—[Joseph Bonaparte lays great stress on the fact that Napoleon world not have passed this house, which was far from the theatre (Erreurs, tome i, p. 251).]—
"I told him, without any ceremony, that I should be happy to come and take a cup of coffee with him in the morning. He seemed pleased. What do you think of that, Bourrienne?"—"Why, General, I hope you may have reason on your part to be pleased with him."—" Never fear, never fear. I know what I am about. This will compromise him with Gohier. Remember, you must always meet your enemies with a bold face, otherwise they think they are feared, and that gives them confidence."
Bonaparte stepped into the carriage with Josephine, who was always ready when she had to go out with him, for he did not like to wait. They proceeded first to Bernadotte's to breakfast, and from thence to Mortfontaine. On his return Bonaparte told me very little about what had passed during the day, and I could see that he was not in the best of humours. I afterwards learned that Bonaparte had conversed a good deal with Bernadotte, and that he had made every effort to render himself agreeable, which he very well knew how to do when he chose! but that, in spite of all his conversational talent; and supported as he was by the presence of his three brothers, and Regnault de St. Jean d'Angely, he could not withstand the republican firmness of Bernadotte. However, the number of his partisans daily augmented; for all had not the uncompromising spirit of Bernadotte; and it will soon be seen that Moreau himself undertook charge of the Directors who were made prisoners on the 18th Brumaire.
Bernadotte's shrewd penetration made him one of the first to see clearly into Bonaparte's designs. He was well convinced of his determination to overthrow the constitution and possess himself of power. He saw the Directory divided into two parties; the one duped by the promises and assurances of Bonaparte, and the other conniving with him for the accomplishment of his plans. In these circumstances Bernadotte offered his services to all persons connected with the Government who, like himself, were averse to the change which he saw good reason to apprehend. But Bonaparte was not the man to be outdone in cunning or activity; and every moment swelled the ranks of his adherents.
On the 16th Brumaire I dined in the Rue de la Victoire. Bernadotte was present, and I believe General Jourdan also. While the grand conspiracy was hastening to its accomplishment Madame Bonaparte and I had contrived a little plot of a more innocent kind. We let no one into our secret, and our 16th Brumaire was crowned with complete success. We had agreed to be on the alert to prevent any fresh exchange of angry words. All succeeded to the utmost of our wishes. The conversation languished during dinner; but it was not dulness that we were afraid of. It turned on the subject of war, and in that vast field Bonaparte's superiority over his interlocutors was undeniable.
When we retired to the drawing-rooms a great number of evening visitors poured in, and the conversation then became animated, and even gay. Bonaparte was in high spirits. He said to some one, smiling, and pointing to Bernadotte, "You are not aware that the General yonder is a Chouan."—"A Chouan?" repeated Bernadotte, also in a tone of pleasantry. "Ah! General you contradict yourself. Only the other day you taxed me with favouring the violence of the friends of the Republic, and now you accuse me of protecting the Chouans.
—[The "Chouans," so called from their use of the cry of the screech-owl (chathouan) as a signal, were the revolted peasants of Brittany and of Maine.]—
"You should at least be consistent." A few moments after, availing himself of the confusion occasioned by the throng of visitors, Bernadotte slipped off.
As a mark of respect to Bonaparte the Council of the Five Hundred appointed Lucien its president. The event proved how important this nomination was to Napoleon. Up to the 19th Brumaire, and especially on that day, Lucien evinced a degree of activity, intelligence, courage, and presence of mind which are rarely found united in one individual I have no hesitation in stating that to Lucien's nomination and exertions must be attributed the success of the 19th Brumaire.
The General had laid down a plan of conduct from which he never deviated during the twenty-three days which intervened between his arrival in Paris and the 18th Brumaire. He refused almost all private invitations, in order to avoid indiscreet questions, unacceptable offers, and answers which might compromise him.
It was not without some degree of hesitation that he yielded to a project started by Lucien, who, by all sorts of manoeuvring, had succeeded in prevailing on a great number of his colleagues to be present at a grand subscription dinner to be given to Bonaparte by the Council of the Ancients.
