic Body:
The First Consul has commanded me to forward to your Excellency a copy of a report which has been presented to him, respecting a conspiracy formed in France by Mr. Drake, his Britannic Majesty's Minister at the Court of Munich, which, by its object as well as its date, is evidently connected with the infamous plot now in the course of investigation.
The printed copy of Mr. Drake's letters and authentic documents is annexed to the report. The originals will be immediately sent, by order of the First Consul, to the Elector of Bavaria.
Such a prostitution of the most honourable function which can be intrusted to a man is unexampled in the history of civilised nations. It will astonish and afflict Europe as an unheard of crime, which hitherto the most perverse Governments have not dared to meditate. The First Consul is too well acquainted with sentiments of the Diplomatic Body accredited to him not to be fully convinced that every one of its members will behold, with profound regret, the profanation of the sacred character of Ambassador, basely transformed into a minister of plots, snares, and corruption.
All the ambassadors, ministers, plenipotentiaries, envoys, ordinary or extraordinary, whatever might be their denomination, addressed answers to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in which they expressed horror and indignation at the conduct of England and Drake's machinations. These answers were returned only five days after the Duc d'Enghien's death; and here one cannot help admiring the adroitness of Bonaparte, who thus compelled all the representatives of the European Governments to give official testimonies of regard for his person and Government.
Trial of Moreau, Georges, and others—Public interest excited by Moreau—Arraignment of the prisoners—Moreau's letter to Bonaparte— Violence of the President of the Court towards the prisoners— Lajolais and Rolland—Examinations intended to criminate Moreau— Remarkable observations—Speech written by M. Garat—Bonaparte's opinion of Garat's eloquence—General Lecourbe and Moreau's son— Respect shown to Moreau by the military—Different sentiments excited by Georges and Moreau—Thoriot and 'Tui-roi'—Georges' answers to the interrogatories—He refuses an offer of pardon— Coster St. Victor—Napoleon and an actress—Captain Wright— M. de Riviere and the medal of the Comte d'Artois—Generous struggle between MM. de Polignac—Sentence on the prisoners—Bonaparte's remark—Pardons and executions.
On the 28th of May, about ten days after Napoleon had been declared Emperor, the trials of Moreau and others commenced. No similar event that has since occurred can convey an idea of the fermentation which then prevailed in Paris. The indignation excited by Moreau's arrest was openly manifested, and braved the observation of the police. Endeavours had been successfully made to mislead public opinion with respect to Georges and some others among the accused, who were looked upon as assassins in the pay of England, at least by that numerous portion of the public who lent implicit faith to declarations presented to them as official. But the case was different with regard to those individuals who were particularly the objects of public interest, -viz. MM. de Polignac, de Riviere, Charles d'Hozier, and, above all, Moreau. The name of Moreau towered above all the rest, and with respect to him the Government found itself not a little perplexed. It was necessary on the one hand to surround him with a guard sufficiently imposing, to repress the eagerness of the people and of his friends, and yet on the other hand care was required that this guard should not be so strong as to admit of the possibility of making it a rallying-point, should the voice of a chief so honoured by the army appeal to it for defence. A rising of the populace in favour of Moreau was considered as a very possible event,— some hoped for it, others dreaded it. When I reflect on the state of feeling which then prevailed, I am certain that a movement in his favour would infallibly have taken place had judges more complying than even those who presided at the trial condemned Moreau to capital punishment.
It is impossible to form an idea of the crowd that choked up the avenues of the Palace of Justice on the day the trials commenced. This crowd continued during the twelve days the proceedings lasted, and was exceedingly great on the day the sentence was pronounced. Persons of the highest class were anxious to be present.
I was one of the first in the Hall, being determined to watch the course of these solemn proceedings. The Court being assembled, the President ordered the prisoners to be brought in. They entered in a file, and ranged themselves on the benches each between two gendarmes. They appeared composed and collected, and resignation was depicted on the countenances of all except Bouvet de Lozier, who did not dare to raise his eyes to his companions in misfortune, whom his weakness, rather than his will, had betrayed. I did not recognise him until the President proceeded to call over the prisoners, and to put the usual questions respecting their names, professions, and places of abode. Of the forty- nine prisoners, among whom were several females, only two were personally known to me; namely, Moreau, whose presence on the prisoner's bench seemed to wring every heart, and Georges, whom I had seen at the Tuileries in the First Consul's cabinet.
