By LOUIS ANTOINE FAUVELET DE BOURRIENNE
His Private Secretary
Edited by R. W. Phipps
Colonel, Late Royal Artillery
CHAPTER I. to CHAPTER X. 1805-1807
Abolition of the Republican calendar—Warlike preparations in Austria—Plan for re-organizing the National Guard—Napoleon in Strasburg—General Mack—Proclamation—Captain Bernard's reconnoitering mission—The Emperor's pretended anger and real satisfaction—Information respecting Ragusa communicated by Bernard —Rapid and deserved promotion—General Bernard's retirement to the United States of America.
I had been three months at Hamburg when I learned that the Emperor had at last resolved to abolish the only remaining memorial of the Republic, namely, the revolutionary calendar. That calendar was indeed an absurd innovation, for the new denominations of the months were not applicable in all places, even in France; the corn of Provence did not wait to be opened by the sun of the month of Messidor. On the 9th of September a 'Senates-consulte' decreed that on the 1st of January following the months and days should resume their own names. I read with much interest Laplace's report to the Senate, and must confess I was very glad to see the Gregorian calendar again acknowledged by law, as it had already been acknowledged in fact. Frenchmen in foreign countries experienced particular inconvenience from the adoption of a system different from all the rest of the world.
A few days after the revival of the old calendar the Emperor departed for the army. When at Hamburg it may well be supposed that I was anxious to obtain news, and I received plenty from the interior of Germany and from some friends in Paris. This correspondence enables me to present to my readers a comprehensive and accurate picture of the state of public affairs up to the time when Napoleon took the field. I have already mentioned how artfully he always made it appear that he was anxious for peace, and that he was always the party attacked; his, conduct previous to the first conquest of Vienna affords a striking example of this artifice. It was pretty evident that the transformation of the Cisalpine Republic into the kingdom of Italy, and the union of Genoa to France were infractions of treaties; yet the Emperor, nevertheless, pretended that all the infractions were committed by Austria. The truth is, that Austria was raising levies as secretly as possible, and collecting her troops on the frontiers of Bavaria. An Austrian corps even penetrated into some provinces of the Electorate; all this afforded Napoleon a pretest for going to the aid of his allies.
In the memorable sitting preceding his departure the Emperor presented a project of a 'Senatus-consulte' relative to the re-organisation of the National Guard. The Minister for Foreign Affairs read an explanation of the reciprocal conduct of France and Austria since the peace of Luneville, in which the offences of France were concealed with wonderful skill. Before the sitting broke up the Emperor addressed the members, stating that he was about to leave the capital to place himself at the head of the army to afford prompt succour to his allies, and defend the dearest interests of his people. He boasted of his wish to preserve peace, which Austria and Russia, as he alleged, had, through the influence of England, been induced to disturb.
This address produced a very powerful impression in Hamburg. For my part, I recognised in it Napoleon's usual boasting strain; but on this occasion events seemed bent on justifying it. The Emperor may certainly have performed more scientific campaigns than that of Austerlitz, but never any more glorious in results. Everything seemed to partake of the marvellous, and I have often thought of the secret joy which Bonaparte must have felt on seeing himself at last an the point of commencing a great war in Germany, for which he had so often expressed an ardent desire. He proceeded first to Strasburg, whither Josephine accompanied him.
All the reports that I received agreed with the statements of my private correspondence in describing the incredible enthusiasm which prevailed in the army on learning that it was to march into Germany. For the first time Napoleon had recourse to an expeditious mode of transport, and 20,000 carriages conveyed his army, as if by enchantment, from the shores of the Channel to the banks of the Rhine. The idea of an active campaign fired the ambition of the junior part of the army. All dreamed of glory, and of speedy promotion, and all hoped to distinguish themselves before the eyes of a chief who was idolised by his troops. Thus during his short stay at Strasburg the Emperor might with reason prophesy the success which crowned his efforts under the walls of Vienna.
Rapp, who accompanied him, informed me that on leaving Strasburg he observed, in the presence of several persons, "It will be said that I made Mack's plan of campaign for him. The Caudine Forks are at Ulm."
—[This allusion to the Caudine Forks was always in Napoleon's mouth when he saw an enemy's army concentrated on a point, and foresaw its defeat—Bourrienne.]—
Experience proved that Bonaparte was not deceived; but I ought on this occasion to contradict a calumnious report circulated at that time, and since maliciously repeated. It has been said that there existed an understanding between Mack and Bonaparte, and that the general was bought over to deliver up the gates of Ulm. I have received positive proof that this assertion is a scandalous falsehood; and the only thing that could give it weight was Napoleon's intercession after the campaign that Mack might not be put on his trial. In this intercession Napoleon was actuated only by humanity.
On taking the field Napoleon placed himself at the head of the Bavarians, with whom be opposed the enemy's army before the arrival of his own troops. As soon as they were assembled he published the following proclamation, which still further excited the ardour of the troops.
SOLDIERS—The war of the third coalition is commenced. The Austrian army has passed the Inn, violated treaties, attacked and driven our ally from his capital. You yourselves have been obliged to hasten, by forced marches, to the defence of our frontiers. But you have now passed the Rhine; and we will not stop till we have secured the independence of the Germanic body, succoured our allies, and humbled the pride of our unjust assailants. We will not again make peace without a sufficient guarantee! Our generosity shall not again wrong our policy. Soldiers, your Emperor is among you! You are but the advanced guard of the great people. If it be necessary they will all rise at my call to confound and dissolve this new league, which has been created by the malice and the gold of England. But, soldiers, we shall have forced marches to make, fatigues and privations of every kind to endure. Still, whatever obstacles may be opposed to us, we will conquer them; and we will never rest until we have planted our eagles on the territory of our enemies!
In the confidential notes of his diplomatic agents, in his speeches, and in his proclamations, Napoleon always described himself as the attacked party, and perhaps his very earnestness in so doing sufficed to reveal the truth to all those who had learned to read his thoughts differently from what his words expressed them.
At the commencement of the campaign of Austerlitz a circumstance occurred from which is to be dated the fortune of a very meritorious man. While the Emperor was at Strasburg he asked General Marescot, the commander-in- chief of the engineers, whether he could recommend from his corps a brave, prudent, and intelligent young officer, capable of being entrusted with an important reconnoitering mission. The officer selected by General Marescot was a captain in the engineers, named Bernard, who had been educated in the Polytechnic School. He set off on his mission, advanced almost to Vienna, and returned to the headquarters of the Emperor at the capitulation of Ulm.
Bonaparte interrogated him himself, and was well satisfied with his replies; but, not content with answering verbally the questions put by Napoleon, Captain Bernard had drawn up a report of what he observed, and the different routes which might be taken. Among other things he observed that it would be a great advantage to direct the whole army upon Vienna, without regard to the fortified places; for that, once master of the capital of Austria, the Emperor might dictate laws to all the Austrian monarchy. "I was present," said Rapp to me, "at this young officer's interview with the Emperor. After reading the report, would you believe that the Emperor flew into a furious passion? 'How!' cried he, 'you are very bold, very presumptuous! A young officer to take the liberty of tracing out a plan of campaign for me! Begone, and await my orders.'"
This, and some other circumstances which I shall have to add respecting Captain Bernard, completely reveal Napoleon's character. Rapp told me that as soon as the young officer had left the Emperor all at once changed his tone. "That," said he, "is a clever young man; he has taken a proper view of things. I shall not expose him to the chance of being shot. Perhaps I shall sometime want his services. Tell Berthier to despatch an order for his departure for Elyria."
This order was despatched, and Captain Bernard, who, like his comrades, was ardently looking forward to the approaching campaign, regarded as a punishment what was, on the Emperor's part, a precaution to preserve a young man whose merit he appreciated. At the close of the campaign, when the Emperor promoted those officers who had distinguished themselves, Bernard, who was thought to be in disgrace, was not included in Berthier's list among the captains of engineers whom he recommended to the rank of chef de bataillon; but Napoleon himself inscribed Bernard's name before all the rest. However, the Emperor forgot him for some time; and it was only an accidental circumstance that brought him to his recollection. I never had any personal acquaintance with Bernard, but I learned from Rapp, how he afterwards became his colleague as aide de camp to the Emperor; a circumstance which I shall now relate, though it refers to a later period.
Before the Emperor left Paris for the campaign of 1812 he wished to gain precise information respecting Ragusa and Elyria. He sent for Marmont, but was not satisfied with his answers. He then interrogated several other generals, but the result of his inquiries always was, "This is all very well; but it is not what I want. I do not know Ragusa." He then sent for General Dejean, who had succeeded M. de Marescot as first inspector of the Engineers.
"Have you any one among your officers," he asked, "who is well acquainted with Ragusa? "Dejean, after a little reflection, replied, "Sire, there is a chef de bataillon who has been a long time forgotten, but who knows Elyria perfectly."—"What's his name?"—"Bernard."—"Ah! stop . . . Bernard! I remember that name. Where is he?"—"At Antwerp, Sire, employed on the fortifications."—"Let a telegraphic despatch be immediately, transmitted,—[by semaphore arms.]—desiring him to mount his horse and come with all speed to Paris."
The promptitude with which the Emperor's orders were always executed is well known. A few days after Captain Bernard was in the Emperor's cabinet in Paris. Napoleon received him very graciously. The first thing he said was, "Talk to me about Ragusa." This was a favourite mode of interrogation with him in similar cases, and I have heard him say that it was a sure way of drawing out all that a man had observed in any country that he had visited. Be that as it may, he was perfectly satisfied with M. Bernard's information respecting Elyria; and when the chef de bataillon had finished speaking Napoleon said, "Colonel Bernard, I am now acquainted with Ragusa." The Emperor afterwards conversed familiarly with him, entered into details respecting the system of fortification adopted at Antwerp, referred to the plan of the works, criticised it, and showed how he would, if he besieged the town, render the means of defence unavailing. The new Colonel explained so well how he would defend the town against the Emperor's attack that Bonaparte was delighted, and immediately bestowed upon, the young officer a mark of distinction which, as far as I know, he never granted but upon that single occasion. The Emperor was going to preside at the Council of State, and desired Colonel Bernard to accompany him, and many times during the sittings be asked him for his opinion upon the points which were under discussion. On leaving the Council Napoleon said, "Bernard, you are in future my aide de camp." After the campaign he was made General of Brigade, soon after General of Division, and now he is acknowledged to be one of the ablest engineer officers in existence. Clarke's silly conduct deprived France of this distinguished man, who refused the brilliant offers of several sovereigns of Europe for the sake of retiring to the United States of America, where he commands the Engineers, and has constructed fortifications on the coast of the Floridas which are considered by engineers to be masterpieces of military art.
Rapidity of Napoleon's victories—Murat at Wertingen—Conquest of Ney's duchy—The French army before Ulm—The Prince of Liechtenstein at the Imperial headquarters—His interview with Napoleon described by Rapp—Capitulation of Ulm signed by Berthier and Mack—Napoleon before and after a victory—His address to the captive generals— The Emperor's proclamation—Ten thousand prisoners taken by Murat— Battle of Caldiero in Italy—Letter from Duroc—Attempts to retard the Emperor's progress—Fruitless mission of M. de Giulay—The first French eagles taken by the Russians—Bold adventure of Lannes and Murat—The French enter Vienna—Savary's mission to the Emperor Alexander.
To convey an idea of the brilliant campaign of 1805 from an abstract of the reports and letters I received at Hamburg I should, like the almanac- makers, be obliged to note down a victory for every day. Was not the rapidity of the Emperor's first operations a thing hitherto unprecedented? He departed from Paris on the 24th of September, and hostilities commenced on the 2d of October. On the 6th and 7th the French passed the Danube, and turned the enemy's army. On the 8th Murat, at the battle of Wertingen, on the Danube, took 2000 Austrian prisoners, amongst whom, besides other general officers, was Count Auffemberg. Next day the Austrians fell back upon Gunsburg, retreating before our victorious legions, who, pursuing their triumphal course, entered Augsburg on the 10th, and Munich on the 12th. When I received my despatches I could have fancied I was reading a fabulous narrative. Two days after the French entered Munich—that is to say, on the 14th—an Austrian corps of 6000 men surrendered to Marshal Soult at Memingen, whilst Ney conquered, sword in hand, his future Duchy of Elchingen. Finally, on the 17th of October, came the famous capitulation of General Mack at Ulm,' and on the same day hostilities commenced in Italy between the French and Austrians, the former commanded by Massena and the latter by Prince Charles.
—[Prince Maurice Liechtenstein was sent by General Mack as a flag of truce to the Imperial headquarters before Ulm. He was, according to custom, led blindfold on horseback. Rapp, who was present, together with several of Napoleon's aides de camp, afterwards spoke to me of the Prince's interview with the Emperor. I think he told me that Berthier was present likewise. "Picture to yourself," said Rapp, "the astonishment, or rather confusion, of the poor Prince when the bandage was removed from his eyes. He knew nothing of what had been going on, and did not even suspect that the Emperor had yet joined the army. When he understood that he was in the presence of Napoleon he could not suppress an exclamation of surprise, which did not escape the Emperor, and he ingenuously acknowledged that General Mack had no idea he was before the walls of Ulm." Prince Liechtenstein proposed to capitulate on condition that the garrison of Ulm should be allowed to return into Austria. This proposal, in the situation in which the garrison stood, Rapp said, made the Emperor smile. "How can you expect," said Napoleon, "that I can accede to such a proposition? What shall I gain by it? Eight days. In eight days you will be in my power without any condition. Do you suppose I am not acquainted with everything? . . You expect the Russians? . . . At the nearest they are in Bohemia. Were I to allow you to march out, what security can I have that you will not join them, and afterwards fight against me? Your generals have deceived me often enough, and I will no longer be duped. At Marengo I was weak enough to allow the troops of Melas to march out of Alessandria. He promised to treat for peace. What happened? Two months after Moreau had to fight with the garrison of Alessandria. Besides, this war is not an ordinary war. After the conduct of your Government I am not bound to keep any terms with it. I have no faith in its promises. You have attacked me. If I should agree to what you ask, Mack would pledge his word, I know. But, even relying on his good faith, would be he able to keep his promise? As far as regards himself—yes; but as regards his army—no. If the Archduke Ferdinand were still with you I could rely upon his word, because he would be responsible for the conditions, and he would not disgrace himself; but I know he has quitted Ulm and passed the Danube. I know how to reach him, however."
Rapp said it was impossible to imagine the embarrassment of Prince Liechtenstein whilst the Emperor was speaking. He, however, somewhat regained his self-possession, and observed that, unless the conditions which he proposed were granted the army would not capitulate. "If that be the case," said Napoleon. "you may as well go back to Mack, for I will never grant such conditions. Are you jesting with me? Stay; here is the capitulation of Memingen—show it to your General—let him surrender on the same conditions—I will consent to no others. Your officers may return to Austria, but the soldiers must be prisoners. Tell him to be speedy, for I have no time to lose. The more he delays the worse he will render his own condition and yours. To-morrow I shall have here the corps to which Memingen capitulated, and then we shall see what is to be done. Make Mack clearly understand that he has no alternative but to conform to my will."
The imperious tones which Napoleon employed towards his enemies almost always succeeded, and it produced the accustomed effect upon Mack. On the same day that Prince Liechtenstein had been at our headquarters Mack wrote to the Emperor, stating that he would not have treated with any other on such terms; but that he yielded to the ascendency of Napoleon's fortune; and on the following day Berthier was sent into Ulm, from whence he returned with the capitulation signed. Thus Napoleon was not mistaken respecting the Caudine Forks of the Austrian army. The garrison of Ulm marched out with what are called the honours of war, and were led prisoners into France.—Bourrienne.]—
Napoleon, who was so violently irritated by any obstacle which opposed him, and who treated with so much hauteur everybody who ventured to resist his inflexible will, was no longer the same man when, as a conqueror, he received the vanquished generals at Ulm. He condoled with them on their misfortune; and this, I can affirm, was not the result of a feeling of pride concealed beneath a feigned generosity. Although he profited by their defeat he pitied them sincerely. How frequently has he observed to me, "How much to be pitied is a general on the day after a lost battle." He had himself experienced this misfortune when he was obliged to raise the siege of St. Jean d'Acre. At that moment he would, I believe, have strangled Djezzar; but if Djezzar had surrendered, he would have treated him with the same attention which he showed to Mack and the other generals of the garrison of Ulm. These generals were seventeen in number, and among them was Prince Liechtenstein. There were also General Klenau (Baron de Giulay), who had acquired considerable military reputation in the preceding wars, and General Fresnel, who stood in a more critical situation than his companions in misfortune, for he was a Frenchman, and an emigrant.
Rapp told me that it was really painful to see these generals. They bowed respectfully to the Emperor, having Mack at their head. They preserved a mournful silence, and Napoleon was the first to speak, which he did in the following terms: "Gentlemen, I feel sorry that such brave men as you are should be the victims of the follies of a Cabinet which cherishes insane projects, and which does not hesitate to commit the dignity of the Austrian nation by trafficking with the services of its generals. Your names are known to me—they are honourably known wherever you have fought. Examine the conduct of those who have committed you. What could be more iniquitous than to attack me without a declaration of war? Is it not criminal to bring foreign invasion upon a country? Is it not betraying Europe to introduce Asiatic barbarities into her disputes? If good policy had been followed the Aulic Council, instead of attacking me, would have sought my alliance in order to drive back the Russians to the north. The alliance which your Cabinet has formed will appear monstrous in history. It is the alliance of dogs, shepherds, and wolves against sheep—such a scheme could never have been planned in the mind of a statesman. It is fortunate for you that I have not been defeated in the unjust struggle to which I have been provoked; if I had, the Cabinet of Vienna would have soon perceived its error, for which, perhaps, it will yet one day pay dearly."
What a change fifteen days of success, crowned by the capture of Ulm, had made in affairs! At Hamburg I knew through my agents to what a degree of folly the hopes of Napoleon's enemies had risen before he began the campaign. The security of the Cabinet of Vienna was really inexplicable; not only did they not dream of the series of victories which made Napoleon master of all the Austrian monarchy, but the assistants of Drake and all the intriguers of that sort treated France already as a conquered country, and disposed of some of our provinces. In the excess of their folly, to only give one instance, they promised the town of Lyons to the King of Sardinia, to recompense him for the temporary occupation of Piedmont.
—[In the treaties and declarations (see Martens and Thiers, tome v. p. 355) there is rather a tendency to sell the skin of the bear before killing him.]—
While Napoleon flattered his prisoners at the expense of their Government he wished to express satisfaction at the conduct of his own army, and with this view he published a remarkable proclamation, which in some measure presented an abstract of all that had taken place since the opening of the campaign.