The disorder which unavoidably prevailed in a party amounting to upwards of 250 persons, animated by a diversity of opinions and sentiments; the anxiety and distrust arising in the minds of those who were not in the grand plot, rendered this meeting one of the most disagreeable I ever witnessed. It was all restraint and dulness. Bonaparte's countenance sufficiently betrayed his dissatisfaction; besides, the success of his schemes demanded his presence elsewhere. Almost as soon as he had finished his dinner he rose, saying to Berthier and me, "I am tired: let us be, gone." He went round to the different tables, addressing to the company compliments and trifling remarks, and departed, leaving at table the persons by whom he had been invited.
This short political crisis was marked by nothing more grand, dignified, or noble than the previous revolutionary commotions. All these plots were so contemptible, and were accompanied by so much trickery, falsehood, and treachery, that, for the honour of human nature, it is desirable to cover them with a veil.
General Bonaparte's thoughts were first occupied with the idea he had conceived even when in Italy, namely, to be chosen a Director. Nobody dared yet to accuse him of being a deserter from the army of the East. The only difficulty was to obtain a dispensation on the score of age. And was this not to be obtained? No sooner was he installed in his humble abode in the Rue de la Victoire than he was assured that, on the retirement of Rewbell, the majority of suffrages would have devolved on him had he been in France, and had not the fundamental law required the age of forty; but that not even his warmest partisans were disposed to violate the yet infant Constitution of the year III.
Bonaparte soon perceived that no efforts would succeed in overcoming this difficulty, and he easily resolved to possess himself wholly of an office of which he would nominally have had only a fifth part had he been a member of the Directory.
As soon as his intentions became manifest he found himself surrounded by all those who recognised in him the man they had long looked for. These persons, who were able and influential in their own circles, endeavoured to convert into friendship the animosity which existed between Sieyes and Bonaparte. This angry feeling had been increased by a remark made by Sieyes, and reported to Bonaparte. He had said, after the dinner at which Bonaparte treated him so disrespectfully, "Do you see how that little insolent fellow behaves to a member of a Government which would do well to order him to be SHOT?"
But all was changed when able mediators pointed out to Bonaparte the advantage of uniting with Sieye's for the purpose of overthrowing a Constitution which he did not like. He was assured how vain it would be to think of superseding him, and that it would be better to flatter him with the hope of helping to subvert the constitution and raising up a new one. One day some one said to Bonaparte in my hearing, "Seek for support among the party who call the friends of the Republic Jacobins, and be assured that Sieyes is at the head of that party."
On the 25th Vendemiaire (17th of October) the Directory summoned General Bonaparte to a private sitting. "They offered me the choice of any army I would command," said he to me the next morning. "I would not refuse, but I asked to be allowed a little time for the recovery of my health; and, to avoid any other embarrassing offers, I withdrew. I shall go to no more of their sittings." (He attended only one after this.) "I am determined to join Sieyes' party. It includes a greater diversity of opinions than that of the profligate Barras. He proclaims everywhere that he is the author of my fortune. He will never be content to play an inferior part, and I will never bend to such a man. He cherishes the mad ambition of being the support of the Republic. What would he. do with me? Sieyes, on the contrary, has no political ambition."
No sooner did Sieyes begin to grow friendly with Bonaparte than the latter learned from him that Barras had said, "The 'little corporal' has made his fortune in Italy and does not want to go back again." Bonaparte repaired to the Directory for the sole purpose of contradicting this allegation. He complained to the Directors of its falsehood, boldly affirmed that the fortune he was supposed to possess had no existence, and that even if he had made his fortune it was not, at all events, at the expense of the Republic "You know," said he to me, "that the mines of Hydria have furnished the greater part of what I possess."—"Is it possible," said I, "that Barras could have said so, when you know so well of all the peculations of which he has been guilty since your return?"
Bonaparte had confided the secret of his plans to very few persons—to those only whose assistance he wanted. The rest mechanically followed their leaders and the impulse which was given to them; they passively awaited the realisation of the promises they had received, and on the faith of which they had pledged themselves.
Cambaceres and Lebrun—Gohier deceived—My nocturnal visit to Barras —The command of the army given to Bonaparte—The morning of the 18th Brumaire—Meeting of the generals at Bonaparte's house— Bernadotte's firmness—Josephine's interest, for Madame Gohier— Disappointment of the Directors—Review in the gardens of the Tuileries—Bonaparte's harangue—Proclamation of the Ancients— Moreau, jailer of the Luxembourg—My conversation with La Pallette— Bonaparte at St. Cloud.