The first sitting of the Court was occupied with the reading of the act of accusation or indictment, and the voices of the ushers, commanding silence, could scarce suppress the buzz which pervaded the Court at the mention of Moreau's name. All eyes were turned towards the conqueror of Hohenlinden, and while the Procureur Imperial read over the long indictment and invoked the vengeance of the law on an attempt against the head of the Republic, it was easy to perceive how he tortured his ingenuity to fasten apparent guilt on the laurels of Moreau. The good sense of the public discerned proofs of his innocence in the very circumstances brought forward against him. I shall never forget the effect produced—so contrary to what was anticipated by the prosecutors— by the reading of a letter addressed by Moreau from his prison in the Temple to the First Consul, when the judges appointed to interrogate him sought to make his past conduct the subject of accusation, on account of M. de Klinglin's papers having fallen into his hands. He was reproached with having too long delayed transmitting these documents to the Directory; and it was curious to see the Emperor Napoleon become the avenger of pretended offences committed against the Directory which he had overthrown.
In the letter here alluded to Moreau said to Bonaparte, then First
"In the short campaign of the year V. (from the 20th to the 23d of March 1797) we took the papers belonging to the staff of the enemy's army, and a number of documents were brought to me which General Desaix, then wounded, amused himself by perusing. It appeared from this correspondence that General Pichegru had maintained communications with the French Princes. This discovery was very painful, and particularly to me, and we agreed to say nothing of the matter. Pichegru, as a member of the Legislative Body, could do but little to injure the public cause, since peace was established. I nevertheless took every precaution for protecting the army against the ill effects of a system of espionage . . . . The events of the 18th Fructidor occasioned so much anxiety that two officers, who knew of the existence of the correspondence, prevailed on me to communicate it to the Government . . . . I felt that, as a public functionary, I could no longer remain silent . . . . During the two last campaigns in Germany, and since the peace, distant overtures have been made to me, with the view of drawing me into connection with the French Princes. This appeared so absurd that I took no notice of these overtures. As to the present conspiracy, I can assure you I have been far from taking any share in it. I repeat to you, General, that whatever proposition to that effect was made me, I rejected it, and regarded it as the height of madness. When it was represented to me that the invasion of England would offer a favourable opportunity for effecting a change in the French Government, I invariably answered that the Senate was the authority to which the whole of France would naturally cling in the time of trouble, and that I would be the first to place myself under its orders. To such overtures made to a private individual, who wished to preserve no connection either with the army, of whom nine- tenths have served under me, or any constituted authority, the only possible answer was a refusal. Betrayal of confidence I disdained. Such a step, which is always base, becomes doubly odious when the treachery is committed against those to whom we owe gratitude, or have been bound by old friendship.
"This, General, is all I have to tell you respecting my relations with Pichegru, and it must convince you that very false and hasty inferences have been drawn from conduct which, though perhaps imprudent, was far from being criminal."
Moreau fulfilled his duty as a public functionary by communicating to the Directory the papers which unfolded a plot against the Government, and which the chances of war had thrown into his hands. He fulfilled his duty as a man of honour by not voluntarily incurring the infamy which can never be wiped from the character of an informer. Bonaparte in Moreau's situation would have acted the same part, for I never knew a man express stronger indignation than himself against informers, until be began to consider everything a virtue which served his ambition, and everything a crime which opposed it.
The two facts which most forcibly obtruded themselves on my attention during the trial were the inveterate violence of the President of the Court towards the prisoners and the innocence of Moreau.