This proclamation was as follows:—
SOLDIERS OF THE GRAND ARMY—In a fortnight we have finished an entire campaign. What we proposed to do has been done. We have driven the Austrian troops from Bavaria, and restored our ally to the sovereignty of his dominions.
That army, which, with equal presumption and imprudence, marched upon our frontiers, is annihilated.
But what does this signify to England? She has gained her object.
We are no longer at Boulogne, and her subsidy will be neither more
Of a hundred thousand men who composed that army, sixty thousand are
prisoners. They will replace our conscripts in the labours of
Two hundred pieces of cannon, the whole park of artillery, ninety flags, and all their generals are in our power. Fifteen thousand men only have escaped.
Soldiers! I announced to you the result of a great battle; but, thanks to the ill-devised schemes of the enemy, I was enabled to secure the wished-for result without incurring any danger, and, what is unexampled in the history of nations, that result has been gained at the sacrifice of scarcely fifteen hundred men killed and wounded.
Soldiers! this success is due to your unlimited confidence in your Emperor, to your patience in enduring fatigues and privations of every kind, and to your singular courage and intrepidity.
But we will not stop here. You are impatient to commence another campaign!
The Russian army, which English gold has brought from the extremities of the universe, shall experience the same fate as that which we have just defeated.
In the conflict in which we are about to engage the honour of the French infantry is especially concerned. We shall now see another decision of the question which has already been determined in Switzerland and Holland; namely, whether the French infantry is the first or the second in Europe.
Among the Russians there are no generals in contending against whom I can acquire any glory. All I wish is to obtain the victory with the least possible bloodshed. My soldiers are, my children.
This proclamation always appeared to me a masterpiece of military eloquence. While he lavished praises on his troops, he excited their emulation by hinting that the Russians were capable of disputing with them the first rank among the infantry of Europe, and he concluded his address by calling them his children.
The second campaign, to which Napoleon alleged they so eagerly looked forward, speedily ensued, and hostilities were carried on with a degree of vigour which fired the enthusiasm of the army. Heaven knows what accounts were circulated of the Russians, who, as Bonaparte solemnly stated in his proclamation, had come from the extremity of the world. They were represented as half-naked savages, pillaging, destroying and burning wherever they went. It was even asserted that they were cannibals, and had been seen to eat children. In short, at that period was introduced the denomination of northern barbarians which has since been so generally applied to the Russians. Two days after the capitulation of Ulm Murat obtained the capitulation of Trochtelfingen from General Yarneck, and made 10,000 prisoners, so that, without counting killed and wounded, the Austrian army had sustained a diminution of 50,000 men after a campaign of twenty days. On the 27th of October the French army crossed the Inn, and thus penetrated into the Austrian territory. Salzburg and Brannan were immediately taken. The army of Italy, under the command of Massena, was also obtaining great advantages. On the 30th of October, that is to say, the very day on which the Grand Army took the above-mentioned fortresses, the army of Italy, having crossed the Adige, fought a sanguinary battle at Caldiero, and took 5000 Austrian prisoners.
In the extraordinary campaign, which has been distinguished by the name of "the Campaign of Austerlitz," the exploits of our troops succeeded each other with the rapidity of thought. I confess I was equally astonished and delighted when I received a note from Duroc, sent by an extraordinary courier, and commencing laconically with the words, "We are in Vienna; the Emperor is well."
Duroc's letter was dated the 13th November, and the words, "We are in Vienna," seemed to me the result of a dream. The capital of Austria, which from time immemorial had not been occupied by foreigners—the city which Sobieski had saved from Ottoman violence, had become the prey of the Imperial eagle of France, which, after a lapse of three centuries, avenged the humiliations formerly imposed upon Francis I. by the 'Aquila Grifagna' of Charles V. Duroc had left the Emperor before the camp of Boulogne was raised; his mission to Berlin being terminated, he rejoined the Emperor at Lintz.
—[As soon as Bonaparte became Emperor he constituted himself the avenger of all the insults given to the sovereigns, whom he styled his predecessors. All that related to the honour of France was sacred to him. Thus he removed the column of Rosbach from the Prussian territory.—Bourrienne.]—
Before I noticed the singular mission of M. Haugwitz to the Emperor Napoleon, and the result of that mission, which circumstances rendered diametrically the reverse of its object, I will relate what came to my knowledge respecting some other negotiations on the part of Austria, the evident intent of which was to retard Napoleon's progress, and thereby to dupe him. M. de Giulay, one of the generals included in the capitulation of Ulm, had returned home to acquaint his sovereign with the disastrous event. He did not conceal, either from the Emperor Francis or the Cabinet of Vienna, the destruction of the Austrian army, and the impossibility of arresting the rapid advance of the French. M. de Giulay was sent with a flag of truce to the headquarters of Napoleon, to assure him of the pacific intentions of the Emperor of Austria, and to solicit an armistice. The snare was too clumsy not to be immediately discovered by so crafty a man as Napoleon.
—[Metternich (tome ii. p. 346, compare French edition, tome ii. p. 287) says, "Let us hold always the sword in one hand and the olive branch in the other; always ready to negotiate, but only negotiating while advancing." Here is Napoleons system.]—
He had always pretended a love for peace, though be was overjoyed at the idea of continuing a war so successfully commenced, and he directed General Giulay to assure the Emperor of Austria that he was not less anxious for peace than he, and that he was ready to treat for it, but without suspending the course of his operations. Bonaparte, indeed, could not, without a degree of imprudence of which he was incapable, consent to an armistice; for M. de Giulay, though entrusted with powers from Austria, had received none from Russia. Russia, therefore, might disavow the armistice and arrive in time to defend Vienna, the occupation of which was so important to the French army. The Russians, indeed, were advancing to oppose us, and the corps of our army, commanded by Mortier on the left bank of the Danube, experienced in the first engagement a check at Dirnstein, which not a little vexed the Emperor. This was the first reverse of fortune we had sustained throughout the campaign. It was trivial, to be sure, but the capture by the Russians of three French eagles, the first that had fallen into the hands of the enemy, was very mortifying to Napoleon, and caused him to prolong for some days his staff at St. Folten, where he then was.
The rapid occupation of Vienna was due to the successful temerity of Lannes and Murat, two men alike distinguished for courage and daring spirit. A bold artifice of these generals prevented the destruction of the Thabor bridge at Vienna, without which our army would have experienced considerable difficulty in penetrating into the Austrian capital. This act of courage and presence of mind, which had so great an influence on the events of the campaign, was described to me by Lannes, who told the story with an air of gaiety, unaccompanied by any self- complacency, and seemed rather pleased with the trick played upon the Austrians than proud of the brilliant action which had been performed. Bold enterprises were so natural to Lannes that he was frequently the only person who saw nothing extraordinary in his own exploits. Alas! what men were sacrificed to Napoleon's ambition!
The following is the story of the Bridge of Thabor as I heard it from
—[I was one day walking with Murat, on the right bank of the Danube, and we observed on the left bank, which was occupied by the Austrians, some works going on, the evident object of which was to blow up the bridge on the approach of our troops. The fools had the impudence to make these preparations under our very noses; but we gave them a good lesson. Having arranged our plan, we returned to give orders, and I entrusted the command of my column of grenadiers to an officer on whose courage and intelligence I could rely. I then returned to the bridge, accompanied by Murat and two or three other officers. We advanced, unconcernedly, and entered into conversation with the commander of a post in the middle of the bridge. We spoke to him about an armistice which was to be speedily concluded: While conversing with the Austrian officers we contrived to make them turn their eyes towards the left bank, and then, agreeably to the orders we had given, my column of grenadiers advanced on the bridge. The Austrian cannoneers, on the left bank, seeing their officers in the midst of us, did not dare to fire, and my column advanced at a quick step. Murat and I, at the head of it, gained the left bank. All the combustibles prepared for blowing up the bridge were thrown into the river, and my men took possession of the batteries erected for the defence of the bridge head. The poor devils of Austrian officers were perfectly astounded when I told them they were my prisoners.]—
Such, as well as I can recollect, was the account given by Lannes, who laughed immoderately in describing the consternation of the Austrian officers when they discovered the trick that had been played upon them. When Lannes performed this exploit he had little idea of the, important consequences which would attend, it. He had not only secured to the remainder of the French army a sure and easy entrance to Vienna, but, without being aware of it, he created an insurmountable impediment to the junction of the Russian army with the Austrian corps, commanded by Prince Charles, who, being pressed by Massena, hastily advanced into the heart of the Hereditary States, where he fully expected a great battle would take place.
As soon as the corps of Murat and Lannes had taken possession of Vienna the Emperor ordered all the divisions of the army to march upon that capital.
—[The story to told in much the same way in Theirs (tome vi, p. 260), Rupp (p. 57), and Savory (tome ii. p. 162), but as Erreurs (tome i. p. 814) points out, Bourrienne makes an odd mistake in believing the Thabor Bridge gave the French access to Vienna. The capital is on the right bank, and was already in their power. The possession of the bridge enabled them to pass over to the left bank, and to advance towards Austerlitz before the Archduke Charles, coming from Italy, could make his junction with the allied army. See plan 48 of Thiers' Atlas, or 58 of Alison's. The immediate result of the success of this rather doubtful artifice would have been the destruction of the corps of Kutusoff; but Murat in his turn was deceived by Bagration into belief in an armistice. In fact, both sides at this time fell into curious errors.]—
Napoleon established his headquarters at Schoenbrunn, where he planned his operations for compelling the corps of Prince Charles to retire to Hungary, and also for advancing his own forces to meet the Russians. Murat and Lannes always commanded the advanced guard during the forced marches ordered by Napoleon, which were executed in a way truly miraculous.
To keep up the appearance of wishing to conclude peace as soon as reasonable propositions should be made to him, Napoleon sent for his Minister for foreign Affairs, who speedily arrived at Vienna, and General Savary was sent on a mission to the Emperor Alexander. The details of this mission I have learned only from the account of it given by the Duc de Rovigo in his apologetic Memoirs. In spite of the Duke's eagerness to induce a belief in Napoleon's pacific disposition, the very facts on which he supports his argument lead to the contrary conclusion. Napoleon wished to dictate his conditions before the issue of a battle the success of which might appear doubtful to the young Emperor of Russia, and these conditions were such as he might impose when victory should be declared in favour of our eagles. It must be clear to every reflecting person that by always proposing what he knew could not be honourably acceded to, he kept up the appearance of being a pacificator, while at the same time he ensured to himself the pleasure of carrying on the war.
My functions at Hamburg—The King of Sweden at Stralsund— My bulletin describing the situation of the Russian armies—Duroc's recall from Berlin—General Dumouriez—Recruiting of the English in Hanover—The daughter of M. de Marbeof and Napoleon—Treachery of the King of Naples—The Sun of Austerlitz—Prince Dolgiorouki Rapp's account of the battle of Austerlitz—Gerard's picture— Eugene's marriage.
I must now relate how, in conformity with my instructions, I was employed in Hamburg in aiding the success of the French army. I had sent an agent to observe the Russian troops, which were advancing by forced marches to the banks of the Elbe. This agent transmitted to me from Gadbusch an account of the routes taken by the different columns. It was then supposed that they would march upon Holland by the way of Bremen and Oldenburg. On the receipt of thus intelligence the Electorate of Hanover was evacuated by the French, and General Barbou, who had commanded there concentrated his forces in Hamelin.
On the 2d of November 1805 the King of Sweden arrived at Stralsund. I immediately intimated to our Government that this circumstance would probably give a new turn to the operations of the combined army, for hitherto the uncertainty of its movements and the successive counter- orders afforded no possibility of ascertaining any determined plan. The intention seemed to be, that all the Swedo-Russian troops should cross the Elbe at the same point; viz., Lauenburg, six miles from Hamburg.
There was not on the 5th of November a single Russian on the southern bank of the Elbe.
The first column of the grand Russian army passed through Warsaw on the 1st of November, and on the 2d the Grand-Duke Constantine was expected with the Guards. This column, which amounted to 6000 men, was the first that passed through Prussian Poland.
At this time we momentarily expected to see the Hanoverian army landed on the banks of the Weser or the Elbe, augmented by some thousands of English. Their design apparently was either to attack Holland, or to attempt some operation on the rear of our Grand Army.
The French Government was very anxious to receive accurate accounts of the march of the Swedo-Russian troops through Hanover, and of the Russian army through Poland. My agents at Warsaw and Stralsund, who were exceedingly active and intelligent, enabled me to send off a bulletin describing the state of Hanover, the movements of the Russians and Swedes, together with information of the arrival of English troops in the Elbe, and a statement of the force of the combined army in Hanover, which consisted of 15,000 Russians, 8000 Swedes, and 12,000 English; making in all 35,000 men.
It was probably on account of this bulletin that Napoleon expressed to
Duroc his satisfaction with my services. The Emperor on recalling Duroc
from Berlin did not manifest the least apprehension respecting Prussia.
Duroc wrote to me the following letter on the occasion of his recall:
MY DEAR BOURRIENNE—The Emperor having thought my services necessary to the army has recalled me. I yesterday had a farewell audience of the King and Queen, who treated me very graciously. His Majesty presented me with his portrait set in diamonds. The Emperor Alexander will probably depart to morrow, and the Archduke Anthony vary speedily. We cannot but hope that their presence here will facilitate a good understanding. (Signed) DUROC.
Whenever foreign armies were opposing France the hopes of the emigrants revived. They falsely imagined that the powers coalesced against Napoleon were labouring in their cause; and many of them entered the Russian and Austrian armies. Of this number was General Dumouriez. I received information that he had landed at Stade on the 21st of November; but whither he intended to proceed was not known. A man named St. Martin, whose wife lived with Dumouriez, and who had accompanied the general from England to Stade, came to Hamburg, where he observed great precautions for concealment, and bought two carriages, which were immediately forwarded to Stade. St, Martin himself immediately proceeded to the latter place. I was blamed for not having arrested this man; but he had a commission attesting that he was in the English service, and, as I have before mentioned; a foreign commission was a safeguard; and the only one which could not be violated in Hamburg.
In December 1805 the English recruiting in Hanover was kept up without interruption, and attended with extraordinary success. Sometimes a hundred men were raised in a day. The misery prevailing in Germany, which had been ravaged by the war, the hatred against the French, and the high bounty that was offered enabled the English to procure as many men as they wished.
The King of Sweden, meditating on the stir he should make in Hanover, took with him a camp printing-press to publish the bulletins of the grand Swedish army.—The first of these bulletins announced to Europe that his Swedish Majesty was about to leave Stralsund; and that his army would take up its position partly between Nelsen and Haarburg, and partly between Domitz and the frontiers of Hamburg.
Among the anecdotes of Napoleon connected with this campaign I find in my notes the following, which was related to me by Rapp. Some days before his entrance into Vienna Napoleon, who was riding on horseback along the road, dressed in his usual uniform of the chasseurs of the Guard, met an open carriage, in which were seated a lady and a priest. The lady was in tears, and Napoleon could not refrain from stopping to ask her what was the cause of her distress. "Sir," she replied, for she did not know the Emperor, "I have been pillaged at my estate, two leagues from hence, by a party of soldiers, who have murdered my gardener. I am going to seek your Emperor, who knows my family, to whom he was once under great obligations."—"What is your name?" inquired Napoleon.—"De Bunny," replied the lady. "I am the daughter of M de Marbeuf, formerly Governor of Corsica."—" Madame," exclaimed Napoleon, "I am the Emperor. I am delighted to have the opportunity of serving you."—"You cannot conceive," continued Rapp, "the attention which the Emperor showed Madame de Bunny. He consoled her, pitied her, almost apologised for the misfortune she had sustained. 'Will you have the goodness, Madame,' said he, 'to go and wait for me at my head-quarters? I will join you speedily; every member of M. de Marbeuf's family has a claim on my respect.' The Emperor immediately gave her a picquet of chasseurs of his guard to escort her. He saw her again during the day, when he loaded her with attentions, and liberally indemnified her for the losses she had sustained."
For some time previous to the battle of Austerlitz the different corps of the army intersected every part of Germany and Italy, all tending towards Vienna as a central point. At the beginning of November the corps commanded by Marshal Bernadotte arrived at Saltzburg at the moment when the Emperor had advanced his headquarters to Braunau, where there were numerous magazines of artillery and a vast quantity of provisions of every kind. The junction of the corps commanded by Bernadotte in Hanover with the Grand Army was a point of such high importance that Bonaparte had directed the Marshal to come up with him as speedily as possible, and to take the shortest road. This order obliged Bernadotte to pass through the territory of the two Margravates.
At that time we were at peace with Naples. In September the Emperor had concluded with Ferdinand IV. a treaty of neutrality. This treaty enabled Carra St. Cyr, who occupied Naples, to evacuate that city and to join Massena in Upper Italy; both reached the Grand Army on the 28th of November. But no sooner had the troops commanded by Carra St. Cyr quitted the Neapolitan territory than the King of Naples, influenced by his Ministers, and above all by Queen Caroline, broke the treaty of neutrality, ordered hostile preparations against France, opened his ports to the enemies of the Emperor, and received into his States 12,000 Russians and 8000 English. It was on the receipt of this news that Bonaparte, in one of his most violent bulletins, styled the Queen of Naples a second Fredegonda. The victory of Austerlitz having given powerful support to his threats, the fall of Naples was decided, and shortly after his brother Joseph was seated on the Neapolitan throne.
At length came the grand day when, to use Napoleon's expression, the Sun of Austerlitz rose. All our forces were concentrated on one point, at about 40 leagues beyond Vienna. There remained nothing but the wreck of the Austrian army, the corps of Prince Charles being by scientific manoeuvres kept at a distance from the line of operations; but the Russians alone were superior to us in numbers, and their army was almost entirely composed of fresh troops. The most extraordinary illusion prevailed in the enemy's camp. The north of Europe has its Gascons as well as the south of France, and the junior portion of the Russian army at this period assumed an absurd braggadocio tone. On the very eve of the battle the Emperor Alexander sent one of his aides de camp, Prince Dolgorouki, as a flag of truce to Napoleon. The Prince could not repress his self-sufficiency even in the presence of the Emperor, and Rapp informed me that on dismissing him the Emperor said, "If you were on 'the heights of Montmartre,' I would answer such impertinence only by cannon- balls." This observation was very remarkable, inasmuch as subsequent events rendered it a prophecy.