The parts of the great drama which was shortly to be enacted were well distributed. During the three days preceding the 18th Brumaire every one was at his post. Lucien, with equal activity and intelligence, forwarded the conspiracy in the two Councils; Sieyes had the management of the Directory; Real,
—[Pierre Francois Real (1757-1834); public accuser before the revolutionary criminal tribunal; became, under Napoleon, Conseiller d'Etat and Comte, and was charged with the affairs of the "haute police."]—
under the instructions of Fouche,
—[Joseph Fouche (1754-1820); Conventionalist; member of extreme Jacobin party; Minister of Police under the Directory, August 1799; retained by Napoleon in that Ministry till 1802, and again from 1801 to 1810; became Duc d'Otrante in 1809; disgraced m 1810, and sent in 1813 as governor of the Illyrian Provinces; Minister of Police during the 'Cent Jours'; President of the Provisional Government, 1815; and for a short time Minister of Police under second restoration.]—
negotiated with the departments, and dexterously managed, without compromising Fouche, to ruin those from whom that Minister had received his power. There was no time to lose; and Fouche said to me on the 14th Brumaire, "Tell your General to be speedy; if he delays, he is lost."
On the 17th, Regnault de St. Jean d'Angely told Bonaparte that the overtures made to Cambaceres and Lebrun had not been received in a very decided way. "I will have no tergiversation," replied Bonaparte with warmth. "Let them not flatter themselves that I stand in need of them. They must decide to-day; to-morrow will be too late. I feel myself strong enough now to stand alone."
—[Cambaceres (J. J. Regis de) (1763-1824) Conventionalist; Minister of Justice under Directory, 1799; second Consul, 25th December 1799; Arch-Chancellor of the Empire, 1804; Duc de Parma, 1806; Minister of Justice during the 'Cent Jours': took great part in all the legal and administrative projects of the Consulate and Empire.]—
—[Charles Francois Lebrun (1757-1824). Deputy to the National Assembly, and member of the Council of the Five Hundred; Third Consul, 25th December 1799; Arch-Treasurer of the Empire, 1804; Duc de Plaisance, 1806; Governor-General of Holland, 1806; Lieutenant- Governor of Holland, 1810 to 1813; chiefly engaged in financial measures]—
were, almost utter strangers to the intrigues which preceded the 18th Brumaire. Bonaparte had cast his eyes on the Minister of Justice to be one of his colleagues when he should be at liberty to name them, because his previous conduct had pledged him as a partisan of the Revolution. To him Bonaparte added Lebrun, to counterbalance the first choice. Lebrun was distinguished for honourable conduct and moderate principles. By selecting these two men Bonaparte hoped to please every one; besides, neither of them were able to contend against his fixed determination and ambitious views.
What petty intrigues marked the 17th Brumaire! On that day I dined with Bonaparte; and after dinner he said, "I have promised to dine to-morrow with Gohier; but, as you may readily suppose, I do not intend going. However, I am very sorry for his obstinacy. By way of restoring his confidence Josephine is going to invite him to breakfast with us to- morrow. It will be impossible for him to suspect anything. I saw Barras this morning, and left him much disturbed. He asked me to return and visit him to-night. I promised to do so, but I shall not go. To-morrow all will be over. There is but little time; he expects me at eleven o'clock to-night. You shall therefore take my carriage, go there, send in my name, and then enter yourself. Tell him that a severe headache confines me to my bed, but that I will be with him without fail tomorrow. Bid him not be alarmed, for all will soon be right again. Elude his questions as much as possible; do not stay long, and come to me on your return."
At precisely eleven o'clock I reached the residence of Barras, in General Bonaparte's carriage. Solitude and silence prevailed in all the apartments through which I passed to Barras' cabinet. Bonaparte was announced, and when Barras saw me enter instead of him, he manifested the greatest astonishment and appeared much cast down. It was easy to perceive that he looked on himself as a lost man. I executed my commission, and stayed only a short time. I rose to take my leave, and he said, while showing me out, "I see that Bonaparte is deceiving me: he will not come again. He has settled everything; yet to me he owes all." I repeated that he would certainly come tomorrow, but he shook his head in a way which plainly denoted that he did not believe me. When I gave Bonaparte an account of my visit he appeared much pleased. He told me that Joseph was going to call that evening on Bernadotte, and to ask him to come tomorrow. I replied that, from all I knew, he would be of no use to him. "I believe so too," said he; "but he can no longer injure me, and that is enough. Well, good-night; be here at seven in the morning." It was then one o'clock.