—[It is strange that Bourrienne does not acknowledge that he was charged by Napoleon with the duty of attending this trial of Moreau, and of sending in a daily report of the proceedings.]—
But, in spite of the most insidious examinations which can be conceived, Moreau never once fell into the least contradiction. If my memory fail me not, it was on the fourth day that he was examined by Thuriot, one of the judges. The result, clear as day to all present, was, that Moreau was a total stranger to all the plots, all the intrigues which had been set on foot in London. In fact, during the whole course of the trial, to which I listened with as much attention as interest, I did not discover the shadow of a circumstance which could in the least commit him, or which had the least reference to him. Scarcely one of the hundred and thirty-nine witnesses who were heard for the prosecution knew him, and he himself declared on the fourth sitting, which took place on the 31st of May, that there was not an individual among the accused whom he knew,— not one whom he had ever seen. In the course of the long proceedings, notwithstanding the manifest efforts of Thuriot to extort false admissions and force contradictions, no fact of any consequence was elicited to the prejudice of Moreau. His appearance was as calm as his conscience; and as he sat on the bench he had the appearance of one led by curiosity to be present at this interesting trial, rather than of an accused person, to whom the proceedings might end in condemnation and death. But for the fall of Moreau in the ranks of the enemy,—but for the foreign cockade which disgraced the cap of the conqueror of Hohenlinden, his complete innocence would long since have been put beyond doubt, and it would have been acknowledged that the most infamous machinations were employed for his destruction. It is evident that Lajolais, who had passed from London to Paris, and from Paris to London, had been acting the part of an intriguer rather than of a conspirator; and that the object of his missions was not so much to reconcile Moreau and Pichegru as to make Pichegru the instrument of implicating Moreau. Those who supposed Lajolais to be in the pay of the British Government were egregiously imposed on. Lajolais was only in the pay of the secret police; he was condemned to death, as was expected, but he received his pardon, as was agreed upon. Here was one of the disclosures which Pichegru might have made; hence the necessity of getting him out of the way before the trial. As to the evidence of the man named Rolland, it was clear to everybody that Moreau was right when he said to the President, "In my opinion, Rolland is either a creature of the police, or he has given his evidence under the influence of fear." Rolland made two declarations the first contained nothing at all; the second was in answer to the following observations: "You see you stand in a terrible situation; you must either be held to be an accomplice in the conspiracy, or you must be taken as evidence. If you say nothing, you will be considered in the light of an accomplice; if you confess, you will be saved." This single circumstance may serve to give an idea of the way the trials were conducted so as to criminate Moreau. On his part the general repelled the attacks, of which he was the object, with calm composure and modest confidence, though flashes of just indignation would occasionally burst from him. I recollect the effect he produced upon the Court and the auditors at one of the sittings, when the President had accused him of the design of making himself Dictator. He exclaimed, "I Dictator! What, make myself Dictator at the head of the partisans of the Bourbons! Point out my partisans! My partisans would naturally be the soldiers of France, of whom I have commanded nine-tenths, and saved more than fifty thousand. These are the partisans I should look to! All my aides de camp, all the officers of my acquaintance, have been arrested; not the shadow of a suspicion could be found against any of them, and they have been set at liberty. Why, then, attribute to me the madness of aiming to get myself made Dictator by the aid of the adherents of the old French Princes, of persons who have fought in their cause since 1792? You allege that these men, in the space of four-and-twenty hours, formed the project of raising me to the Dictatorship! It is madness to think of it! My fortune and my pay have been alluded to; I began the world with nothing; I might have had by this time fifty millions; I have merely a house and a bit of ground; as to my pay, it is forty thousand francs. Surely that sum will not be compared with my services."
During the trial Moreau delivered a defence, which I knew had been written by his friend Garat, whose eloquence I well remember was always disliked by Bonaparte. Of this I had a proof on the occasion of a grand ceremony which took place in the Place des Victoires, on laying the first stone of a monument which was to have been erected to the memory of Desaix, but which was never executed. The First Consul returned home in very ill-humour, and said to me, "Bourrienne, what a brute that Garat is! What a stringer of words! I have been obliged to listen to him for three-quarters of an hour. There are people who never know when to hold their tongues!"
Whatever might be the character of Garat's eloquence or Bonaparte's opinion of it, his conduct was noble on the occasion of Moreau's trial; for he might be sure Bonaparte would bear him a grudge for lending the aid of his pen to the only man whose military glory, though not equal to that of the First Consul, might entitle him to be looked upon as his rival in fame. At one of the sittings a circumstance occurred which produced an almost electrical effect. I think I still see General Lecourbe, the worthy friend of Moreau, entering unexpectedly into the Court, leading a little boy. Raising the child in his arms, he exclaimed aloud, and with considerable emotion, "Soldiers, behold the son of your general!"
—[This action of Lecourbe, together with the part played in this trial by his brother, one of the judges, was most unfortunate, not only for Lecourbe but for France, which consequently lost the services of its best general of mountain warfare. His campaigns of Switzerland in 1799 on the St. Gothard against Suwarrow are well known. Naturally disgraced for the part he took with Moreau, he was not again employed till the Cent Jours, when he did good service, although he had disapproved of the defection of Ney from the Royalist cause. He died in 1816; his brother, the judge, had a most furious reception from Napoleon, who called him a prevaricating judge, and dismissed him from his office (Remusat, tome ii. p. 8).]—
At this unexpected movement all the military present spontaneously rose and presented arms; while a murmur of approbation from the spectators applauded the act. It is certain that had Moreau at that moment said but one word, such was the enthusiasm in his favour, the tribunal would have been broken up and the prisoners liberated. Moreau, however, was silent, and indeed appeared the only unconcerned person in Court. Throughout the whole course of the trial Moreau inspired so much respect that when he was asked a question and rose to reply the gendarmes appointed to guard him rose at the same time and stood uncovered while he spoke.