As to the battle itself, I can describe it almost as well as if I had witnessed it, for some time after I had the pleasure of seeing my friend Rapp, who was sent an a mission to Prussia. He gave me the following account:
"When we arrived at Austerlitz the Russians were not aware of the scientific plans which the Emperor had laid for drawing them upon the ground he had marked out; and seeing our advanced guards fall back before theirs they already considered themselves conquerors. They supposed that their Guard alone would secure an easy triumph. But the action commenced, and they experienced an energetic resistance on all points. At one o'clock the victory was yet uncertain, for they fought admirably. They wished to make a last effort by directing close masses against our centre. Their Imperial Guard deployed; their artillery, cavalry, and infantry marched upon a bridge which they attacked, and this movement, which was concealed by the rising and falling of the ground, was not observed by Napoleon. I was at that moment near the Emperor, awaiting his orders. We heard a well-maintained firing of musketry. The Russians were repulsing one of our brigades. The Emperor ordered me to take some of the Mamelukes, two squadrons of chasseurs, and one of grenadiers of the Guard, and to go and reconnoitre the state of things. I set off at full gallop, and soon discovered the disaster. The Russian cavalry had penetrated our squares, and was sabring our men. I perceived in the distance some masses of cavalry and infantry; which formed the reserve of the Russians. At that moment the enemy advanced to meet us, bringing with him four pieces of artillery, and ranged himself in order of battle. I had the brave Morland on my left, and General D'Allemagne on my right. 'Forward, my lads!' exclaimed I to my troop. 'See how your brothers and friends are being cut to pieces. Avenge them! avenge our flag! Forward !' These few words roused my men. We advanced as swiftly as our horses could carry us upon the artillery, which was taken. The enemy's cavalry, which awaited us firmly, was repulsed by the same shock, and fled in disorder, galloping as we did over the wrecks of our squares. The Russians rallied but a squadron of horse grenadiers came up to reinforce me, and thus enabled me to hold ground against the reserves of the Russian Guard. We charged again, and this charge was terrible. The brave Morland was killed by my, side. It was downright butchery. We were opposed man to man, and were so mingled together that the infantry of neither one nor the other side could venture to fire for fear of killing its own men. At length the intrepidity of our troops overcame every obstacle, and the Russians fled in disorder, in sight of the two Emperors of Russia and Austria, who had stationed themselves on a height in order to witness the battle. They saw a desperate one," said Rapp, "and I trust they were satisfied. For my part, my dear friend, I never spent so glorious a day. What a reception the Emperor gave me when I returned to inform him that we had won the battle! My sword was broken, and a wound which I received on my head was bleeding copiously, so that I was covered with blood! He made me a General of Division. The Russians did not return to the charge; we had taken all their cannon and baggage, and Prince Repnin was among the prisoners."
Thus it was that Rapp related to me this famous battle of which he was
the hero, as Kellerman had been the hero of Marengo. What now remains of
Austerlitz? The recollection, the glory, and the magnificent picture of
Gerard, the idea of which was suggested to the Emperor by the sight of
Rapp with the blood streaming from his wound.
I cannot forbear relating here a few particulars which I learned from Rapp respecting his mission after the cure of his wound; and the marriage of Prince Eugene to the Princess Augusta of Bavaria. The friendship which Rapp cherished for me was of the most sincere kind. During my disgrace he did not even conceal it from Napoleon; and whoever knows anything of the Emperor's Court will acknowledge that that was a greater mark of courage than the carrying of a redoubt or making the most brilliant charge of cavalry. Rapp possessed courage of every kind, an excellent heart, and a downright frankness, which for a time brought him into disgrace with Napoleon. The only thing for which Rapp could be reproached was his extreme prejudice against the nobility, which I am convinced was the sole reason why he was not created a Duke. The Emperor made him a Count because he wished that all his aides de camp should have titles.
"He had been a fortnight at Schoenbrunn," said Rapp to me, "and I had not yet resumed my duties, when the Emperor sent for me. He asked me whether I was able to travel, and on my replying in the affirmative, he said, 'Go then, and give an account of the battle of Austerlitz to Marmont, and vex him for not having been at it.' I set off, and in conformity with the instructions I had received from the Emperor I proceeded to Gratz, where I found Marmont, who was indeed deeply mortified at not having had a share in the great battle. I told him, as the Emperor had directed me, that the negotiations were commenced, but that nothing was yet concluded, and that therefore, at all events, he must hold himself in readiness. I ascertained the situation of his army in Styria, and the amount of the enemy's force before him: The Emperor wished him to send a number of spies into Hungary, and to transmit to him a detailed report from their communications. I next proceeded to Laybach, where I found Massena at the head of the eighth corps, and I informed him that the Emperor wished him to march in all haste upon Vienna, in case he should hear of the rupture of the negotiations. I continued the itinerary marked out for me until I reached Venice, and thence till I met the troops of Carra St. Cyr, who had received orders to march back upon Naples as soon as the Emperor heard of the treachery of the King of Naples and the landing of the English and Russians. Having fulfilled these different missions I proceeded to Klagenfurth, where I saw Marshal Ney, and I afterwards rejoined the Emperor at Munich. There I had the pleasure of finding our friends assembled, and among them Josephine, still as affable and amiable as ever. How delighted I was when, an my arrival, I learned that the Emperor had adopted Eugene. I was present at his marriage with the Princess Augusta of Bavaria. As to me, you know I am not very fond of fetes, and the Emperor might have dispensed with my performing the duties of Chamberlain; Eugene had no idea of what was going on when the Emperor sent to desire his presence at Munich with all possible speed. He, too, remains unchanged; he is still our old comrade. At first he was not much pleased with the idea of a political marriage; but when he saw his bride he was quite enchanted; and no wonder, for I assure you she is a very charming woman."
Depreciation of the Bank paper—Ouvrard—His great discretion— Bonaparte'e opinion of the rich—Ouvrard's imprisonment—His partnership with the King of Spain—His connection with Waalenberghe and Desprez—Bonaparte's return to Paris after the campaign of Vienna—Hasty dismissal of M. Barbe Marbois.
At the moment when the Emperor had reason to hope that the news of his extraordinary success would animate public spirit he was informed that considerable disquietude prevailed, and that the Bank of France was assailed by demands for the payment of its paper, which had fallen, more than 5 per cent. I was not ignorant of the cause of this decline. I had been made acquainted, through the commercial correspondence between Hamburg and Paris, with a great financial operation, planned by M. Ouvrard, in consequence of which he was to obtain piastres from Spanish America at a price much below the real value; and I had learned that he was obliged to support this enterprise by the funds which he and his partners previously employed in victualling the forces. A fresh investment of capital was therefore necessary for this service, which, when on a large scale, requires extensive advances, and the tardy payment of the Treasury at that period was well known.
I was well acquainted with M. Ouvrard, and in what I am about to say I do not think there will be found anything offensive or disagreeable to him. I observed the greater number of the facts to which I shall refer in their origin, and the rest I learned from M. Ouvrard himself, who, when he visited Hamburg in 1808, communicated to me a variety of details respecting his immense transaction with the King of Spain. Among other things I recollect he told me that before the 18th Brumaire he was possessed of 60,000,000, without owing a franc to any person.
This celebrated financier has been the object of great public attention. The prodigious variations of fortune which he has experienced, the activity of his life, the immense commercial operations in which he has been engaged; the extent and the boldness of his enterprises, render it necessary, in forming a judgment of M. Ouvrard, to examine his conduct with due care and deliberation. The son of a stationer, who was able merely through his own resources to play so remarkable a part, could be no ordinary man. It may be said of M. Ouvrard what Beaumarchais said of himself, that his life was really a combat. I have known him long, and I saw much of him in his relations with Josephine. He always appeared to me to possess great knowledge of the world, accompanied by honourable principles, and a high degree of generosity, which added greatly to the value of his prudence and discretion. No human power, no consideration, not even the ingratitude of those whom he had obliged, could induce him to disclose any sacrifice which he had made at the time when, under the Directory, the public revenue may be said to have been always at the disposal of the highest bidder, and when no business could be brought to a conclusion except by him who set about it with his hands full of money. To this security, with which M. Ouvrard impressed all official persons who rendered him services, I attribute the facility with which be obtained the direction of the numerous enterprises in which he engaged, and which produced so many changes in his fortune. The discretion of M. Ouvrard was not quite agreeable to the First Consul, who found it impossible to extract from him the information he wanted. He tried every method to obtain from him the names of persons to whom he had given those kind of subsidies which in vulgar language are called sops in the pan, and by ladies pin money. Often have I seen Bonaparte resort to every possible contrivance to gain his object. He would sometimes endeavour to alarm M. Ouvrard by menaces, and at other times to flatter him by promises, but he was in no instance successful.
While we were at the Luxembourg, on, as I recollect, the 25th of January 1800, Bonaparte said to me during breakfast, "Bourrienne, my resolution is taken. I shall have Ouvrard arrested."—"General, have you proofs against him?"—"Proofs, indeed! He is a money-dealer, a monopoliser; we must make him disgorge. All the contractors, the provision agents, are rogues. How have they made their fortunes? At the expense of the country, to be sure. I will not suffer such doings. They possess millions, they roll in an insolent luxury, while my soldiers have neither bread nor shoes! I will have no more of that! I intend to speak on the business to-day in the Council, and we shall see what can be done."
I waited with impatience for his return from the Council to know what had passed. "Well, General?" said I "The order is given." On hearing this I became anxious about the fate of M. Ouvrard, who was thus to be treated more like a subject of the Grand Turk than a citizen of the Republic; but I soon learned that the order had not been executed because he could not be found.
Next day I learned that a person, whom I shall not name, who was present at the Council, and who probably was under obligations to Ouvrard, wrote him a note in pencil to inform him of the vote for his arrest carried by the First Consul. This individual stepped out for a moment and despatched his servant with the note to Ouvrard. Having thus escaped the writ of arrest, Ouvrard, after a few days had passed over, reappeared, and surrendered himself prisoner. Bonaparte was at first furious on learning that he had got out of the way; but on hearing that Ouvrard had surrendered himself he said to me, "The fool! he does not know what is awaiting him! He wishes to make the public believe that he has nothing to fear; that his hands are clean. But he is playing a bad game; he will gain nothing in that way with me. All talking is nonsense. You may be sure, Bourrienne, that when a man has so much money he cannot have got it honestly, and then all those fellows are dangerous with their fortunes. In times of revolution no man ought to have more than 3,000,000 francs, and that is a great deal too much."
Before going to prison Ouvrard took care to secure against all the searches of the police any of his papers which might have committed persons with whom he had dealings; and I believe that there were individuals connected with the police itself who had good reason for not regretting the opportunity which M. Ouvrard had taken for exercising this precaution. Seals, however, were put upon his papers; but on examining them none of the information Bonaparte so much desired to obtain was found. Nevertheless on one point his curiosity was satisfied, for on looking over the documents he found from some of them that Madame Bonaparte had been borrowing money from Ouvrard.
As Ouvrard had a great number of friends they bestirred themselves to get some person of influence to speak to the First Consul in his favour. But this was a commission no one was willing to undertake; because, prejudiced as Bonaparte was, the least hint of the kind would have appeared to him to be dictated by private interest. Berthier was very earnestly urged to interfere, but he replied, "That is impossible. He would say that it was underhand work to get money for Madame Visconti."
I do not recollect to what circumstance Ouvrard was indebted for his liberty, but it is certain that his captivity did not last long. Sometime after he had left his prison Bonaparte asked him for 12,000,000, which M. Ouvrard refused.
On his accession to the Consulate Bonaparte found M. Ouvrard contractor for supplying the Spanish fleet under the command of Admiral Massaredo. This business introduced him to a correspondence with the famous Godoy, Prince of the Peace. The contract lasted three years, and M. Ouvrard gained by it a net profit of 15,000,000. The money was payable in piastres, at the rate of 3 francs and some centimes each, though the piastre was really worth 5 francs 40 centimes. But to recover it at this value it was necessary for M. Ouvrard to go and get the money in Mexico. This he was much inclined to do, but he apprehended some obstacle on the part of the First Consul, and, notwithstanding his habitual shrewdness, he became the victim of his over-precaution. On his application M. de Talleyrand undertook to ask the First Consul for authority to give him a passport. I was in the cabinet at the time, and I think I still hear the dry and decided "No," which was all the answer M. de Talleyrand obtained. When we were alone the First Consul said to me, "Do you not see, Bourrienne, this Ouvrard must have made a good thing of his business with the Prince of the Peace? But the fool! Why did he get Talleyrand to ask me for a passport? That is the very thing that raised my suspicion. Why did he not apply for a passport as every one else does? Have I the giving of them? He is an ass; so much the worse for him."
I was sorry for Ouvrard's disappointment, and I own none the less so because he had intimated his willingness to give me a share in the business he was to transact its Spain; and which was likely to be very profitable. His brother went to Mexico in his stead.
In 1802 a dreadful scarcity afflicted France. M. Ouvrard took upon himself, in concert with Wanlerberghe, the task of importing foreign grain to prevent the troubles which might otherwise have been expected. In payment of the grain the foreign houses who sent it drew upon Ouvrard and Wanlerberghe for 26,000,000 francs in Treasury bills, which, according to the agreement with the Government, were to be paid. But when the bills of the foreign houses became due there was no money in the Treasury, and payment was refused. After six months had elapsed payment was offered, but on condition that the Government should retain half the profit of the commission! This Ouvrard and Wanlerberghe refused, upon which the Treasury thought it most economical to pay nothing, and the debt remained unsettled. Notwithstanding this transaction Ouvrard and Wanlerberghe engaged to victual the navy, which they supplied for six years and three months. After the completion of these different services the debt due to them amounted to 68,000,000.
In consequence of the long delay of, payment by the Treasury the disbursements for supplies of grain amounted at least to more than 40,000,000; and the difficulties which arose had a serious effect on the credit of the principal dealers with those persons who supplied them. The discredit spread and gradually reached the Treasury, the embarrassments of which augmented with the general alarm. Ouvrard, Wanlerberghe, and Seguin were the persons whose capital and credit rendered them most capable of relieving the Treasury, and they agreed to advance for that purpose 102,000,000, in return for which they were allowed bonds of the Receivers-General to the amount of 150,000,000. M. Desprez undertook to be the medium through which the 102,000,000 were to be paid into the Treasury, and the three partners transferred the bands to him.
Spain had concluded a treaty with France, by which she was bound to pay a subsidy of 72,000,000 francs, and 32,000,000 had become due without any payment being made: It was thought advisable that Ouvrard should be sent to Madrid to obtain a settlement, but he was afraid that his business in Paris would suffer during his absence, and especially the transaction in which he was engaged with Desprez. The Treasury satisfied him on this point by agreeing to sanction the bargain with Desprez, and Ouvrard proceeded to Madrid. It was on this occasion he entered into the immense speculation for trading with Spanish America.
Spain wished to pay the 32,000,000 which were due to France as soon as possible, but her coffers were empty, and goodwill does not ensure ability; besides, in addition to the distress of the Government, there was a dreadful famine in Spain. In this state of things Ouvrard proposed to the Spanish Government to pay the debt due to France, to import a supply of corn, and to advance funds for the relief of the Spanish Treasury. For this he required two conditions. (1.) The exclusive right of trading with America. (2.) The right of bunging from America on his own account all the specie belonging to the Crown, with the power of making loans guaranteed and payable by the Spanish Treasuries.
About the end of July 1805 the embarrassment which sometime before had begun to be felt in the finances of Europe was alarmingly augmented. Under these circumstances it was obviously the interest of Ouvrard to procure payment as soon as possible of the 32,000,000 which he had advanced for Spain to the French Treasury. He therefore redoubled his efforts to bring his negotiation to a favourable issue, and at last succeeded in getting a deed of partnership between himself and Charles IV. which contained the following stipulation:—"Ouvrard and Company are authorised to introduce into the ports of the New World every kind of merchandise and production necessary for the consumption of those countries, and to export from the Spanish Colonies, during the continuance of the war with England; all the productions and all specie derivable from them." This treaty was only to be in force during the war with England, and it was stipulated that the profits arising from the transactions of the Company should be equally divided between Charles IV. and the rest of the Company; that is to say, one-half to the King and the other half to his partners.
The consequences of this extraordinary partnership between a King and a private individual remain to be stated. On the signing of the deed Ouvrard received drafts from the Treasury of Madrid to the extent of 52,500,000 piastres; making 262,500,000 francs; but the piastres were to be brought from America, while the terms of the treaty required that the urgent wants of the Spanish Government should be immediately supplied, and, above all, the progress of the famine checked. To accomplish this object fresh advances to an enormous amount were necessary, for M. Ouvrard had to begin by furnishing 2,000,000 of quintals of grain at the rate of 26 francs the quintal. Besides all this, before he could realise a profit and be reimbursed for the advances he had made to the Treasury of Paris, be had to get the piastres conveyed from America to Europe. After some difficulty the English Government consented to facilitate the execution of the transaction by furnishing four frigates for the conveyance of the piastres.
Ouvrard had scarcely completed the outline of his extraordinary enterprise when the Emperor suddenly broke up his camp at Boulogne to march to Germany. It will readily be conceived that Ouvrard's interests then imperatively required his presence at Madrid; but he was recalled to Paris by the Minister of the Treasury, who wished to adjust his accounts. The Emperor wanted money for the war on which he was entering, and to procure it for the Treasury Ouvrard was sent to Amsterdam to negotiate with the House of Hope. He succeeded, and Mr. David Parish became the Company's agent.
Having concluded this business Ouvrard returned in all haste to Madrid; but in the midst of the most flattering hopes and most gigantic enterprises he suddenly found himself threatened with a dreadful crisis. M. Desprez, as has been stated, had, with the concurrence of the Treasury, been allowed to take upon himself all the risk of executing the treaty, by which 150,000,000 were to be advanced for the year 1804, and 400,000,000 for the year 1805. Under the circumstances which had arisen the Minister of the Treasury considered himself entitled to call upon Ouvrard to place at his disposal 10,000,000 of the piastres which he had received from Spain. The Minister at the same time informed him that he had made arrangements on the faith of this advance, which he thought could not be refused at so urgent a moment.
The embarrassment of the Treasury, and the well-known integrity of the Minister, M. de Barbe Marbois, induced Ouvrard to remit the 10,000,000 piastres. But a few days after he had forwarded the money a Commissioner of the Treasury arrived at Madrid with a ministerial despatch, in which Ouvrard was requested to deliver to the Commissioner all the assets he could command, and to return immediately to Paris.