I was with him a little before seven o'clock on the morning of the 18th Brumaire, and on my arrival I found a great number of generals and officers assembled. I entered Bonaparte's chamber, and found him already up—a thing rather unusual with him. At this moment he was as calm as on the approach of a battle. In a few moments Joseph and Bernadotte arrived. Joseph had not found him at home on the preceding evening, and had called for him that morning. I was surprised to see Bernadotte in plain clothes, and I stepped up to him and said in a low voice, "General, every one here, except you and I, is in uniform."—" Why should I be in uniform?" said he. As he uttered these words Bonaparte, struck with the same surprise as myself, stopped short while speaking to several persons around him, and turning quickly towards Bernadotte said, "How is this? you are not in uniform!"—"I never am on a morning when I am not on duty," replied Bernadotte.—"You will be on duty presently."—" I have not heard a word of it: I should have received my orders sooner."
Bonaparte then led Bernadotte into an adjoining room. Their conversation was not long, for there was no time to spare.
On the other hand, by the influence of the principal conspirators the removal of the legislative body to St. Cloud was determined on the morning of the 18th Brumaire, and the command of the army was given to Bonaparte.
All this time Barras was no doubt waiting for Bonaparte, and Madame Bonaparte was expecting Gohier to breakfast. At Bonaparte's were assembled all the general's who were devoted to him. I never saw so great a number before in the Rue de la Victoire. They were all, except Bernadotte, in full uniform; and there were, besides, half a dozen persons there initiated in the secrets of the day. The little hotel of the conqueror of Italy was much too small for such an assemblage, and several persons were standing in the court-yard. Bonaparte was acquainted with the decree of the Council of the Ancients, and only waited for its being brought to him before he should mount his horse. That decree was adopted in the Council of the Ancients by what may be called a false majority, for the members of the Council were summoned at different hours, and it was so contrived that sixty or eighty of them, whom Lucien and his friends had not been able to gain over, should not receive their notices in time.
As soon as the message from the Council of the Ancients arrived Bonaparte requested all the officers at his house to follow him. At that announcement a few who were in ignorance of what was going on did not follow—at least I saw two groups separately leave the hotel. Bernadotte said to me, "I shall stay with you." I perceived there was a good deal of suspicion in his manner. Bonaparte, before going down the stairs which led from the small round dining-room into the courtyard, returned quickly to bid Bernadotte follow him. He would not, and Bonaparte then said to me, while hurrying off, "Gohier is not come—so much the worse for. him," and leaped on his horse. Scarcely was he off when Bernadotte left me. Josephine and I being now left alone; she acquainted me with her anxiety. I assured her that everything bad been so well prepared that success was certain. She felt much interest about Gohier on account of her friendship for his wife. She asked me whether I was well acquainted with Gohier. "You know, Madame," replied I, "that we have been only twenty days in Paris, and that during that time I have only gone out to sleep in the Rue Martel. I have seen M. Gohier several times, when he came to visit the General, and have talked to him about the situation of our affairs in Switzerland, Holland, France, and other political matters, but I never exchanged a word with him as to what is now going on. This is the whole extent of my acquaintance with him."
"I am sorry for it," resumed Josephine, "because I should have asked you to write to him, and beg him to make no stir, but imitate Sieyes and Roger, who will voluntarily retire, and not to join Barras, who is probably at this very moment forced to do so. Bonaparte has told me that if Gohier voluntarily resigns, he will do everything for him." I believe Josephine communicated directly with the President of the Directory through a friend of Madame Gohier's.
Gohier and Moulins, no longer depending on Sieyes and Roger Ducos, waited for their colleague, Barras, in the hall of the Directory, to adopt some measure on the decree for removing the Councils to St. Cloud. But they were disappointed; for Barras, whose eyes had been opened by my visit on the preceding night, did not join them. He had been invisible to his colleagues from the moment that Bruix and M. de Talleyrand had informed him of the reality of what he already suspected; and insisted on his retirement.