Georges was far from exciting the interest inspired by Moreau. He was an object of curiosity rather than of interest. The difference of their previous conduct was in itself sufficient to occasion a great contrast in their situation before the Court. Moreau was full of confidence and Georges full of resignation. The latter regarded his fate with a fierce kind of resolution. He occasionally resumed the caustic tone which he seemed to have renounced when he harangued his associates before their departure from the Temple. With the most sarcastic bitterness he alluded to the name and vote of Thuriot, one of the most violent of the judges, often terming him 'Tue-roi';
—[Thuriot and the President Hemart both voted for the death of the King. Merlin, the imperial Procureur-General, was one of the regicides.—Bourrienne.]—
and after pronouncing his name, or being forced to reply to his interrogatories, he would ask for a glass of brandy to wash his mouth.
Georges had the manners and bearing of a rude soldier; but under his coarse exterior he concealed the soul of a hero. When the witnesses of his arrest had answered the questions of the President Hemart, this judge turned towards the accused, and inquired whether he had anything to say in reply.—"No."—"Do you admit the facts?"—"Yes." Here Georges busied himself in looking over the papers which lay before him, when Hemart warned him to desist, and attend to the questions. The following dialogue then commenced. "Do you confess having been arrested in the place designated by the witness?"—"I do not know the name of the place."—"Do you confess having been arrested?"—"Yes."—" Did you twice fire a pistol?"—"Yes."—"Did you kill a man?"—"Indeed I do not know."— "Had you a poniard?"—"Yes."—"And two pistols?"—" Yes."—"Who was in company with you?"—"I do not know the person."—" Where did you lodge in Paris?"—" Nowhere."—"At the time of your arrest did you not reside in the house of a fruiterer in the Rue de la Montagne St. Genevieve?"— "At the time of my arrest I was in a cabriolet. I lodged nowhere."— "Where did you sleep on the evening of your arrest?"—"Nowhere."—"What were you doing in Paris?"—"I was walking about."—" Whom have you seen in Paris?"—" I shall name no one; I know no one."
From this short specimen of the manner in which Georges replied to the questions of the President we may judge of his unshaken firmness during the proceedings. In all that concerned himself he was perfectly open; but in regard to whatever tended to endanger his associates he maintained the most obstinate silence, notwithstanding every attempt to overcome his firmness.
That I was not the only one who justly appreciated the noble character of Georges is rendered evident by the following circumstance. Having accompanied M. Carbonnet to the police, where he went to demand his papers, on the day of his removal to St. Pelagic, we were obliged to await the return of M. Real, who was absent. M. Desmarets and several other persons were also in attendance. M. Real had been at the Conciergerie, where he had seen Georges Cadoudal, and on his entrance observed to M. Desmarets and the others, sufficiently loud to be distinctly heard by M. Carbonnet and myself, "I have had an interview with Georges who is an extraordinary man. I told him that I was disposed to offer him a pardon if he would promise to renounce the conspiracy and accept of employment under Government. But to my arguments and persuasions he only replied, 'My comrades followed me to France, and I shall fellow them, to death.'" In this he kept his word.
Were we to judge these memorable proceedings from the official documents published in the Moniteur and other journals of that period, we should form a very erroneous opinion. Those falsities were even the object of a very serious complaint on the part of Cosier St. Victor, one of the accused.
After the speech of M. Gauthier, the advocate of Coster St. Victor, the President inquired of the accused whether he had anything further to say in his defence, to which he replied, "I have only to add that the witnesses necessary to my exculpation have not yet appeared. I must besides express my surprise at the means which have been employed to lead astray public opinion, and to load with infamy not only the accused but also their intrepid defenders. I have read with pain in the journals of to-day that the proceedings—" Here the President interrupting, observed that "these were circumstances foreign to the case."—" Not in the least," replied Cosier St. Victor; "on the contrary, they bear very materially on the cause, since mangling and misrepresenting our defence is a practice assuredly calculated to ruin us in the estimation of the public. In the journals of to-day the speech of M. Gauthier is shamefully garbled, and I should be deficient in gratitude were I not here to bear testimony to the zeal and courage which he has displayed in my defence. I protest against the puerilities and absurdities which have been put into his mouth, and I entreat him not to relax in his generous efforts. It is not on his account that I make this observation; he does not require it at my hands; it is for 'myself, it is for the accused, whom such arts tend to injure in the estimation of the public."