The Treasury was then in the greatest difficulty, and a general alarm prevailed. This serious financial distress was occasioned by the following circumstances. The Treasury had, by a circular, notified to the Receivers-General that Desprez was the holder of their bonds. They were also authorised to transmit to him all their disposable funds, to be placed to their credit in an account current. Perhaps the giving of this authority was a great error; but, be that as it may, Desprez, encouraged by the complaisance of the Treasury, desired the Receivers-General to transmit to him all the sums they could procure for payment of interest under 8 per cent., promising to allow them a higher rate of interest. As the credit of the house of Desprez stood high, it may be easily conceived that on such conditions the Receivers-General, who were besides secured by the authority of the Treasury, would enter eagerly into the proposed plan. In short, the Receivers-General soon transmitted very considerable sums. Chests of money arrived daily from every point of France. Intoxicated by this success, Desprez engaged in speculations which in his situation were extremely imprudent. He lent more than 50,000,000 to the merchants of Paris, which left him no command of specie. Being obliged to raise money, he deposited with the Bank the bonds of the Receivers- General which had been consigned to him, but which were already discharged by the sums transmitted to their credit in the account current. The Bank, wishing to be reimbursed for the money advanced to Desprez, applied to the Receivers-General whose bonds were held an security. This proceeding had become necessary on the part of the Bank, as Desprez, instead of making his payments in specie, sent in his acceptances. The Directors of the Bank, who conducted that establishment with great integrity and discretion, began to be alarmed, and required Desprez to explain the state of his affairs. The suspicions of the Directors became daily stronger, and were soon shared by the public. At last the Bank was obliged to stop payment, and its notes were soon at a discount of 12 per cent.
The Minister of the Treasury, dismayed, as well may be supposed, at such a state of things during the Emperor's absence, convoked a Council, at which Joseph Bonaparte presided, and to which Desprez and Wanlerberghe were summoned. Ouvrard being informed of this financial convulsion made all possible haste from Madrid, and on his arrival at Paris sought assistance from Amsterdam. Hope's house offered to take 15,000,000 piastres at the rate of 3 francs 75 centimes each. Ouvrard having engaged to pay the Spanish Government only 3 francs, would very willingly have parted with them at that rate, but his hasty departure from Madrid, and the financial events at Paris, affected his relations with the Spanish Treasury, and rendered it impossible for him to afford any support to the Treasury of France; thus the alarm continued, until the news of the battle of Austerlitz and the consequent hope of peace tranquillised the public mind. The bankruptcy of Desprez was dreadful; it was followed by the failure of many houses, the credit of which was previously undoubted.
To temper the exultation which victory was calculated to excite, the news of the desperate situation of the Treasury and the Bank reached the Emperor on the day after the battle of Austerlitz. The alarming accounts which he received hastened his return to France; and on the very evening on which he arrived in Paris he pronounced, while ascending the stairs of the Tuileries, the dismissal of M. de Barbs Marbois. This Minister had made numerous enemies by the strict discharge of his duty, and yet, notwithstanding his rigid probity, he sunk under the accusation of having endangered the safety of the State by weakness of character. At this period even Madame de Stael said, in a party where the firmness of M. Barbs Marbois was the topic of conversation—"What, he inflexible? He is only a reed bronzed!" But whatever may be the opinion entertained of the character of this Minister, it is certain that Napoleon's rage against him was unbounded. Such was the financial catastrophe which occurred during the campaign of Vienna; but all was not over with Ouvrard, and in so great a confusion of affairs it was not to be expected that the Imperial hand, which was not always the hand of justice, should not make itself somewhere felt.
In the course of the month of February 1806 the Emperor issued two decrees, in which he declared Ouvrard, Wanlerberghe, and Michel, contractors for the service of 1804, and Desprez their agent, debtors to the amount of 87,000,000, which they had misapplied in private speculations, and in transactions with Spain "for their personal interests." Who would not suppose from this phrase that Napoleon had taken no part whatever in the great financial operation between Spain and South America? He was, however, intimately acquainted with it, and was himself really and personally interested. But whenever any enterprise was unsuccessful he always wished to deny all connection with it. Possessed of title-deeds made up by himself—that is to say, his own decrees—the Emperor seized all the piastres and other property belonging to the Company, and derived from the transaction great pecuniary advantage,—though such advantage never could be regarded by a sovereign as any compensation for the dreadful state into which the public credit had been brought.
Declaration of Louis XVIII.—Dumouriez watched—News of a spy— Remarkable trait of courage and presence of mind—Necessity of vigilance at Hamburg—The King of Sweden—His bulletins—Doctor Gall —Prussia covets Hamburg—Projects on Holland—Negotiations for peace—Mr. Fox at the head of the British Cabinet—Intended assassination of Napoleon—Propositions made through Lord Yarmouth —Proposed protection of the Hanse towns—Their state— Aggrandisement of the Imperial family—Neither peace nor war— Sebastiani's mission to Constantinople—Lord Lauderdale at Paris, and failure of the negotiations—Austria despoiled—Emigrant pensions—Dumouriez's intrigues—Prince of Mecklenburg-Schwerin— Loizeau.
I have been somewhat diffuse respecting the vast enterprises of M. Ouvrard, and on the disastrous state of the finances during the campaign of Vienna. Now, if I may so express myself, I shall return to the Minister Plenipotentiary's cabinet, where several curious transactions occurred. The facts will not always be given in a connected series, because there was no more relation between the reports which I received on a great variety of subjects than there is in the pleading of the barristers who succeed each other in a court of justice.
On the 2d of January 1806 I learned that many houses in Hamburg had received by post packets, each containing four copies of a declaration of Louis XVIII. Dumouriez had his carriage filled with copies of this declaration when he passed through Brunswick; and in that small town alone more than 3000 were distributed. The size of this declaration rendered its transmission by post very easy, even in France.
All my letters from the Minister recommended that I should keep a strict watch over the motions of Dumouriez; but his name was now as seldom mentioned as if he had ceased to exist. The part he acted seemed to be limited to disseminating pamphlets more or less insignificant.
It is difficult to conceive the great courage and presence of mind sometimes found in men so degraded as are the wretches who fill the office of spies. I had an agent amongst the Swedo-Russians, named Chefneux, whom I had always found extremely clever and correct. Having for a long time received no intelligence from him I became very anxious, —an anxiety which was not without foundation. He had, in fact, been arrested at Lauenburg, and conducted, bound, tied hand and foot, by some Cossacks to Luneburg. There was found on him a bulletin which he was about to transmit to me, and he only escaped certain death by having in his possession a letter of recommendation from a Hamburg merchant well known to M. Alopaeus, the Russian Minister in that city. This precaution, which I had taken before he set out, saved his life. M. Alopaeus replied to the merchant that, in consequence of his recommendation the spy should be sent back safe and sound, but that another time neither the recommended nor the recommender should escape so easily. Notwithstanding this, Chefneux would certainly have paid with his head for the dangerous business in which he was embarked but for the inconceivable coolness he displayed under the most trying circumstances. Though the bulletin which was found upon him was addressed to M. Schramm, merchant, they strongly suspected that it was intended for me. They demanded of the prisoner whether he knew me; to which he boldly replied that he had never seen me. They endeavoured, by every possible means, to extort a confession from him, but without success. His repeated denials, joined to the name of M. Schramm, created doubts in the minds of his interrogators; they hesitated lest they should condemn an innocent man. They, however, resolved to make a last effort to discover the truth, and Chefneux, condemned to be shot, was conducted to the plain of Luneburg. His eyes were bandaged, and he heard the command of preparation given to the platoon, which was to fire upon him; at that moment a man approaching him whispered in his ear, in a tone of friendship and compassion, "They are going to fire; but I am your friend; only acknowledge that you know M. de Bourrienne and you are safe."—"No," replied Chefneux in a firm tone; "if I said so I should tell a falsehood." Immediately the bandage was removed from his eyes, and he was set at liberty. It would be difficult to cite a more extraordinary instance of presence of mind.
Much as I execrate the system of espionage I am nevertheless compelled to admit that the Emperor was under the necessity of maintaining the most unremitting vigilance amidst the intrigues which were going forward in the neighbourhood of Hamburg, especially when the English, Swedes, and Russians were in arms, and there were the strongest grounds for suspecting the sincerity of Prussia.
On the 5th of January 1806 the King of Sweden arrived before the gates of Hamburg. The Senate of that city, surrounded on all sides by English, Swedish, and Russian troops, determined to send a deputation to congratulate the Swedish monarch, who, however, hesitated so long about receiving this homage that fears were entertained lest his refusal should be followed by some act of aggression. At length, however, the deputies were admitted, and they returned sufficiently well satisfied with their reception.
The King of Sweden then officially declared, "That all the arrangements entered into with relation to Hanover had no reference to hint, as the Swedish army was under the immediate command of its august sovereign."
The King, with his 6000 men, seemed inclined to play the part of the restorer of Germany, and to make himself the Don Quixote of the treaty of Westphalia. He threatened the Senate of Hamburg with the whole weight of his anger, because on my application the colours which used to be suspended over the door of the house for receiving Austrian recruits had been removed. The poor Senate of Hamburg was kept in constant alarm by so dangerous a neighbour.
The King of Sweden had his headquarters at Boetzenburg, on the northern bank of the Elbe. In order to amuse himself he sent for Dr. Gall, who was at Hamburg, where he delivered lectures on his system of phrenology, which was rejected in the beginning by false science and prejudice, and afterwards adopted in consequence of arguments, in my opinion, unanswerable. I had the pleasure of living some time with Dr. Gall, and I owe to the intimacy which subsisted between us the honour he conferred on me by the dedication of one of his works. I said to him, when he departed for the headquarters of the King of Sweden, "My dear doctor, you will certainly discover the bump of vanity." The truth is, that had the doctor at that period been permitted to examine the heads of the sovereigns of Europe they would have afforded very curious craniological studies.
It was not the King of Sweden alone who gave uneasiness to Hamburg; the King of Prussia threatened to seize upon that city, and his Minister publicly declared that it would very soon belong to his master. The Hamburgers were deeply afflicted at this threat; in fact, next to the loss of their independence, their greatest misfortune would have been to fall under the dominion of Prussia, as the niggardly fiscal system of the Prussian Government at that time would have proved extremely detrimental to a commercial city. Hanover, being evacuated by the French troops, had become a kind of recruiting mart for the British army, where every man who presented himself was enrolled, to complete the Hanoverian legion which was then about to be embodied. The English scattered gold by handfuls. One hundred and fifty carriages, each with six horses, were employed in this service, which confirmed me in the belief I had previously entertained, that the English were to join with the Russians in an expedition against Holland. The aim of the Anglo-Russians was to make a diversion which might disconcert the movements of the French armies in Germany, the allies being at that time unacquainted with the peace concluded at Presburg. Not a moment was therefore to be lost in uniting the whole of our disposable force for the defence of Holland; but it is not of this expedition that I mean to speak at present. I only mention it to afford some idea of our situation at Hamburg, surrounded, as we then were, by Swedish, English, and Russian troops. At this period the Russian Minister at Hamburg, M. Forshmann, became completely insane; his conduct had been more injurious than advantageous to his Government. He was replaced by M. Alopcous, the Russian Minister at Berlin; and they could not have exchanged a fool for a more judicious and able diplomatist.
I often received from the Minister of Marine letters said packets to transmit to the Isle of France,(Mauritius) of which the Emperor was extremely anxious to retain possession; and I had much trouble in finding any vessels prepared for that colony by which I could forward the Minister's communications. The death of Pitt and the appointment of Fox as his successor had created a hope of peace. It was universally known that Mr. Fox, in succeeding to his office, did not inherit the furious hatred of the deceased Minister against France and her Emperor. There moreover existed between Napoleon and Mr. Fox a reciprocal esteem, and the latter had shown himself really disposed to treat. The possibility of concluding a peace had always been maintained by that statesman when he was in opposition to Mr. Pitt; and Bonaparte himself might have been induced, from the high esteem he felt for Mr. Fox, to make concessions from which he would before have recoiled. But there were two obstacles, I may say almost insurmountable ones. The first was the conviction on the part of England that any peace which might be made would only be a truce, and that Bonaparte would never seriously relinquish his desire of universal dominion. On the other side, it was believed that Napoleon had formed the design of invading England. Had he been able to do so it would have been less with the view of striking a blow at her commerce and destroying her maritime power, than of annihilating the liberty of the press, which he had extinguished in his own dominions. The spectacle of a free people, separated only by six leagues of sea, was, according to him, a seductive example to the French, especially to those among them who bent unwillingly under his yoke.
At an early period of Mr. Fox's ministry a Frenchman made the proposition to him of assassinating the Emperor, of which information was immediately transmitted to M. de Talleyrand. In this despatch the Minister said that, though the laws of England did not authorise the permanent detention of any individual not convicted of a crime, he had on this occasion taken it on himself to secure the miscreant till such time as the French Government could be put on its guard against his attempts. Mr. Fox said in his letter that he had at first done this individual "the honour to take him for a spy," a phrase which sufficiently indicated the disgust with which the British Minister viewed him.
This information was the key which opened the door to new negotiations. M. de Talleyrand was ordered to express, in reply to the communication of Mr. Fox, that the Emperor was sensibly affected at the index it afforded of the principles by which the British Cabinet was actuated. Napoleon did not limit himself to this diplomatic courtesy; he deemed it a favourable occasion to create a belief that he was actuated by a sincere love of peace. He summoned to Paris Lord Yarmouth, one of the most distinguished amongst the English who had been so unjustly detained prisoners at Verdun on the rupture of the peace of Amiens. He gave his lordship instructions to propose to the British Government a new form of negotiations, offering to guarantee to England the Cape of Good Hope and Malta. Some have been inclined from this concession to praise the moderation of Bonaparte; others to blame him for offering to resign these two places, as if the Cape and Malta could be put in competition with the title of Emperor, the foundation of the Kingdom of Italy, the acquisition of Genoa and of all the Venetian States, the dethronement of the King of Naples and the gift of his kingdom to Joseph, and finally, the new partition of Germany. These transactions, of which Bonaparte said not a word, and from which he certainly had no intention of departing, were all long after the treaty of Amiens.
Every day brought with it fresh proofs of insatiable ambition. In fact, Napoleon longed to obtain possession of the Hanse Towns. I was, however, in the first place, merely charged to make overtures to the Senates of each of these towns, and to point out the advantages they would derive from the protection of Napoleon in exchange for the small sacrifice of 6,000,000 francs in his favour. I had on this subject numerous conferences with the magistrates: they thought the sum too great, representing, to me that the city was not so rich as formerly, because their commerce had been much curtailed by the war; in short, the Senate declared that, with the utmost goodwill, their circumstances would not permit them to accept the "generous proposal" of the Emperor.
I was myself, indeed, at a loss to conceive how the absurdity of employing me to make such a proposition was overlooked, for I had, really no advantage to offer in return to the Hanse Towns. Against whom did Bonaparte propose to protect them? The truth is, Napoleon then wished to seize these towns by direct aggression, which, however, he was not able to accomplish until four years afterwards.
During five years I witnessed the commercial importance of these cities, and especially of Hamburg. Its geographical situation, on a great river navigable by large vessels to the city, thirty leagues from the mouth of the Elbe; the complete independence it enjoyed; its municipal regulations and paternal government, were a few amongst the many causes which had raised Hamburg to its enviable height of prosperity. What, in fact, was the population of these remnants of the grand Hanseatic League of the Middle Ages? The population of Hamburg when I was there amounted to 90,000, and that of its small surrounding territory to 25,000. Bremen had 36,000 inhabitants, and 9000 in its territory; the city of Lubeck, which is smaller and its territory a little more extensive than that of Bremen, contained a population of 24,000 souls within and 16,000 without the walls. Thus the total population of the Hanse Towns amounted to only 200,000 individuals; and yet this handful of men carried on an extensive commerce, and their ships ploughed every sea, from the shores of India to the frozen regions of Greenland.
The Emperor arrived at Paris towards the end of January 1806. Having created kings in Germany he deemed the moment favourable for surrounding his throne with new princes. It was at this period that he created Murat, Grand Duke of Cleves and Berg; Bernadotte, Prince of Ponte-Corvo; M. de Talleyrand, Duke of Benevento; and his two former colleagues, Cambaceres and Lebrun, Dukes of Parma and Piacenza. He also gave to his sister Pauline, a short time after her second marriage with the Prince Borghese, the title of Duchess of Guastalla. Strange events! who could then have foreseen that the duchy of Cambaceres would become the refuge of a Princess of Austria, the widowed wife of Napoleon Bonaparte? In the midst of the prosperity of the Imperial family, when the eldest of the Emperor's brothers had ascended the throne of Naples, when Holland was on the eve of being offered to Louis, and Jerome had exchanged his legitimate wife for the illegitimate throne of Westphalia, the Imperial pillow was still far from being free from anxiety. Hostilities did not actually exist with the Continental powers; but this momentary state of repose lacked the tranquillity of peace. France was at war with Russia and England, and the aspect of the Continent presented great uncertainty, while the treaty of Vienna had only been executed in part. In the meantime Napoleon turned his eyes towards the East. General Sebastiani was sent to Constantinople. The measures be pursued and his judicious conduct justified the choice of the Emperor. He was adroit and conciliating, and peace with Turkey was the result of his mission. The negotiations with England did not terminate so happily, although, after the first overtures made to Lord Yarmouth, the Earl of Lauderdale had been sent to Paris by Mr. Fox. In fact, these negotiations wholly failed. The Emperor had drawn enormous sums from Austria, without counting the vases, statues, and pictures. With which he decorated the Louvre, and the bronze with which he clothed the column of the Place Vendome,—in my opinion the finest monument of his reign and the most beautiful one in Paris. As Austria was exhausted all the contributions imposed on her could not be paid in cash, and they gave the Emperor bills in payment. I received one for about 7,000,000 on Hamburg on account of the stipulations of the treaty of Presburg.
The affairs of the Bourbon Princes became more and more unfavourable, and their finances, as well as their chances of success, were so much diminished that about this period it was notified to the emigrants in Brunswick that the pretender (Louis XVIII.) had no longer the means of continuing their pensions. This produced great consternation amongst those emigrants, many of whom had no other means of existence; and notwithstanding their devotion to the cause of royalty they found a pension very useful in strengthening their zeal.
—[When Louis XVIII. returned to France, and Fouche was his Minister of Police, the King asked Fouche whether during his (the King's) exile, had not set spies over him, and who they were. Fouche hesitated to reply, but the King insisting he said: "If your Majesty presses for an answer, it was the Due de Blacas to whom this matter was confided."—"And how much did you pay him?" said the King. "Deux cents mille livres de rents, Sire."—"Ah, so!" said the King, "then he has played fair; we went halves."—Henry Greville's Diary, p. 430.]—
Amongst those emigrants was one whose name will occupy a certain place in history; I mean Dumouriez, of whom I have already spoken, and who had for some time employed himself in distributing pamphlets. He was then at Stralsund; and it was believed that the King of Sweden would give him a command. The vagrant life of this general, who ran everywhere begging employment from the enemies of his country without being able to obtain it, subjected him to general ridicule; in fact, he was everywhere despised.