On the 18th Brumaire a great number of military, amounting to about 10,000 men, were assembled in the gardens of the Tuileries, and were reviewed by Bonaparte, accompanied by Generals Beurnonville, Moreau, and Macdonald. Bonaparte read to them the decree just issued by the commission of inspectors of the Council of the Ancients, by which the legislative body was removed to St. Cloud; and by which he himself was entrusted with the execution of that decree, and appointed to the command of all the military force in Paris, and afterwards delivered an address to the troops.
Whilst Bonaparte was haranguing the soldiers, the Council of the Ancients published an address to the French people, in which it was declared that the seat of the legislative body was changed, in order to put down the factions, whose object was to control the national representation.
While all this was passing abroad I was at the General's house in the Rue de la Victoire; which I never left during the whole day. Madame Bonaparte and I were not without anxiety in Bonaparte's absence. I learned from Josephine that Joseph's wife had received a visit from Adjutant-General Rapatel, who had been sent by Bonaparte and Moreau to bring her husband to the Tuileries. Joseph was from home at the time, and so the message was useless. This circumstance, however, awakened hopes which we had scarcely dared to entertain. Moreau was then in accordance with Bonaparte, for Rapatel was sent in the name of both Generals. This alliance, so long despaired of, appeared to augur favourably. It was one of Bonaparte's happy strokes. Moreau, who was a slave to military discipline, regarded his successful rival only as a chief nominated by the Council of the Ancients. He received his orders and obeyed them. Bonaparte appointed him commander of the guard of the Luxembourg, where the Directors were under confinement. He accepted the command, and no circumstance could have contributed more effectually to the accomplishment of Bonaparte's views and to the triumph of his ambition.
At length Bonaparte, whom we had impatiently expected, returned. Almost everything had gone well with him, for he had had only to do with soldiers. In the evening he said to me, "I am sure that the committee of inspectors of the hall are at this very moment engaged in settling what is to be done at St. Cloud to-morrow. It is better to let them decide the matter, for by that means their vanity is flattered. I will obey orders which I have myself concerted." What Bonaparte was speaking of had been arranged nearly two or three days previously. The committee of inspectors was under the influence of the principal conspirators.
In the evening of this anxious day, which was destined to be succeeded by a stormy morrow, Bonaparte, pleased with having gained over Moreau, spoke to me of Bernadotte's visit in the morning.—"I saw," said he, "that you were as much astonished as I at Bernadotte's behaviour. A general out of uniform! He might as well have come in slippers. Do you know what passed when I took him aside? I told him all; I thought that the best way. I assured him that his Directory was hated, and his Constitution worn out; that it was necessary to turn them all off, and give another impulse to the government. 'Go and put on your uniform said I: I cannot wait for you long. You will find me at the Tuileries, with the rest of our comrades. Do not depend on Moreau, Beurnonville, or the generals of your party. When you know them better you will find that they promise much but perform little. Do not trust them.' Bernadotte then said that he would not take part in what he called a rebellion. A rebellion! Bourrienne, only think of that! A set of imbeciles, who from morning to night do nothing but debate in their kennels! But all was in vain. I could not move Bernadotte. He is a bar of iron. I asked him to give me his word that he would do nothing against me; what do you think was his answer?"—"Something unpleasant, no doubt."—" Unpleasant! that is too mild a word. He said, 'I will remain quiet as a citizen; but if the Directory order me to act, I will march against all disturbers.' But I can laugh at all that now. My measures are taken, and he will have no command. However, I set him at ease as to what would take place. I flattered him with a picture of private life, the pleasures of the country, and the charms of Malmaison; and I left him with his head full of pastoral dreams. In a word, I am very well satisfied with my day's work. Good-night, Bourrienne; we shall see what will turn up to-morrow."
On the 19th I went to St. Cloud with my friend La Vallette. As we passed the Place Louis XV., now Louis XVI., he asked me what was doing, and what my opinion was as to the coming events? Without entering into any detail I replied, "My friend, either we shall sleep tomorrow at the Luxembourg, or there will be an end of us." Who could tell which of the two things would happen! Success legalised a bold enterprise, which the slightest accident might have changed into a crime.