Coster St. Victor had something chivalrous in his language and manners which spoke greatly in his favour; he conveyed no bad idea of one of the Fiesco conspirators, or of those leaders of the Fronds who intermingled gallantry with their politics.
An anecdote to this effect was current about the period of the trial. Coster St. Victor, it is related, being unable any longer to find a secure asylum in Paris, sought refuge for a single night in the house of a beautiful actress, formerly in the good graces of the First Consul; and it is added that Bonaparte, on the same night, having secretly arrived on a visit to the lady, found himself unexpectedly in the presence of Coster St. Victor, who might have taken his life; but that only an interchange of courtesy took place betwixt the rival gallants.
This ridiculous story was doubtless intended to throw additional odium on the First Consul, if Cosier St. Victor should be condemned and not obtain a pardon, in which case malignity would not fail to attribute his execution to the vengeance of a jealous lover.
I should blush to relate such stories, equally destitute of probability and truth, had they not obtained some credit at the time. Whilst I was with Bonaparte he never went abroad during the night; and it was not surely at a moment when the saying of Fouche, "The air is full of poniards," was fully explained that he would have risked such nocturnal adventures.
Wright was heard in the sixth sitting, on the 2d of June, as the hundred and thirty-fourth witness in support of the prosecution. He, however, refused to answer any interrogatories put to him, declaring that, as a prisoner of war, he considered himself only amenable to his own Government.
The Procureur-General requested the President to order the examinations of Captain Wright on the 21st of May' and at a later period to be read over to him; which being done, the witness replied, that it was omitted to be stated that on these occasions the questions had been accompanied with the threat of transferring him to a military tribunal, in order to be shot, if he did not betray the secrets of his country.
In the course of the trial the most lively interest was felt for MM. de
—[The eldest of the Polignacs, Armand (1771-1847), condemned to death, had that penalty remitted, but was imprisoned in Ham till permitted to escape m 1813. He became Duc de Richelieu in 1817. His younger brother, Jules (1780-1847) was also imprisoned and escaped. In 1814 he was one of the first to display the white flag in Paris. In 1829 he became Minister of Charles X. and was responsible for the ordinances which oust his master his throne in 1830. Imprisoned, nominally for life, he was released in 1836, and after passing some time in England returned to France. The remission of the sentence of death on Prince Armand was obtained by the Empress Josephine. Time after time, urged on by Madame de Remusat, she implored mercy from Napoleon, who at last consented to see the wife of the Prince. Unlike the Bourbon Louis XVIII., who could see Madame de Lavalette only to refuse the wretched woman's prayer for her husband, for Napoleon to grant the interview was to concede the pardon. The Prince escaped death, and his wife who had obtained the interview by applying to Madame de Remusat, when she met her benefactress in the times of the Restoration, displayed a really grand forgetfulness of what had passed (see Remusat, tome ii. chap. i.).]—
Charles d'Hozier, and de Riviere. So short a period had elapsed since the proscription of the nobility that, independently of every feeling of humanity, it was certainly impolitic to exhibit before the public the heirs of an illustrious name, endowed with that devoted heroism which could not fail to extort admiration even from those who condemned their opinions and principles.
The prisoners were all young, and their situation create universal sympathy. The greatest number of them disdained to have recourse to a denial, and seemed less anxious for the preservation of their own lives than for the honour of the cause in which they had embarked, not with the view of assassination, as had been demonstrated, but for the purpose of ascertaining the true state of the public feeling, which had been represented by some factious intriguers as favourable to the Bourbons. Even when the sword of the law was suspended over their heads the faithful adherents of the Bourbons displayed on every occasion their attachment and fidelity to the royal cause. I recollect that the Court was dissolved in tears when the President adduced as a proof of the guilt of M. de Riviere his having worn a medal of the Comte d'Artois, which the prisoner requested to examine; and, on its being handed to him by an officer, M. de Riviere pressed it to his lips and his heart, then returning it, he said that he only wished to render homage to the Prince whom he loved.