To determine the difficulties which had arisen with regard to Holland, which Dumouriez dreamed of conquering with an imaginary army, and being discontented besides with the Dutch for not rigorously excluding English vessels from their ports, the Emperor constituted the Batavian territory a kingdom under his brother Louis. When I notified to the States of the circle of Lower Saxony the accession of Louis Bonaparte to the throne of Holland, and the nomination of Cardinal Fesch as coadjutor and successor of the Arch-chancellor of the Germanic Empire, along with their official communications, the Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin was the only member of the circle who forebore to reply, and I understood be had applied to the Court of Russia to know "whether" and "how" he should reply. At the same time he made known to the Emperor the marriage of his daughter, the Princess Charlotte Frederica, with Prince Christian Frederick of Denmark.
At this period it would have been difficult to foresee the way in which this union would terminate. The Prince was young and handsome, and of an amiable disposition, which seemed to indicate that he would prove a good husband. As for the Princess, she was as beautiful as love; but she was heedless and giddy; in fact, she was a spoiled child. She adored her husband, and during several years their union proved happy. I had the honour of knowing them at the period when the Duke of Mecklenburg, with his family, sought refuge at Altona. Before leaving that town the Duchess of Mecklenburg, a Princess of Saxony, paid a visit to Madame de Bourrienne and loaded her with civilities. This Princess was perfectly amiable, and was therefore generally regretted when, two years afterwards, death snatched her from her family. Before leaving Altona the Duke of Mecklenburg gave some parties by way of bidding adieu to Holstein, where he had been so kindly received; and I can never forget the distinguished reception and many kindnesses Madame de Bourrienne and myself received from that illustrious family.
It consisted of the hereditary Prince, so distinguished by his talents and acquirements (he was at that time the widower of a Grand Duchess of Russia, a sister of the Emperor Alexander), of Prince Gustavus, so amiable and graceful, and of Princess Charlotte and her husband, the Prince Royal of Denmark.
This happy couple were far from foreseeing that in two years they would be separated for ever. The Princess was at this period in all the splendour of her beauty; several fetes were given on her account on the banks of the Elbe, at which the Prince always opened the ball with Madame de Bourrienne. Notwithstanding her amiability the Princess Charlotte was no favourite at the Danish Court. Intrigues were formed against her. I know not whether any foundation existed for the calumnies spread to her disadvantage, but the Court dames accused her of great levity of conduct, which, true or false, obliged her husband to separate from her; and at the commencement of 1809 he sent her to Altona, attended by a chamberlain and a maid of honour. On her arrival she was in despair; hers was not a silent grief, for she related her story to every one. This unfortunate woman really attracted pity, as she shed tears for her son, three years of age, whom she was doomed never again to behold. But her natural levity returned; she did not always maintain the reserve suitable to her rank, and some months afterwards was sent into Jutland, where I believe she still lives.
The enemies of the French Government did not confine themselves to writing and publishing invectives against it. More than one wretch was ready to employ daggers against the Emperor. Among this number was a man named Louis Loizeau, recently arrived from London. He repaired to Altona, there to enjoy the singular privilege which that city afforded of sheltering all the ruffians, thieves, and bankrupts who fled from the justice of their own Governments. On the 17th of July Loizeau presented himself to Comte de Gimel, who resided at Altona, as the agent of the Comte de Lille. He offered to repair to Paris and assassinate the Emperor. Comte de Gimel rejected the proposal with indignation; and replied, that if he had no other means of serving the Bourbons than cowardly assassination he might go elsewhere and find confederates. This fact, which was communicated to me by a friend of M. de Gimel, determined me to arrest Loizeau. Not being warranted, however, to take this step at Altona, I employed a trusty agent to keep watch, and draw him into a quarrel the moment he should appear on the Hamburg side of a public walk which divides that city from Altona, and deliver him up to the nearest Hamburg guard-house. Loizeau fell into the snare; but finding that he was about to be conducted from the guardhouse to the prison of Hamburg, and that it was at my request he had been arrested, he hastily unloosed his cravat, and tore with his teeth the papers it contained, part of which he swallowed. He also endeavoured to tear some other papers which were concealed under his arm, but was prevented by the guard. Furious at this disappointment, he violently resisted the five soldiers who had him in custody, and was not secured until he had been slightly wounded. His first exclamation on entering prison was, "I am undone!" Loizeau was removed to Paris, and, though I am ignorant of the ultimate fate of this wretch, I am pretty certain that Fouche would take effectual means to prevent him from doing any further mischief.
Menaces of Prussia—Offer for restoring Hanover to England—Insolent ultimatum—Commencement of hostilities between France and Prussia— Battle of Auerstadt—Death of the Duke of Brunswick—Bernadotte in Hamburg—Davonet and Bernadotte—The Swedes at Lubeck—Major Amiel— Service rendered to the English Minister at Hamburg—My appointment of Minister for the King of Naples—New regulation of the German post-office—The Confederation of the North—Devices of the Hanse Towns—Occupation of Hamburg in the name of the Emperor—Decree of Berlin—The military governors of Hamburg—Brune, Michaud, and Bernadotte.
The moment now approached when war was about to be renewed in Germany, and in proportion as the hopes of peace diminished Prussia redoubled her threats, which were inspired by the recollection of the deeds of the great Frederick. The idea of peace was hateful to Prussia. Her measures, which till now had been sufficiently moderate, suddenly assumed a menacing aspect on learning that the Minister of the King of England had declared in Parliament that France had consented to the restitution of Hanover. The French Ministry intimated to the Prussian Government that this was a preliminary step towards a general peace, and that a large indemnity would be granted in return. But the King of Prussia, who was well informed, and convinced that the House of Hanover clung to this ancient domain, which gave to England a certain preponderance in Germany, considered himself trifled with, and determined on war.
Under these circumstances Lord Lauderdale was recalled from Paris by his Government. War continued with England, and was about to commence with Prussia. The Cabinet of Berlin sent an ultimatum which could scarcely be regarded in any other light than a defiance, and from the well-known character of Napoleon we may judge of his irritation at this ultimatum.
—[The severity with which Bonaparte treated the press may be inferred from the case of Palm the publisher. In 1808 Johann Phillip Palm, of Nuremberg, was shot by Napoleon's order for issuing a pamphlet against the rule of the French in Germany.]—
The Emperor, after his stay of eight months in Paris passed in abortive negotiations for peace, set out on the 25th of September for the Rhine.
Hostilities commenced on the 10th of October 1806 between France and Prussia, and I demanded of the Senate that a stop should be put to the Prussians recruiting. The news of a great victory gained by the Emperor over the Prussians on the 14th of October reached Hamburg on the 19th, brought by some fugitives, who gave such exaggerated accounts of the loss of the French army that it was not until the arrival of the official despatches on the 28th of October that we knew whether to mourn or to rejoice at the victory of Jena.
The Duke of Brunswick, who was dangerously wounded at the battle of Auerstadt, arrived on the 29th of October at Altona.—[This Prince was in the seventy-second year of his age, and extremely infirm.]—His entrance into that city afforded a striking example of the vicissitudes of fortune. That Prince entered Altona on a wretched litter, borne by ten men, without officers, without domestics, followed by a troop of vagabonds and children, who were drawn together by curiosity. He was lodged in a wretched inn, and so much worn out by fatigue and the pain of his eyes that on the day after his arrival a report of his death very generally prevailed. Doctor Unzer was immediately sent for to attend the unfortunate Duke, who, during the few days that he survived his wounds, saw no one else except his wife, who arrived on the 1st of November. He expired on the 10th of the same month.
—[For the mistimed but rather pathetic belief of the old dying Duke in the courtesy with which he and his States would be treated by the French, see Beugnot, tome 1. p. 80: "I feel sure that there is a courier of the Emperor's on the road to know how I am."]—
At this juncture Bernadotte returned to Hamburg. I asked him how I was to account for his conduct while he was with Davoust, who had left Nuremberg to attack the Prussian army; and whether it was true that he had refused to march with that general, and afterwards to aid him when he attacked the Prussians on the Weimar road. "The letters I received," observed I, "state that you took no part in the battle of Auerstadt; that I did not believe, but I suppose you saw the bulletin which I received a little after the battle, and which stated that Bonaparte said at Nuremberg, in the presence of several officers, 'Were I to bring him before a court-martial he would be shot. I shall say nothing to him about it, but I will take care he shall know what I think of his behaviour. He has too keen a sense of honour not to be aware that he acted disgracefully."—"I think him very likely," rejoined Bernadotte, "to have made these observations. He hates me because he knows I do not like him; but let him speak to me and he shall have his answer. If I am a Gascon, he is a greater one. I might have felt piqued at receiving something like orders from Davoust, but I did my duty."
—[The complaints of Bernadotte's conduct on the 14th of October 1806. when he gave no assistance to Davoust in repulsing the main body of the Prussians at Aneratadt, are well known. Jomini says that Davoust proposed to Bernadotte to march with him, and even offered him the command of the two corps. Bernadotte refused, and marched away to Dornburg, where he was of no use, "his obstinacy, difficult to explain, nearly compromised both Davoust and the success of the battle;" See also Thiers (tome vii. p. 172), who attributes Bernadotte's conduct to a profound aversion for Davoust conceived on the most frivolous grounds. Bernadotte had frequently given cause of complaint to Napoleon in the two campaigns of 1806 and 1806. In the movement on Vienna Napoleon considered he showed want of activity and of zeal. These complaints seem to have been made in good faith, for in a letter to Bernadotte's brother-in-law, Joseph, Napoleon suggests that health may have been the causes (Du Cases, tome i. p. 322). Bernadotte was equally unfortunate in putting in his appearance too late at Eylan (see Due de Rovigo's Memoirs, tome ii. p. 48), and also incurred the displeasure of Napoleon at Wagram (see later on).]—
In the beginning of November the Swedes entered Lubeck; but on the 8th of that month the town was taken by assault, and the Swedes, as well as the rest of the corps which had escaped from Jena, were made prisoners.
A troop of Prussians had advanced within four leagues of Hamburg, and that town had already prepared for a vigorous resistance, in case they should attempt an entrance, when Major Amiel attacked them at Zollenspieker and made some prisoners. Hamburg was, however, threatened with another danger, for Major Amiel expressed his intention of entering with all his prisoners, notwithstanding the acknowledged neutrality of the town. Amiel was a partisan leader in the true sense of the word; he fought rather on his own account than with the intention of contributing to the success of the operations of the army. His troop did not consist of more than forty men, but that was more than sufficient to spread terror and devastation in the surrounding villages. He was a bold fellow, and when, with his handful of men, he threw himself upon Hamburg, the worthy inhabitants thought he had 20,000 troops with him. He had pillaged every place through which he passed, and brought with him 300 prisoners, and a great many horses he had taken on his road. It was night when he presented himself at the gates of the city, which he entered alone, having left his men and booty at the last village. He proceeded to the French Embassy. I was not there at the time, but I was sent for, and about seven o'clock in the evening I had my first interview with the Major. He was the very, beau ideal of a bandit, and would have been an admirable model for a painter. I was not at all surprised to hear that on his arrival his wild appearance and huge mustachios had excited some degree of terror among those who were in the salon. He described his exploits on the march, and did not disguise his intention of bringing his troops into Hamburg next day. He talked of the Bank and of pillage. I tried for some time to divert him from this idea, but without effect, and at length said to him, "Sir, you know that this is not the way the Emperor wishes to be served. During the seven years that I have been about him, I have invariably heard him express his indignation against those who aggravate the misery which war naturally brings in her train. It is the express wish of the Emperor that no damage, no violence whatever, shall be committed on the city or territory of Hamburg." These few words produced a stronger effect than any entreaties I could have used, for the mere name of the Emperor made even the boldest tremble, and Major Amiel next thought of selling his booty. The Senate were so frightened at the prospect of having Amiel quartered upon them that to get rid of him they determined to purchase his booty at once, and even furnished him with guards for his prisoners. I did not learn till some time afterwards that among the horses Major Amiel had seized upon the road were those of the Countess Walmoden. Had I known this fact at the time I should certainly have taken care to have had them restored to her. Madame Walmoden was then a refugee at Hamburg, and between her and my family a close intimacy existed. On the very day, I believe, of the Major's departure the Senate wrote me a letter of thanks for the protection I afforded the town.
Before the commencement of the Prussian campaign, while anxiety was entertained respecting the designs of the Cabinet of Berlin, my task was not an easy one. I exerted all my efforts to acquaint the French Government with what was passing on the Spree. I announced the first intelligence of an unexpected movement which had taken place among the Prussian troops cantoned in the neighbourhood of Hamburg. They suddenly evacuated Lauenburg, Platzburg, Haarburg, Stade, Twisenfelth, and Cuxhaven. This extraordinary movement gave rise to a multitude of surmises. I was not wrong when I informed the French Government that, according to every probability, Prussia was about to declare hostilities against France, and to enter into an alliance with England.
I much regretted that my situation did not allow me more frequent opportunities of meeting Mr. Thornton, the English Minister to the circle of Lower Saxony. However; I saw him sometimes, and had on two different occasions the opportunity of rendering him some service. Mr. Thornton had requested me to execute a little private business for him, the success of which depended on the Emperor. I made the necessary communication to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, adding in my letter that Mr. Thornton's conduct towards the French who had come in any way in contact with him had ever been just and liberal, and that I should receive great pleasure in being able to announce to him the success of his application. His request was granted.
On another occasion Mr. Thornton applied to me for my services, and I had once more the pleasure of rendering them. He wished to procure some information respecting an Englishman named Baker, who had gone to Terracina, in the Campagna di Roma, for the benefit of sea-bathing. He was there arrested, without any cause assigned, by order of the commandant of the French troops in Terracina. The family of Mr. Baker, not having heard from him for some months, became very uneasy respecting him, for they had not the least idea of his arrest. His relations applied to Mr. Thornton, and that gentleman, notwithstanding the circumstances which, as I have stated, prevented our frequent intercourse, hesitated not a moment in requesting me to furnish him with some information respecting his countryman. I lost no time in writing to M. Alquier, our Ambassador at Rome, and soon enabled Mr. Thornton to ease the apprehension of Mr. Baker's friends.
I had every opportunity of knowing what was passing in Italy, for I had just been invested with a new dignity. As the new King of Naples, Joseph, had no Minister in Lower Saxony, he wished that I should discharge the function of Minister Plenipotentiary for Naples. His Ministers accordingly received orders to correspond with me upon all business connected with his government and his subjects. The relations between Hamburg and Naples were nearly nil, and my new office made no great addition to my labours.
I experienced, however, a little more difficulty in combining all the post-offices of Hamburg in the office of the Grand Duchy of Berg, thus detaching them from the offices of Latour and Taxis, so named after the German family who for a length of time had had the possession of them, and who were devoted to Austria.
After some days of negotiation I obtained the suppression of these offices, and their union with the postoffice of the Grand Due de Berg (Murat), who thus received letters from Italy, Hungary, Germany, Poland, part of Russia, and the letters from England for these countries.
The affair of the post-offices gained for me the approbation of Napoleon. He expressed his satisfaction through the medium of a letter I received from Duroc, who at the same time recommended me to continue informing the Emperor of all that was doing in Germany with relation to the plans of the Confederation of the North. I therefore despatched to the Minister for Foreign Affairs a detailed letter, announcing that Baron Grote, the Prussian Minister at Hamburg, had set off on a visit to Bremen and Lubeck. Among those who accompanied him on this excursion was a person wholly devoted to me; and I knew that Baron Grote's object was to offer to these towns verbal propositions for their union with the Confederation of the North, which the King of Prussia wished to form as a counterpoise to the Confederation of the Rhine, just created by Napoleon. Baron Grote observed the strictest secrecy in all his movements. He showed, in confidence, to those to whom he addressed himself, a letter from M. Haugwitz, the Minister of the King of Prussia,
—[In July 1806, after Austerlitz, Napoleon had formed the
"Confederation du Rhin." to include the smaller States of Germany,
who threw off all connection with the German Empire, and formed a
Confederation furnishing a considerable army. ]—
—[The Emperor of Germany, Francis IL, had already in 1804, on
Napoleon taking the title of Emperor, declared himself Hereditary
Emperor of Austria. After the formation of the Rhenish
Confederation and Napoleon's refusal to acknowledge the German
Empire any longer, he released the States of the Holy Roman Empire
from their allegiance, declared the Empire dissolved, and contented
himself with the title of Emperor of Austria, as Francis I.]—
who endeavoured to point out to the Hanse Towns how much the Confederation of the North would turn to their advantage, it being the only means of preserving their liberty, by establishing a formidable power. However, to the first communication only an evasive answer was returned. M. Van Sienen, the Syndic of Hamburg, was commissioned by the Senate to inform the Prussian Minister that the affair required the concurrence of the burghers, and that before he could submit it to them it would be necessary to know its basis and conditions. Meanwhile the Syndic Doormann proceeded to Lubeck, where there was also a deputy from Bremen. The project of the Confederation, however, never came to anything.
I scrupulously discharged the duties of my functions, but I confess I often found it difficult to execute the orders I received, and more than once I took it upon myself to modify their severity. I loved the frank and generous character of the Hamburgers, and I could not help pity the fate of the Hanse Towns, heretofore so happy, and from which Bonaparte had exacted such immense sacrifices.
On the principal gate of the Hanse Towns is inscribed the following motto, well expressing the pacific spirit of the people: 'Da nobis pacem, Domine, in diebus nostris'. The paternal and elected government, which did everything to secure the happiness of these towns, was led to believe that the sacrifices imposed on them would be recompensed by the preservation of their neutrality. No distrust was entertained, and hope was kept alive by the assurances given by Napoleon. He published in the Moniteur that the Hanse Towns could not be included in any particular Confederation. He thus strangled in its birth the Confederation of the North, to which those feeble States would otherwise have been obliged to consent. When in 1806 Napoleon marched against Prussia, he detached Marshal Mortier from the Grand Army when it had passed the Rhine, and directed him to invade the Electorate of Hesse, and march on Hamburg. On the 19th of November the latter town was occupied by the French army in the name of the Emperor, amidst the utmost order and tranquillity.
I must acknowledge that I was under much apprehension as to this event. At the intelligence of the approach of the French army consternation was great and universal in Hamburg, which was anxious to maintain its neutrality unimpaired. At the urgent request of the magistrates of the city I assumed functions more than diplomatic, and became, in some respects, the first magistrate of the town. I went to meet Marshal Mortier to endeavour to dissuade him from entering. I thought I should by this means better serve the interests of France than by favouring the occupation of a neutral town by our troops. But all my remonstrances were useless. Marshal Mortier had received formal orders from the Emperor.
No preparations having been made at Hamburg for the reception of Marshal Mortier, he quartered himself and his whole staff upon me. The few troops he had with him were disposed of in my courtyard, so that the residence of a Minister of peace was all at once converted into headquarters. This state of things continued until a house was got ready for the Marshal.