The Court was still more deeply affected on witnessing the generous fraternal struggle which took place during the last sitting between the two De Polignacs. The emotion was general when the eldest of the brothers, after having observed that his always going out alone and during the day did not look like a conspirator anxious for concealment, added these remarkable words which will remain indelibly engraven on my memory: "I have now only one wish, which is that, as the sword is suspended over our heads, and threatens to cut short the existence of several of the accused, you would, in consideration of his youth if not of his innocence, spare my brother, and shower down upon me the whole weight of your vengeance." It was during the last sitting but one, on Friday the 8th of June, that M. Armand de Polignac made the above affecting appeal in favour of his brother. The following day, before the fatal sentence was pronounced, M. Jules de Polignac addressed the judges, saying, "I was so deeply affected yesterday, while my brother was speaking, as not fully to have attended to what I read in my own defence: but being now perfectly tranquil, I entreat, gentlemen, that you will not regard what he urged in my behalf. I repeat, on the contrary, and with most justice, if one of us must fall a sacrifice, if there be yet time, save him, restore him to the tears of his wife; I have no tie like him, I can meet death unappalled;—too young to have tasted the pleasures of the world, I cannot regret their loss."—" No, no," exclaimed his brother, "you are still in the outset of your career; it is I who ought to fall."
At eight in the morning the members of the Tribunal withdrew to the council-chamber. Since the commencement of the proceedings the crowd, far from diminishing, seemed each day to increase; this morning it was immense, and, though the sentence was not expected to be pronounced till a late hour, no one quitted the Court for fear of not being able to find a place when the Tribunal should resume its sitting.
Sentence of death was passed upon Georges Caudoudal, Bouvet de Lozier, Rusillon, Rochelle, Armand de Polignac, Charles d'Hozier, De Riviere, Louis Ducorps, Picot, Lajolais, Roger, Coster St. Victor, Deville, Gaillard, Joyaub, Burban; Lemercier, Jean Cadudol, Lelan, and Merille; while Lies de Polignac, Leridant, General Moreau,—[General Moreau's sentence was remitted, and he was allowed to go to America.]—Rolland, and Hisay were only condemned to two years' imprisonment.
This decree was heard with consternation by the assembly, and soon spread throughout Paris. I may well affirm it to have been a day of public mourning; even though it was Sunday every place of amusement was nearly deserted. To the horror inspired by a sentence of death passed so wantonly, and of which the greater number of the victims belonged to the most distinguished class of society, was joined the ridicule inspired by the condemnation of Moreau; of the absurdity of which no one seemed more sensible than Bonaparte himself, and respecting which he expressed himself in the most pointed terms. I am persuaded that every one who narrowly watched the proceedings of this celebrated trial must have been convinced that all means were resorted to in order that Moreau, once accused, should not appear entirely free from guilt.
Bonaparte is reported to have said, "Gentlemen, I have no control over your proceedings; it is your duty strictly to examine the evidence before presenting a report to me. But when it has once the sanction of your signatures, woe to you if an innocent man be condemned." This remark is in strict conformity with his usual language, and bears a striking similarity to the conversation I held with him on the following Thursday; but though this language might be appropriate from the lips of a sovereign whose ministers are responsible, it appears but a lame excuse in the mouth of Bonaparte, the possessor of absolute power.
The condemned busied themselves in endeavouring to procure a repeal of their sentence, the greatest number of them yielded in this respect to the entreaties of their friends, who lost no time in taking the steps requisite to obtain the pardon of those in whom they were most interested. Moreau at first also determined to appeal; but he relinquished his purpose before the Court of Cessation commenced its sittings.
As soon as the decree of the special Tribunal was delivered, Murat, Governor of Paris, and brother-in-law to the Emperor, sought his presence and conjured him in the most urgent manner to pardon all the criminals, observing that such an act of clemency would redound greatly to his honour in the opinion of France and all Europe, that it would be said the Emperor pardoned the attempt against the life of the First Consul, that this act of mercy would shed more glory over the commencement of his reign than any security which could accrue from the execution of the prisoners. Such was the conduct of Murat; but he did not solicit, as has been reported, the pardon of any one in particular.
Those who obtained the imperial pardon were Bouvet de Lozier, who expected it from the disclosures he had made; Rusillon, de Riviere, Rochelle, Armand de Polignac, d'Hozier, Lajolais, who had beforehand received a promise to that effect, and Armand Gaillard.
The other ill-fated victims of a sanguinary police underwent their sentence on the 25th of June, two days after the promulgation of the pardon of their associates.
Their courage and resignation never forsook them even for a moment, and Georges, knowing that it was rumoured he had obtained a pardon, entreated that he might die the first, in order that his companions in their last moments might be assured he had not survived them.
Malice delights to blacken the characters of prominent men
Manufacturers of phrases
More glorious to merit a sceptre than to possess one
Necessary to let men and things take their course