Marshal Mortier had to make very rigorous exactions, but my representations suspended for a while Napoleon's orders for taking possession of the Bank of Hamburg. I am here bound to bear testimony to the Marshal's honourable principles and integrity of character. The representations which I had sent to Marshal Mortier were transmitted by the latter to the Emperor at Berlin; and Mortier stated that he had suspended the execution of the orders until he should receive others. The Emperor approved of this. It was, indeed, a happy event for France and for Europe, even more so than for Hamburg. Those who suggested to the Emperor the idea of pillaging that fine establishment must have been profoundly ignorant of its importance. They thought only of the 90,000,000 of marks banco deposited in its cellars.
By the famous decree of Berlin, dated 21st November 1806, Mortier was compelled to order the seizure of all English merchandise in the Hanse Towns, but he enforced the decree only so far as to preserve the appearance of having obeyed his orders.
Mortier, on leaving Hamburg for Mecklenburg, was succeeded by General Michaud, who in his turn was succeeded by Marshal Brune in the beginning of 1807. I am very glad to take the present opportunity of correcting the misconceptions which arose through the execution of certain acts of Imperial tyranny. The truth is, Marshal Brune, during his government, constantly endeavoured to moderate, as far as he could, the severity of the orders he received. Bernadotte became Governor of Hamburg when the battle of Jena rendered Napoleon master of Prussia and the north of Germany.
The Prince of Ponte-Corvo lightened, as far as possible, the unjust burdens and vexations to which that unfortunate town was subject. He never refused his assistance to any measures which I adopted to oppose a system of ruin and persecution. He often protected Hamburg against exorbitant exactions, The Hanse Towns revived a little under his government, which continued longer than that of Mortier, Michaud, and Brune. The memory of Bernadotte will always be dear to the Hamburgers; and his name will never be pronounced without gratitude. His attention was especially directed to moderate the rigour of the custom-houses; and perhaps the effect which his conduct produced on public opinion may be considered as having, in some measure, led to the decision which, four years after, made him Hereditary Prince of Sweden.
Ukase of the Emperor of Russia—Duroc's mission to Weimar— Napoleon's views defeated—Triumphs of the French armies—Letters from Murat—False report respecting Murat—Resemblance between Moreau and M. Billand—Generous conduct of Napoleon—His interview with Madame Hatzfeld at Berlin—Letter from Bonaparte to Josephine— Blucher my prisoner—His character—His confidence in the future fate of Germany—Prince Paul of Wurtemberg taken prisoner—His wish to enter the French service—Distinguished emigrants at Altona— Deputation of the Senate to the Emperor at Berlin—The German Princes at Altona—Fauche-Boiel and the Comte de Gimel.
In September 1806 it became very manifest that, as soon as war should break out between France and Prussia, Russia would not be slow in forming an alliance with the latter power. Peace had, however, been reestablished between Napoleon and Alexander by virtue of a treaty just signed at Paris. By that treaty Russia was to evacuate the Bouches du Cattaro,—[The Bouches do Cattaro, on the eastern coast of the Adriatic, had formed part of the Dalmatian possessions of Venice.]—a condition with which she was in no hurry to comply. I received a number of the Court Gazette of St. Petersburg, containing a ukase of the Emperor of Russia, in which Alexander pointed out the danger which again menaced Europe, showed the necessity of adopting precautions for general tranquillity and the security of his own Empire, and declared his determination of not only completing but augmenting his army. He therefore ordered a levy of four men out of every 500 inhabitants.
Before the commencement of hostilities Duroc was sent to the King of Prussia with the view of discovering whether there was any possibility of renewing negotiations; but affairs were already too much embarrassed. All Duroc's endeavours were in vain, and perhaps it was no longer in the power of the King of Prussia to avoid war with France. Besides, he had just grounds of offence against the Emperor. Although the latter had given him Hanover in exchange for the two Margravates, he had, nevertheless, offered to England the restoration of that province as one of the terms of the negotiations commenced with Mr. Fox. This underhand work was not unknown to the Berlin Cabinet, and Napoleon's duplicity rendered Duroc's mission useless. At this time the King of Prussia was at Weimar.
Victory everywhere favoured the French arms. Prince Hohenlohe, who commanded a corps of the Prussian army, was forced to capitulate at Prentzlau. After this capitulation General Blucher took the command of the remains of the corps, to which he joined the troops whose absence from Prentzlau exempted them from the capitulation. These corps, added to those which Blucher had at Auerstadt, were then almost the only ramparts of the Prussian monarchy. Soult and Bernadotte received orders from Murat to pursue Blucher, who was using all his efforts to draw from Berlin the forces of those two generals. Blucher marched in the direction of Lubeck.
General Murat pursued the wreck of the Prussian army which had escaped from Saxony by Magdeburg. Blucher was driven upon Lubeck. It was very important to the army at Berlin that this numerous corps should be destroyed, commanded as it was by a skillful and brave general, who drew from the centre of the military operations numerous troops, with which he might throw himself into Hanover, or Hesse, or even Holland, and by joining the English troops harass the rear of the Grand Army. The Grand Duke of Berg explained to me his plans and expectations, and soon after announced their fulfilment in several letters which contained, among other things, the particulars of the taking of Lubeck.
In two of these letters Murat, who was probably deceived by his agents, or by some intriguer, informed me that General Moreau had passed through Paris on the 12th of October, and had arrived in Hamburg on the 28th of October. The proof which Murat possessed of this circumstance was a letter of Fauche-Borel, which he had intercepted. I recollect a curious circumstance which serves to show the necessity of mistrusting the vague intelligence furnished to persons in authority. A fortnight before I received Murat's first letter a person informed me that General Moreau was in Hamburg. I gave no credit to this intelligence, yet I endeavoured to ascertain whether it had any foundation, but without effect. Two days later I was assured that an individual had met General Moreau, that he had spoken to him, that he knew him well from having served under him— together with various other circumstances, the truth of which there appeared no reason to doubt. I immediately sent for the individual in question, who told me that he knew Moreau, that he had met him, that the General had inquired of him the way to the Jungfersteige (a promenade at Hamburg), that he had pointed it out to him, and then said, "Have I not the honour to speak to General Moreau?" upon which the General answered, "Yes, but say nothing about having seen me; I am here incognito." All this appeared to me so absurd that, pretending not to know Moreau, I asked the person to describe him to me. He described a person bearing little resemblance to Moreau, and added that he wore a braided French coat and the national cockade in his hat. I instantly perceived the whole was a mere scheme for getting a little money. I sent the fellow about his business. In a quarter of an hour after I had got rid of him M. la Chevardiere called on me, and introduced M. Billaud, the French Consul at Stettin. This gentleman wore a braided coat and the national cockade in his hat. He was the hero of the story I had heard from the informer. A slight personal resemblance between the Consul and the General had caused several persons to mistake them for each other.
During the Prussian campaign nothing was talked of throughout Germany but Napoleon's generous conduct with respect to Prince Hatzfeld. I was fortunate enough to obtain a copy of a letter which the Emperor wrote to Josephine on the subject, and which I shall presently lay before the reader. In conformity with the inquisitorial system which too frequently characterised the Emperor's government, and which he extended to every country of which he had military possession, the first thing done on entering a town was to take possession of the post-office, and then, Heaven knows how little respect was shown to the privacy of correspondence. Among the letters thus seized at Berlin and delivered to Napoleon was one addressed to the King of Prussia by Prince Hatzfeld, who had imprudently remained in the Prussian capital. In this letter the Prince gave his Sovereign an account of all that had occurred in Berlin since he had been compelled to quit at; and at the same time he informed him of the force and situation of the corps of the French army. The Emperor, after reading this letter, ordered that the Prince should be arrested, and tried by a court-martial on the charge of being a spy.
The Court was summoned, and little doubt could be entertained as to its decision when Madame Hatzfeld repaired to Duroc, who on such occasions was always happy when he could facilitate communication with the Emperor. On that day Napoleon had been at a review. Duroc knew Madame Hatzfeld, whom he had several times seen on his visits to Berlin. When Napoleon returned from the review he was astonished to see Duroc at the palace at that hour, and inquired whether he had brought any news. Duroc answered in the affirmative, and followed the Emperor into his Cabinet, where he soon introduced Madame Hatzfeld. The remainder of the scene is described in Napoleon's letter. It may easily be perceived that this letter is an answer to one from Josephine reproaching him for the manner in which he spoke of women, and very probably of the beautiful and unfortunate Queen of Prussia, respecting whom he had expressed himself with too little respect in one of his bulletins. The following is Napoleon's letter:—
I have received your letter, in which you seem to reproach me for speaking ill of women. It is true that I dislike female intriguers above all things. I am used to kind, gentle, and conciliatory women. I love them, and if they have spoiled me it is not my fault, but yours. However, you will see that I have done an act of kindness to one deserving woman. I allude to Madame de Hatzfeld. When I showed her her husband's letter she stood weeping, and in a tone of mingled grief and ingenuousness said, "It is indeed his writing!" This went to my heart, and I said, "Well, madame, throw the letter into the fire, and then I shall have no proof against your husband." She burned the letter, and was restored to happiness. Her husband now is safe: two hours later, and he would have been lost. You see, therefore, that I like women who are simple, gentle, and amiable; because they alone resemble you.
November 6, 1806, 9 o'clock P.M.
When Marshal Bernadotte had driven Blucher into Lubeck and made him prisoner, he sent to inform me of the circumstance; but I was far from, expecting that the prisoner would be confided to my charge. Such, however, was the case. After his capitulation he was sent to Hamburg, where he had the whole city for his prison.
I was curious to become acquainted with this celebrated man, and I saw him very frequently. I found that he was an enthusiastic Prussian patriot—a brave man, enterprising even to rashness, of limited education, and almost to an incredible degree devoted to pleasure, of which he took an ample share while he remained in Hamburg. He sat an enormous time at table, and, notwithstanding his exclusive patriotism, he rendered full justice to the wines of France. His passion for women was unbounded, and one of his most favourite sources of amusement was the gaming-table, at which he spent a considerable portion of his time. Blucher was of an extremely gay disposition; and considered merely as a companion he was very agreeable. The original style of his conversation pleased me much. His confidence in the deliverance of Germany remained unshaken in spite of the disasters of the Prussian army. He often said to me, "I place great reliance on the public spirit of Germany—on the enthusiasm which prevails in our universities. The events of war are daily changing, and even defeats con tribute to nourish in a people sentiments of honour and national glory. You may depend upon it that when a whole nation is determined to shake off a humiliating yoke it will succeed. There is no doubt but we shall end by having a landwehr very different from any militia to which the subdued spirit of the French people could give birth. England will always lend us the support of her navy and her subsidies, and we will renew alliances with Russia and Austria. I can pledge myself to the truth of a fact of which I have certain knowledge, and you may rely upon it; namely, that none of the allied powers engaged in the present war entertain views of territorial aggrandisement. All they unanimously desire is to put an end to the system of aggrandisement which your Emperor has established and acts upon with such alarming rapidity. In our first war against France, at the commencement of your Revolution, we fought for questions respecting the rights of sovereigns, for which, I assure you, I care very little; but now the case is altered, the whole population of Prussia makes common cause with its Government. The people fight in defence of their homes, and reverses destroy our armies without changing the spirit of the nation. I rely confidently on the future because I foresee that fortune will not always favour your Emperor. It is impossible; but the time will come when all Europe, humbled by his exactions, and impatient of his depredations, will rise up against him. The more he enslaves nations, the more terrible will be the reaction when they break their chains. It cannot be denied that he is tormented with an insatiable desire of acquiring new territories. To the war of 1805 against Austria and Russia the present war has almost immediately succeeded. We have fallen. Prussia is occupied; but Russia still remains undefeated. I cannot foresee what will be the termination of the war; but, admitting that the issue should be favourable to you, it will end only to break out again speedily. If we continue firm, France, exhausted by her conquests, must in the end fall. You may be certain of it. You wish for peace. Recommend it! By so doing You will give strong proofs of love for your country."
In this strain Blucher constantly spoke to me; and as I never thought it right to play the part of the public functionary in the drawing-room I replied to him with the reserve necessary in my situation. I could not tell him how much my anticipations frequently coincided with his; but I never hesitated to express to him how much I wished to see a reasonable peace concluded.
Blucher's arrival at Hamburg was preceded by that of Prince Paul of Wutrtemberg, the second son of one of the two kings created by Napoleon, whose crowns were not yet a year old. This young Prince, who was imbued with the ideas of liberty and independence which then prevailed in Germany, had taken a headlong step. He had quitted Stuttgart to serve in the Prussian campaign without having asked his father's permission, which inconsiderate proceeding might have drawn Napoleon's anger upon the King of Wurtemberg. The King of Prussia advanced Prince Paul to the rank of general, but he was taken prisoner at the very commencement of hostilities. Prince Paul was not, as has been erroneously stated, conducted to Stuttgart by a captain of gendarmerie. He came to Hamburg, where I received many visits from him. He did not yet possess very definite ideas as to what he wished; for after he was made prisoner he expressed to me his strong desire to enter the French service, and often asked me to solicit for him an interview with the Emperor. He obtained this interview, and remained for a long time in Paris, where I know he has frequently resided since the Restoration.
The individuals whom I had to observe in Hamburg gave me much less trouble than our neighbours at Altona. The number of the latter had considerably augmented, since the events of the war had compelled a great number of emigrants who had taken refuge at Munster to leave that town. They all proceeded to Altona. Conquered countries became as dangerous to them as the land which they had forsaken. The most distinguished amongst the individuals assembled at Altona were Vicomte de Sesmaisons, the Bailly d'Hautefeuille, the Duchess of Luxembourg, the Marquis de Bonnard, the Due d'Aumont (then Due de Villequier), the wife of Marshal de Brogue and her daughter, Cardinal de Montmorency, Madame de Cosse, her two daughters and her son (and a priest), and the Bishop of Boulogne.
Bonaparte stayed long enough at Berlin to permit of the arrival of a deputation from the French Senate to congratulate him on his first triumphs. I learned that in this instance the Senatorial deputation, departing from its accustomed complaisance, ventured not to confine itself to compliments and felicitations, but went so far as to interfere with the Emperor's plan of the campaign, to speak of the danger that might be incurred and finally to express a desire to in passing the Oder, see peace concluded. Napoleon received this communication with a very bad grace. He thought the Senators very bold to meddle with his affairs, treated the conscript fathers of France as if they had been inconsiderate youths, protested, according to custom, his sincere love of peace, and told the deputation that it was Prussia, backed by Russia, and not he, who wished for war!
All the German Princes who had taken part against Napoleon fled to Altona after the battle of Jena with as much precipitation as the emigrants themselves. The Hereditary Prince of Weimar, the Duchess of Holstein, Prince Belmonte-Pignatelli, and a multitude of other persons distinguished for rank and fortune, arrived there almost simultaneously. Among the persons who took refuge in Altona were some intriguers, of whom Fauche-Borel was one. I remember receiving a report respecting a violent altercation which Fauche had the audacity to enter into with Comte de Gimel because he could not extort money from the Count in payment of his intrigues. Comte de Gimel had only funds for the payment of pensions, and, besides, he had too much sense to suppose there was any utility in the stupid pamphlets of Fauche-Borel, and therefore he dismissed him with a refusal. Fauche was insolent, which compelled Comte de Gimel to send him about his business as he deserved. This circumstance, which was first communicated to me in a report, has since been confirmed by a person who witnessed the scene. Fauche-Borel merely passed through Hamburg, and embarked for London on board the same ship which took Lord Morpeth back to England.
—[Louis Fauche-Borel (1762-1829), a Swiss who devoted himself to the cause of the Royalists. As Louis stepped on the shore of France in 1814, Fauche-Borel was ready to assist him from the boat, and was met with the gracious remark that he was always at hand when a service was required. His services were however left unrewarded]—
Alarm of the city of Hamburg—The French at Bergdorf—Favourable orders issued by Bernadotte—Extortions in Prussia—False endorsements—Exactions of the Dutch—Napoleon's concern for his wounded troops—Duroc's mission to the King of Prussia—Rejection of the Emperor's demands—My negotiations at Hamburg—Displeasure of the King of Sweden—M. Netzel and M. Wetteratedt.
At this critical moment Hamburg was menaced on all sides; the French even occupied a portion of its territory. The French troops, fortunately for the country, were attached to the corps commanded by the Prince de Ponte- Corvo. This military occupation alarmed the town of Hamburg, to which, indeed, it proved very injurious. I wrote to Marshal Bernadotte on the subject. The grounds on which the Senate appealed for the evacuation of their territory were such that Bernadotte could not but acknowledge their justice. The prolonged stay of the French troops in the bailiwick of Bergdorf, which had all the appearance of an occupation, might have led to the confiscation of all Hamburg property in England, to the laying an embargo on the vessels of the Republic, and consequently to the ruin of a great part of the trade of France and Holland, which was carried on under the flag of Hamburg. There was no longer any motive for occupying the bailiwick of Bergdorf when there were no Prussians in that quarter. It would have been an absurd misfortune that eighty men stationed in that bailiwick should, for the sake of a few louis and a few ells of English cloth, have occasioned the confiscation of Hamburg, French, and Dutch property to the amount of 80,000,000 francs.
Marshal Bernadotte replied to me on the 16th of November, and said, "I hasten to inform you that I have given orders for the evacuation of the bailiwick of Bergdorf and all the Hamburg territory. If you could obtain from the Senate of Hamburg, by the 19th of this month, two or three thousand pairs of shoes, you would oblige me greatly. They shall be paid for in goods or in money."
I obtained what Bernadotte required from the Senate, who knew his integrity, while they were aware that that quality was not the characteristic of all who commanded the French armies! What extortions took place during the occupation of Prussia! I will mention one of the means which, amongst others, was employed at Berlin to procure money. Bills of exchange were drawn, on which endorsements were forged, and these bills were presented to the bankers on whom they were purported to be drawn. One day some of these forged bills to a large amount were presented to Messrs. Mathiesen and Silleine of Hamburg, who, knowing the endorsement to be forged, refused to cash them. The persons who presented the bills carried their impudence so far as to send for the gendarmes, but the bankers persisted in their refusal. I was informed of this almost incredible scene, which had drawn together a great number of people. Indignant at such audacious robbery, I instantly proceeded to the spot and sent away the gendarmes, telling them it was not their duty to protect robbers, and that it was my business to listen to any just claims which might be advanced. Under Clarke's government at Berlin the inhabitants were subjected to all kinds of oppression and exaction. Amidst these exactions and infamous proceedings, which are not the indispensable consequences of war, the Dutch generals distinguished themselves by a degree of rapacity which brought to mind the period of the French Republican peculations in Italy. It certainly was not their new King who set the example of this conduct. His moderation was well known, and it was as much the result of his disposition as of his honest principles. Louis Bonaparte, who was a King in spite of himself, afforded an example of all that a good man could suffer upon a usurped throne.
When the King of Prussia found himself defeated at every point he bitterly repented having undertaken a war which had delivered his States into Napoleon's power in less time than that in which Austria had fallen the preceding year. He wrote to the Emperor, soliciting a suspension of hostilities. Rapp was present when Napoleon received the King of Prussia's letter. "It is too late," said he; "but, no matter, I wish to stop the effusion of blood; I am ready to agree to anything which is not prejudicial to the honour or interests of the nation." Then calling Duroc, he gave him orders to visit the wounded, and see that they wanted for nothing. He added, "Visit every man on my behalf; give them all the consolation of which they stand in need; afterwards find the King of Prussia, and if he offers reasonable proposals let me know them."
Negotiations were commenced, but Napoleon's conditions were of a nature which was considered inadmissible. Prussia still hoped for assistance from the Russian forces. Besides, the Emperor's demands extended to England, who at that moment had no reason to accede to the pretensions of France. The Emperor wished England to restore to France the colonies which she bad captured since the commencement of the war, that Russia should restore to(o) the Porte Moldavia and Wallachia, which she then occupied; in short, he acted upon the advice which some tragedy-king gives to his ambassador: "Demand everything, that you may obtain nothing." The Emperor's demands were, in fact, so extravagant that it was scarcely possible he himself could entertain the hope of their being accepted. Negotiations, alternately resumed and abandoned, were carried on with coldness on both sides until the moment when England prevailed on Russia to join Prussia against France; they then altogether ceased: and it was for the sake of appearing to wish for their renewal, on bases still more favourable to France, that Napoleon sent Duroc to the King of Prussia. Duroc found the King at Osterode, on the other side of the Vistula. The only answer he received from His Majesty was, "The time is passed;" which was very much like Napoleon's observation; "It is too late."
Whilst Duroc was on his mission to the King of Prussia I was myself negotiating at Hamburg. Bonaparte was very anxious to detach Sweden from the coalition, and to terminate the war with her by a separate treaty. Sweden, indeed, was likely to be very useful to him if Prussia, Russia, and England should collect a considerable mass of troops in the north. Denmark was already with us, and by gaining over Sweden also the union of those two powers might create a diversion, and give serious alarm to the coalition, which would be obliged to concentrate its principal force to oppose the attack of the grand army in Poland. The opinions of M. Peyron, the Swedish Minister at Hamburg, were decidedly opposed to the war in which his sovereign was engaged with France. I was sorry that this gentleman left Hamburg upon leave of absence for a year just at the moment I received my instructions from the Emperor upon this subject. M. Peyron was succeeded by M. Netzel, and I soon had the pleasure of perceiving that his opinions corresponded in every respect with those of his predecessor.
As soon as he arrived M. Netzel sought an interview to speak to me on the subject of the Swedes, who had been taken prisoners on the Drave. He entreated me to allow the officers to return to Sweden on their parole. I was anxious to get Netzel's demand acceded to, and availed myself of that opportunity to lead him gradually to the subject of my instructions. I had good reason to be satisfied with the manner in which he received my first overtures. I said nothing to him of the justice of which he was not previously convinced. I saw he understood that his sovereign would have everything to gain by a reconciliation with France, and he told me that all Sweden demanded peace. Thus encouraged, I told him frankly that I was instructed to treat with him. M. Netzel assured me that M. de Wetterstedt, the King of Sweden's private secretary, with whom he was intimate, and from whom he showed me several letters, was of the same opinion on the subject as himself. He added, that he had permission to correspond with the King, and that he would; write the same evening to his sovereign and M.. de Wetterstedt to acquaint them with our conversation.
It will be perceived, from what I have stated, that no negotiation was ever commenced under more favourable auspices; but who could foresee what turn the King of Sweden would take? That unlucky Prince took M. Netzel's letter in very ill part, and M. de Wetterstedt himself received peremptory orders to acquaint M. Netzel with his sovereign's displeasure at his having presumed to visit a French Minster, and, above all, to enter into a political conversation with him, although it was nothing more than conversation. The King did not confine himself to reproaches; M. Netzel came in great distress to inform me he had received orders to quit Hamburg immediately, without even awaiting the arrival of his successor. He regarded his disgrace as complete. I had the pleasure of seeing M. Netzel again in 1809 at Hamburg, where he was on a mission from King Charles XIII.
The Continental system—General indignation excited by it—Sale of
licences by the French Government—Custom-house system at Hamburg—
My letter to the Emperor—Cause of the rupture with Russia—
Bernadotte's visit to me—Trial by court-martial for the purchase of
a sugar-loaf—Davoust and the captain "rapporteur"—Influence of the
Continental system on Napoleon's fall.
I have a few remarks to make on the famous Continental system, which was a subject of such engrossing interest. I had, perhaps, better opportunities than any other person of observing the fraud and estimating the fatal consequences of this system. It took its rise during the war in 1806, and was brought into existence by a decree; dated from Berlin. The project was conceived by weak counsellors, who; perceiving the Emperor's just indignation at the duplicity of England, her repugnance to enter, into negotiations with him, and her constant endeavours to raise enemies against France, prevailed upon him to issue the decree, which I could only regard as an act of madness and tyranny. It was not a decree, but fleets, that were wanting. Without a navy it was ridiculous to declare the British Isles in a state of blockade, whilst the English fleets were in fact blockading all the French ports. This declaration was, however, made in the Berlin Decree. This is what was called the Continental system! which, in plain terms, was nothing but a system of fraud and pillage.
One can now scarcely conceive how Europe could for a single day endure that fiscal tyranny which extorted exorbitant prices for articles which the habits of three centuries had rendered indispensable to the poor as well as to the rich. So little of truth is there in the pretence that this system had for its sole and exclusive object to prevent the sale of English goods, that licences for their disposal were procured at a high price by whoever was rich enough to pay for them. The number and quality of the articles exported from France were extravagantly exaggerated. It was, indeed, necessary to take out some of the articles is compliance with the Emperor's wishes, but they were only thrown into the sea. And yet no one had the honesty to tell the Emperor that England sold on the continent but bought scarcely anything. The speculation in licences was carried to a scandalous extent only to enrich a few, and to satisfy the short-sighted views of the contrivers of the system.
This system proves what is written in the annals of the human heart and mind, that the cupidity of the one is insatiable, and the errors of the other incorrigible. Of this I will cite an example, though it refers to a period posterior to the origin of the Continental system. In Hamburg, in 1811, under Davoust's government, a poor man had well-nigh been shot for having introduced into the department of the Elbe a small loaf of sugar for the use of his family, while at the same moment Napoleon was perhaps signing a licence for the importation of a million of sugar- loaves.
—[In this same year (1811) Murat, as King of Naples, not only winked at the infringement of the Continental system, but almost openly broke the law himself. His troops in Calabria and all round his immense line sea coast, carried on an active trade with Sicilian and English smugglers. This was so much the case that an officer never set out from Naples to join, without, being, requested by his wife, his relations or friends, to bring them some English muslins, some sugar and coffee, together with a few needles, pen-knives, and razors. Some of the Neapolitan officers embarked in really large commercial operations, going shares with the custom house people who were there to enforce the law, and making their soldiers load and unload the contraband vessels. The Comte de ——-, a French officer on Murat's staff, was very noble, but very poor, and excessively extravagant. After making several vain efforts to set him up in the world, the King told him one day he would give him the command of the troops round the Gulf of Salerno; adding that the devil was in it if he could not make a fortune in such a capital smuggling district, in a couple of years.—The Count took the hint, and did make a fortune.—Editor 1836 edition.]—
Smuggling on a small scale was punished with death, whilst the Government themselves carried it on extensively. The same cause filled the Treasury with money, and the prisons with victims:
The custom-house laws of this period, which waged open war against rhubarb, and armed the coasts of the Continent against the introduction of senna, did not save the Continental system from destruction. Ridicule attended the installation of the odious prevotal courts. The president of the Prevotal Court at Hamburg, who was a Frenchman, delivered an address, in which he endeavoured to prove that in the time of the Ptolemies there had existed extraordinary fiscal tribunals, and that it was to those Egypt owed her prosperity. Terror was thus introduced by the most absurd folly. The ordinary customhouse officers, formerly so much abhorred in Hamburg, declared with reason that they would soon be regretted, and than the difference between them and the prevotal courts would soon be felt. Bonaparte's counsellors led him to commit the folly of requiring that a ship which had obtained a licence should export merchandise equivalent to that of the colonial produce to be imported under the authority of the licence. What was the consequence? The speculators bought at a low price old stores of silk-which change of fashion had made completely unsaleable, and as those articles were prohibited in England they were thrown into the sea without their loss being felt. The profits of the speculation made ample amends for the sacrifice. The Continental system was worthy only of the ages of ignorance and barbarism, and had it been admissible in theory, was impracticable in application.
—[Sydney Smith was struck with the, ridiculous side of the war of tariffs: "We are told that the Continent is to be reconquered by the want of rhubarb and plums." (Essays of Sydney Smith, p. 533, edition of 1861).]—
It cannot be sufficiently stigmatised. They were not the friends of the Emperor who recommended a system calculated to rouse the indignation of Europe, and which could not fail to create reaction. To tyrannize over the human species, and to exact uniform admiration and submission, is to require an impossibility. It would seem that fate, which had still some splendid triumphs in store for Bonaparte, intended to prepare beforehand the causes which were to deprive him of all his triumphs at once, and plunge him into reverses even greater than the good fortune which had favoured his elevation.
The prohibition of trade, the habitual severity in the execution of this odious system, made it operate like a Continental impost. I will give a proof of this, and I state nothing but what came under my own observation. The fiscal regulations were very rigidly enforced at Hamburg, and along the two lines of Cuxhaven and Travemunde. M. Eudel, the director of that department, performed his duty with zeal and disinterestedness. I feel gratified in rendering him this tribute. Enormous quantities of English merchandise and colonial produce were accumulated at Holstein, where they almost all arrived by way of Kiel and Hudsum, and were smuggled over the line at the expense of a premium of 33 and 40 per cent. Convinced of this fact by a thousand proofs, and weary of the vexations of the preventive system, I took upon myself to lay my opinions on the subject before the Emperor. He had given me permission to write to him personally, without any intermediate agency, upon everything that I might consider essential to his service. I sent an extraordinary courier to Fontainebleau, where he then was, and in my despatch I informed him that, notwithstanding his preventive guard, every prohibited article was smuggled in because the profits on the sale in Germany, Poland, Italy, and even France, into which the contrabrand goods found their way, were too considerable not to induce persons to incur all risks to obtain them. I advised him, at the very time he was about to unite the Hanse Towns to the French Empire, to permit merchandise to be imported subject to a duty of 33 per cent., which was about equal to the amount of the premium for insurance. The Emperor adopted my advice without hesitation, and in 1811 the regulation produced a revenue of upwards of 60,000,000 francs in Hamburg alone.
This system, however, embroiled us with Sweden and Russia, who could not endure that Napoleon should enact a strict blockade from them, whilst he was himself distributing licences in abundance. Bernadotte, on his way to Sweden, passed through Hamburg in October 1810. He stayed with me three days, during which time he scarcely saw any person but myself. He asked my opinion as to what he should do in regard to the Continental system. I did not hesitate to declare to him, not as a French Minister, but as a private individual to his friend, that in his place, at the head of a poor nation, which could only subsist by the exchange of its territorial productions with England, I would open my ports, and give the Swedes gratuitously that general licence which Bonaparte sold in detail to intrigue and cupidity.
The Berlin decree could not fail to cause a reaction against the Emperor's fortune by raising up whole nations against him. The hurling of twenty kings from their thrones would have excited less hatred than this contempt for the wants of nations. This profound ignorance of the maxims of political economy caused general privation and misery, which in their turn occasioned general hostility. The system could only succeed in the impossible event of all the powers of Europe honestly endeavouring to carry it into effect. A single free port would have destroyed it. In order to ensure its complete success it was necessary to conquer and occupy all countries, and never to evacuate them. As a means of ruining England it was contemptible. It was necessary that all Europe should be compelled by force of arms to join this absurd coalition, and that the same force should be constantly employed to maintain it. Was this possible? The captain "rapporteur" of a court-martial allowed a poor peasant to escape the punishment due to the offence of having bought a loaf of sugar beyond the custom-house barrier. This officer was some time afterwards at a dinner given by Marshal Davoust; the latter said to him, "You have a very scrupulous conscience, sir; go to headquarters and you will find an order there for you." This order sent him eighty leagues from Hamburg. It is necessary to have witnessed, as I have, the numberless vexations and miseries occasioned by the unfortunate Continental system to understand the mischief its authors did in Europe, and how much that mischief contributed to Napoleon's fall.
—[The so-called Continental system was framed by Napoleon in revenge for the English very extended system of blockades, after Trafalgar had put it out of his power to attempt to keep the seas. By these decrees all ports occupied by the French were closed to the English, and all English goods were to be destroyed wherever found in any country occupied by the French. All States under French influence had to adopt this system. It must be remembered that Napoleon eventually held or enforced his system on all the coastlines of Europe, except that of Spain and Turkey; but as Bourrienne shows the plan of giving licences to break his own system was too lucrative to be resisted by him, or, still more, by his officers. For the working of the system in the occupied lands, Laffite the banker told Savary it was a grand idea, but impracticable (Savary, tome v. p. 110). The Emperor Alexander is reported to have said, after visiting England in 1814, that he believed the system would have reduced England if it had lasted another year. The English, who claimed the right of blockading any coast with but little regard to the effectiveness of the blockade, retaliated by orders in Council, the chief of which are dated 7th January 1807, and 11th November 1807, by which no ships of any power were allowed to trade between any French ports, or the ports of any country closed to England. Whatever the real merits of the system, and although it was the cause of war between the United States and England, its execution did most to damage France and Napoleon, and to band all Europe against it. It is curious that even in 1831 a treaty had to be made to settle the claims of the United States on France for unjust seizures under these decrees.]—
New system of war—Winter quarters—The Emperor's Proclamation— Necessity of marching to meet the Russians—Distress in the Hanse Towns—Order for 50,000 cloaks—Seizure of Russian corn and timber— Murat's entrance into Warsaw—Re-establishment of Poland—Duroc's accident—M. de Talleyrand's carriage stopped by the mud—Napoleon's power of rousing the spirit of his troops—His mode of dictating— The Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin—His visits to Hamburg—The Duke of Weimar—His letter and present—Journey of the Hereditary Prince of Denmark to Paris—Batter, the English spy—Traveling clerks—Louis Bonaparte and the Berlin decree—Creation of the Kingdom of Saxony— Veneration of Germany for the King of Saxony—The Emperor's uncertainty respecting Poland—Fetes and reviews at Warsaw—The French Government at the Emperor's head quarters—Ministerial portfolios sent to Warsaw.—Military preparations during the month of January—Difference of our situation daring the campaigns of Vienna and Prussia—News received and sent—Conduct of the Cabinet of Austria similar to that of the Cabinet of Berlin—Battle of Eylau—Unjust accusation against Bernadotte—Death of General d'Hautpoult—Te Deum chanted by the Russians—Gardanne's mission to Persia
Bonaparte was not only beyond all comparison the greatest captain of modern times, but he may be said to have wrought a complete change in the art of war. Before his time the most able generals regulated the fighting season by the almanac. It was customary in Europe to brave the cannon's mouth only from the first fine days of spring to the last fine days of autumn; and the months of rain, snow, and frost were passed in what were called winter quarters. Pichegru, in Holland, had set the example of indifference to temperature. At Austerlitz, too, Bonaparte had braved the severity of winter; this answered his purpose well, and he adopted the same course in 1806. His military genius and activity seemed to increase, and, proud of his troops, he determined to commence a winter campaign in a climate more rigorous than any in which he had yet fought. The men, chained to his destiny, were now required to brave the northern blast, as they had formerly braved the vertical sun of Egypt. Napoleon, who, above all generals, was remarkable for the choice of his fields of battle, did not wish to wait tranquilly until the Russian army, which was advancing towards Germany, should come to measure its strength with him in the plains of conquered Prussia; he resolved to march to meet it, and to reach it before it should arose the Vistula; but before he left Berlin to explore and conqueror, Poland and the confines of Russia; he addressed a proclamation to his troops, in which he stated all that had hitherto been achieved by the French army, and at the same time announced his future intentions. It was especially advisable that he should march forward, for, had he waited until the Russians had passed the Vistula, there could probably have been no winter campaign, and he would have been obliged either to take up miserable winter quarters between the Vistula and the Oder, or to recross the Oder to combat the enemy in Prussia. Napoleon's military genius and indefatigable activity served him admirably on this occasion, and the proclamation just alluded to, which was dated from Berlin before his departure from Charlottenburg; proves that he did not act fortuitously, as he frequently did, but that his calculations were well-made.
—[Before leaving the capital of Prussia Bonaparte stole from the monument, of Frederick the Great his sword and military orders. He also plundered the galleries of Berlin and Potsdam of their best pictures and statues, thus continuing the system he had began is Italy. All those things he sent to Paris as trophies of victory and glory.—Editor of as 1836 edition.]
A rapid and immense impulse given to great masses of men by the, will of a single individual may produce transient lustre and dazzle the eyes of the multitude; but when, at a distance from the theatre of glory, we flee only the melancholy results which have been produced. The genius of conquest can only be regarded as the genius of destruction. What a sad picture was often presented to my eyes! I was continually doomed to hear complaints of the general distress, and to execute orders which augmented the immense sacrifices already made by the city of Hamburg. Thus, for example, the Emperor desired me to furnish him with 50,000 cloaks which I immediately did. I felt the importance of such an order with the approach of winter, and in a climate—the rigour of which our troops had not yet encountered. I also received orders to seize at Lubeck (Which town, as I have already stated, had been alternately taken and retaken try Blucher and Bernadotte) 400,000 lasts of corn,—[A last weighs 2000 kilogrammes]—and to send them to Magdeburg. This corn belonged to Russia. Marshal Mortier, too, had seized some timber for building, which also belonged to Russia; and which was estimated at 1,400,000 francs.
Meanwhile our troops continued to advance with such rapidity that before the end of November Murat arrived at Warsaw, at the head of the advanced guard of the Grand Army, of which, he had the command. The Emperor's headquarters, were then at Posen, and, he received deputations from all parts soliciting the re-establishment and independence of the Kingdom of Poland.
Rapp informed me that after receiving the deputation from Warsaw the Emperor said to him, "I love the Poles; their enthusiastic character pleases me; I should like to make them independent, but that is a difficult matter. Austria, Russia, and Prussia have all had a slice of the cake; when the match is once kindled who knows where, the conflagration may stop? My first duty, is towards France, which I must not sacrifice to Poland; we must refer this matter to the sovereign of all things—Time, he will presently show us what we must do." Had Sulkowsky lived Napoleon might have recollected what he had said to him in Egypt, and, in all probability he would have raised up a power, the dismemberment of which; towards the close of the last century, began to overturn the political equilibrium which had subsisted in Europe since the peace of Westphalia in 1648.
It was at the headquarters at Posen that Duroc rejoined the Emperor after his mission to the King of Prussia. His carriage overturned on the way, and he had the misfortune to break his collar-bone. All the letters I received were nothing but a succession of complaints on the bad state of the roads. Our troops were absolutely fighting in mud, and it was with extreme difficulty that the artillery and caissons of the army could be moved along. M. de Talleyrand had been summoned to headquarters by the Emperor, in the expectation of treating for peace, and I was informed that his carriage stuck in the mud and he was detained on his journey for twelve hours. A soldier having asked one of the persons in M. de Talleyrand's suite who the traveller was, was informed that he was the Minister for Foreign Affairs. "Ah! bah!" said the soldier, "why does he come with his diplomacy to such a devil of a country as this?"
The Emperor entered Warsaw on the 1st of January 1807. Most of the reports which he had received previous to his entrance had concurred in describing the dissatisfaction of the troops, who for some time had had to contend with bad roads, bad weather, and all aorta of privations.' Bonaparte said to the generals who informed him that the enthusiasm of his troops had been succeeded by dejection and discontent, "Does their spirit fail them when they come in sight of the enemy?"—"No, Sire."— "I knew it; my troops are always the same." Then turning to Rapp he said, "I must rouse them;" and he dictated the following proclamation:
SOLDIERS—It is a year this very hour since you were on the field of Austerlitz, where the Russian battalions fled in disorder, or surrendered up their arms to their conquerors. Next day proposals, of peace were talked of; but they were deceptive. No sooner had the Russians escaped, by perhaps, blamable generosity from the disasters of the third coalition than they contrived a fourth. But the ally on whose tactics they founded their principal hope was no more. His capital, his fortresses; his magazines; his arsenals, 280 flags, and 700 field-pieces have fallen into our power. The Oder, the Wartha, the deserts of Poland, and the inclemency of the season have not for a moment retarded your progress. You have braved all; surmounted all; every obstacle has fled at your approach. The Russians have in vain endeavoured to defend the capital of ancient and illustrious Poland. The French eagle hovers over the Vistula. The brave and unfortunate Poles, on beholding you, fancied they saw the legions of Sobieski, returning from their memorable expedition.
Soldiers, we will not lay down our arms until a general peace has secured the power of our allies and restored to us our colonies and our freedom of trade. We have gained on the Elbe and the Oder, Pondicherry, our Indian establishments, the Cape of Good Hope, and the Spanish colonies. Why should the Russians have the right of opposing destiny and thwarting our just designs? They and we are still the soldiers who fought at Austerlitz.
Rapp thus describes the entrance of the French into Warsaw, and adds a few anecdotes connected with that event:
"At length we entered the Polish capital. The King of Naples had preceded us, and had driven the Russians from the city. Napoleon was received with enthusiasm. The Poles thought that the moment of their regeneration had arrived, and that their wishes were fulfilled. It would be difficult to describe the joy thus evinced, and the respect with which they treated us. The French troops, however, were not quite so well pleased; they manifested the greatest repugnance to crossing the Vistula. The idea of want and bad weather had inspired them with the greatest aversion to Poland, and they were inexhaustible, in their jokes on the country."
When Bonaparte dictated his proclamations—and how many have I not written from his dictation!—he was for the moment inspired, and he evinced all the excitement which distinguishes the Italian improvisatori. To follow him it was necessary to write with inconceivable rapidity. When I have read over to him what he has dictated I have often known him to smile triumphantly at the effect which he expected any particular phrase would produce. In general his proclamations turned on three distinct points—(1) Praising his soldiers for what they had done; (2) pointing out to them what they had yet to do; and (3) abusing his enemies. The proclamation to which I have just now alluded was circulated profusely through Germany, and it is impossible to conceive the effect it produced. on the whole army. The corps stationed in the rear burned too pass, by forced marches, the space which still separated them from headquarters; and those who were nearer the Emperor forgot their fatigues and privations and were only anxious to encounter the enemy. They frequently could not understand what Napoleon said in these proclamations; but no matter for that, they would have followed him cheerfully barefooted and without provisions. Such was the enthusiasm, or rather the fanaticism, which Napoleon could inspire among his troops when he thought proper to rouse them, as he termed it.
When, on a former occasion, I spoke of the Duke of, Mecklenburg-Schwerin and his family, I forgot a circumstance respecting my intercourse with him which now occurs to my memory. When, on his expulsion from his States, after the battle of Jena, he took refuge in Altona, he requested, through the medium of his Minister at Hamburg, Count von Plessen, that I would give him permission occasionally to visit that city. This permission I granted without hesitation; but the Duke observed no precaution in his visits, and I made some friendly observations to him on the subject. I knew the object of his visits. It was a secret connection in Hamburg; but in consequence of my observations he removed the lady to Altona, and assured me that he adopted that determination to avoid committing me. He afterwards came very seldom to Hamburg; but as we were on the best understanding with Denmark I frequently saw his daughter, and son-in-law, who used to visit me at a house I had in Holstein, near Altona.
There I likewise saw, almost every day, the Duke of Weimar, an excellent old man. I had the advantage of being on such terms of intimacy with him that my house was in some measure his. He also had lost his States. I was so happy as to contribute to their restitution, for my situation enabled me to exercise some influence on the political indulgences or severities of the Government. I entertained a sincere regard for the Duke of Weimar, and I greatly regretted his departure. No sooner had he arrived in Berlin than he wrote me a letter of, thanks, to which he added the present of a diamond, in token of his grateful remembrance of me. The Duke of Mecklenburg was not so fortunate as the Duke of Weimar, in spite of his alliance with the reigning family of Denmark. He was obliged to remain at Altona until the July following, for his States were restored only by the Treaty of Tilsit. As soon as it was known that the Emperor had returns to Paris the Duke's son, the Hereditary Prince, visited me in Hamburg, and asked me whether I thought he could present himself to the Emperor, for the purpose of expressing his own and his father's gratitude. He was a very well-educated young man. He set out, accompanied by M. Oertzen and Baron von Brandstaten. Some time afterwards I saw his name in the Moniteur, in one of the lists of presentations to Napoleon, the collection of which, during the Empire, might be regarded as a general register of the nobility of Europe.
It is commonly said that we may accustom ourselves to anything, but to me this remark is subject to an exception; for, in spite of the necessity to which I was reduced of employing spies, I never could surmount the disgust I felt at them, especially when I saw men destined to fill a respectable rank in society degrade themselves to that infamous profession. It is impossible to conceive the artifices to which these men resort to gain the confidence of those whom they wish to betray. Of this the following example just now occurs to my mind.
One of those wretches who are employed in certain circumstances, and by all parties, came to offer his services to me. His name was Butler, and he had been sent from England to the Continent as a spy upon the French Government. He immediately came to me, complaining of pretended enemies and unjust treatment. He told me he had the greatest wish to serve the Emperor, and that he would make any sacrifice to prove his fidelity. The real motive of his change of party was, as it is with all such men, merely the hope of a higher reward. Most extraordinary were the schemes he adopted to prevent his old employers from suspecting that he was serving new ones. To me he continually repeated how happy he was to be revenged on his enemies in London. He asked me to allow him to go to Paris to be examined by the Minister of Police. The better to keep up the deception he requested that on his arrival in Paris he might be confined in the Temple, and that there might be inserted in the French journals an announcement in the following terms:
"John Butler, commonly called Count Butler, has just been arrested and sent to Paris under a good escort by the French Minister at Hamburg."
At the expiration of a few weeks Butler, having received his instruction's, set out for London, but by way of precaution he said it would be well to publish in the journals another announcement; which was as follows:
"John Butler, who has been arrested in Hamburg as an English agent, and conveyed to Paris, is ordered to quit France and the territories occupied by the French armies and their allies, and not to appear there again until the general peace."
In England Butler enjoyed the honours of French prosecution. He was regarded as a victim who deserved all the confidence of the enemies of France. He furnished Fouche with a considerable amount of information, and he was fortunate enough to escape being hanged.
Notwithstanding the pretended necessity of employing secret agents, Bonaparte was unwilling that, even under that pretext, too many communications should be established between France and England: Fouche, nevertheless, actively directed the evolutions of his secret army. Ever ready to seize on anything that could give importance to the police and encourage the suspicions of the Emperor, Fouche wrote to me that the government had received certain—information that many Frenchmen traveling for commercial houses in France were at Manchester purchasing articles of English manufacture. This was true; but how was it to be prevented? These traveling clerks passed through Holland, where they easily procured a passage to England.
Louis Bonaparte, conceiving that the King of Holland ought to sacrifice the interests of his new subjects to the wishes of his brother, was at first very lenient as to the disastrous Continental system. But at this Napoleon soon manifested his displeasure, and about the end of the year 1806 Louis was reduced to the necessity of ordering the strict observance of the blockade. The facility with which the travelers of French commercial houses passed from Holland to England gave rise to other alarms on the part of the French Government. It was said that since Frenchmen could so easily pass from the Continent to Great Britain, the agents of the English Cabinet might, by the same means, find their way to the Continent. Accordingly the consuls were directed to keep a watchful eye, not only upon individuals who evidently came from England, but upon those who might by any possibility come from that country. This plan was all very well, but how was it to be put into execution ? . . . The Continent was, nevertheless, inundated with articles of English manufacture, for this simple reason, that, however powerful may be the will of a sovereign, it is still less powerful and less lasting than the wants of a people. The Continental system reminded me of the law created by an ancient legislator, who, for a crime which he conceived could not possibly be committed, condemned the person who should be guilty of it to throw a bull over Mount Taurus.
It is not my present design to trace a picture of the state of Europe at the close of 1806. I will merely throw together a few facts which came to my knowledge at the time, and which I find in my correspondence. I have already mentioned that the Emperor arrived at Warsaw on the 1st of January. During his stay at Posen he had, by virtue of a treaty concluded with the Elector of Saxony, founded a new kingdom, and consequently extended his power in Germany, by the annexation of the new Kingdom of Saxony to the Confederation of the Rhine. By the terms of this treaty Saxony, so justly famed for her cavalry, was to furnish the Emperor with a contingent of 20,000 men and horses.
It was quite a new spectacle to the Princes of Germany, all accustomed to old habits of etiquette, to see an upstart sovereign treat them as subjects, and even oblige them to consider themselves as such. Those famous Saxons, who had made Charlemagne tremble, threw themselves on the protection of the Emperor; and the alliance of the head of the House of Saxony was not a matter of indifference to Napoleon, for the new King was, on account of his age, his tastes, and his character, more revered than any other German Prince.
From the moment of Napoleon's arrival at Warsaw until the commencement of hostilities against the Russians he was continually solicited to reestablish the throne of Poland, and to restore its chivalrous independence to the ancient empire of the Jagellons. A person who was at that time in Warsaw told me that the Emperor was in the greatest uncertainty as to what he should do respecting Poland. He was entreated to reestablish that ancient and heroic kingdom; but he came to no decision, preferring, according to custom, to submit to events, that he might appear to command them. At Warsaw, indeed, the Emperor passed a great part of his time in fetes and reviews, which, however, did not prevent him from watching, with his eagle eye, every department of the public service, both interior and exterior. He himself was in the capital of Poland, but his vast influence was present everywhere. I heard Duroc say, when we were conversing together about the campaign of Tilsit, that Napoleon's activity and intelligence were never more conspicuously developed.
One very remarkable feature of the imperial wars was, that, with the exception of the interior police, of which Fouche was the soul, the whole government of France was at the headquarters of the Emperor. At Warsaw Napoleon's attention was not only occupied with the affairs of his army, but he directed the whole machinery of the French Government just the same as if he had been in Paris. Daily estafettes, and frequently the useless auditors of the Council of State, brought him reports more or less correct, and curious disclosures which were frequently the invention of the police. The portfolios of the Ministers arrived every week, with the exception of those of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of the War Department; the former had first stopped at Mayence with the Empress, but had been called on to Warsaw; and the latter, Clarke, was, for the misfortune of Berlin, governor of that city. This state of things lasted during the ten months of the Emperor's absence from Paris. Louis XIV. said, "I am myself the State." Napoleon did not say this; but, in fact, under his reign the Government of France was always at his headquarters. This circumstance had well-nigh proved fatal to him, on the occasion of the extraordinary conspiracy of Malet, with some points of which I alone, perhaps, am thoroughly acquainted. The Emperor employed the month of January in military preparations for the approaching attack of the Russians, but at the same time he did not neglect the business of the cabinet: with him nothing was suffered to linger in arrear.
While Napoleon was at Warsaw a battle was not the only thing to be thought about; affairs were much more complicated than during the campaign of Vienna. It was necessary, on the one hand, to observe Prussia, which was occupied; and on the other to anticipate the Russians, whose movements indicated that they were inclined to strike the first blow. In the preceding campaign Austria, before the taking of Vienna, was engaged alone. The case was different now: Austria had had only soldiers; and Prussia, as Blucher declared to me, was beginning to have citizens. There was no difficulty in returning from Vienna, but a great deal in returning from Warsaw, in case of failure, notwithstanding the creation of the Kingdom of Saxony, and the provisional government given to Prussia, and to the other States of Germany which we had conquered. None of these considerations escaped the penetration of Napoleon: nothing was omitted in the notes, letters, and official correspondence which came to me from all quarters. Receiving, as I did, accurate information from my own correspondents of all that was passing in Germany, it often happened that I transmitted to the Government the same news which it transmitted to me, not supposing that I previously knew it. Thus, for example, I thought I was apprising the Government of the arming of Austria, of which I received information from headquarters a few days after.
During the Prussian campaign Austria played precisely the same waiting game which Prussia had played clueing the campaign of Austria. As Prussia had, before the battle of Austerlitz, awaited the success or defeat of the French to decide whether she should remain neutral or declare herself against France, so Austria, doubtless supposing that Russia would be more fortunate as the ally of Prussia than she had been as her ally, assembled a corps of 40,000 men in Bohemia. That corps was called an army of observation; but the nature of these armies of observation is well known; they belong to the class of armed neutralities, like the ingenious invention of sanitary cordons. The fact is, that the 40,000 men assembled in Bohemia were destined to aid and assist the Russians in case they should be successful (and who can blame the Austrian Government for wishing to wash away the shame of the Treaty of Presburg?). Napoleon had not a moment to lose, but this activity required no spur; he had hastened the battle of Austerlitz to anticipate Prussia, and he now found it necessary to anticipate Russia in order to keep Austria in a state of indecision.
The Emperor, therefore, left Warsaw about the end of January, and immediately gave orders for engaging the Russian army in the beginning of February; but, in spite of his desire of commencing the attack, he was anticipated. On the 8th of February, at seven in the morning, he was attacked by the Russians, who advanced during a terrible storm of snow, which fell in large flakes. They approached Preussich-Eylau, where the Emperor was, and the Imperial Guard stopped the Russian column. Nearly the whole French army was engaged in that battle-one of the most sanguinary ever fought in Europe. The corps commanded by Bernadotte was not engaged, in the contest; it had been stationed on the left at Mohrungen, whence it menaced Dantzic. The issue of the battle would have been very different had the four, divisions of infantry and the two of cavalry composing Bernadotte's corps arrived in time; but unfortunately the officer instructed to convey orders to Bernadotte to march without delay on Preussich-Eylau was taken by a body of Cossacks; Bernadotte, therefore, did not arrive. Bonaparte, who always liked to throw blame on some one if things did not turn out exactly as he wished, attributed the doubtful success of the day to the absence of Bernadotte; in this he was right; but to make his absence a reproach to that Marshal was a gross injustice. Bernadotte was accused of not having been willing to march on Preussich-Eylau, though, as it was alleged, General d'Hautpoult had informed him of the necessity of his presence. But how can that fact be ascertained, since General d'Hautpoult was killed on that same day? Who can assure us that that General had been able to communicate with the Marshal?
Those who knew Bonaparte, his cunning, and the artful advantage he would sometimes take of words which he attributed to the dead, will easily solve the enigma. The battle of Eylau was terrible. Night came on- Bernadotte's corps was instantly, but in vain, expected; and after a great loss the French army had the melancholy honour of passing the night on the field of battle. Bernadotte at length arrived, but too late. He met the enemy, who were retreating without the fear of being molested towards Konigsberg, the only capital remaining to Prussia. The King of Prussia was then at Memel, a small port on the Baltic, thirty leagues from Konigsberg.
After the battle of Eylau both sides remained stationary, and several days elapsed without anything remarkable taking place. The offers of peace made by the Emperor, with very little earnestness it is true, were disdainfully rejected, as if a victory disputed with Napoleon was to be regarded as a triumph. The battle of Eylau seemed to turn the heads of the Russians, who chanted Te Deum on the occasion. But while the Emperor was making preparations to advance, his diplomacy was taking effect in a distant quarter, and raising up against Russia an old and formidable enemy. Turkey declared war against her. This was a powerful diversion, and obliged Russia to strip her western frontiers to secure a line of defence on the south.
Some time after General Gardanne set out on the famous embassy to Persia; for which the way had been paved by the success of the mission of my friend, Amedee Jaubert. This embassy was not merely one of those pompous legations such as Charlemagne, Louis XIV., and Louis XVI. received from the Empress Irene, the King of Siam, and Tippoo Saib. It was connected with ideas which Bonaparte had conceived at the very dawn of his power. It was, indeed, the light from the East which fast enabled him to see his greatness in perspective; and that light never ceased to fix his attention and dazzle his imagination. I know well that Gardanne's embassy was at first conceived on a much grander scale than that on which it was executed. Napoleon had resolved to send to the Shah of Persia 4000 infantry, commanded by chosen and experienced officers, 10,000 muskets, and 50 pieces, of cannon; and I also know that orders were given for the execution of this design. The avowed object of the Emperor was to enable the Shah of Persia to make an important diversion, with 80,000 men, in, the eastern provinces of Russia. But there was likewise another, an old and constant object, which was always, uppermost in Napoleon's mind, namely the wish to strike at England in the very heart of her Asiatic possessions. Such vas the principal motive of Gardanne's mission, but circumstances did not permit the Emperor, to, give, it, all the importance he desired. He contented himself with sending a few officers of engineers and artillery, to Persia, who, on their arrival, were astonished at the number of English they found there.
Always proposing what he knew could not be honourably acceded to
Cause of war between the United States and England
Conquest can only be regarded as the genius of destruction
Demand everything, that you may obtain nothing
Submit to events, that he might appear to command them
Tendency to sell the skin of the bear before killing him
When a man has so much money he cannot have got it honestly