The sitting of the Ancients, under the presidency of Lemercier, commenced at one o'clock. A warm discussion took place upon the situation of affairs, the resignation of the members of the Directory, and the immediate election of others. Great heat and agitation prevailed during the debate. Intelligence was every minute carried to Bonaparte of what was going forward, and he determined to enter the hall and take part in the discussion. He entered in a hasty and angry way, which did not give me a favourable foreboding of what he was about to say. We passed through a narrow passage to the centre of the hall; our backs were turned to the door. Bonaparte had the President to his right. He could not see him full in the face. I was close to the General on his right. Berthier was at his left.
All the speeches which have been subsequently passed off as having been delivered by Bonaparte on this occasion differ from each other; as well they may, for he delivered none to the Ancients, unless his confused conversation with the President, which was alike devoid of dignity and sense, is to be called a speech. He talked of his "brothers in arms" and the "frankness of a soldier." The questions of the President followed each other rapidly: they were clear; but it is impossible to conceive anything more confused or worse delivered than the ambiguous and perplexed replies of Bonaparte. He talked without end of "volcanoes; secret agitations, victories, a violated constitution! "He blamed the proceedings of the 18th Fructidor, of which he was the first promoter and the most powerful supporter. He pretended to be ignorant of everything until the Council of Ancients had called him to the aid of his country. Then came "Caesar—Cromwell—tyrant!" and he several times repeated, "I have nothing more to say to you!" though, in fact, he had said nothing. He alleged that he had been called to assume the supreme authority, on his return from Italy, by the desire of the nation, and afterwards by his comrades in arms. Next followed the words "liberty- equality!" though it was evident he had not come to St. Cloud for the sake of either. No sooner did he utter these words, than a member of the Ancients, named, I think, Linglet, interrupting him, exclaimed, "You forget the Constitution!" His countenance immediately lighted up; yet nothing could be distinguished but, "The 18th Fructidor—the 30th Prairial—hypocrites—intriguers—I will disclose all!—I will resign my power, when the danger which threatens the Republic shall have passed away!"
Bonaparte, believing all his assertions to be admitted as proved, assumed a little confidence, and accused the two directors Barras and Moulins of having proposed to put him at the head of a party whose object was to oppose all men professing liberal ideas.
At these words, the falsehood of which was odious, a great tumult arose in the hall. A general committee was loudly called for to hear the disclosures. "No, no!" exclaimed others, "no general committee! conspirators have been denounced: it is right that France should know all!"
Bonaparte was then required to enter into the particulars of his accusation against Barras and Moulins, and of the proposals which had been made to him: "You must no longer conceal anything."
Embarrassed by these interruptions and interrogatories Bonaparte believed that he was completely lost. Instead of giving an explanation of what he had said, he began to make fresh accusations; and against whom? The Council of the Five Hundred, who, he said, wished for "scaffolds, revolutionary committees, and a complete overthrow of everything."
Violent murmurs arose, and his language became more and more incoherent and inconsequent. He addressed himself at one moment to the representatives of the people, who were quite overcome by astonishment; at another to the military in the courtyard, who could not hear him. Then, by an unaccountable transition, he spoke of "the thunderbolts of war!" and added, that he was "attended by the God of war and the God of fortune."
The President, with great calmness, told him that he saw nothing, absolutely nothing, upon which the Council could deliberate; that there was vagueness in all he had said. "Explain yourself; reveal the plot which you say you were urged to join."
Bonaparte repeated again the same things. But only those who were present can form any idea of his manner. There was not the slightest connection in what he stammered out. Bonaparte was then no orator. It may well be supposed that he was more accustomed to the din of war than to the discussions of the tribunes. He was more at home before a battery than before a President's chair.
Perceiving the bad effect which this unconnected babbling produced on the assembly, as well as the embarrassment of Bonaparte, I said, in a low voice, pulling him gently by the skirt of his coat, "withdraw, General; you know not what you are saying." I made signs to Berthier, who was on his left, to second me in persuading him to leave the hall; and all at once, after having stammered out a few more, words, he turned round exclaiming, "Let those who love me follow me!" The sentinels at the door offered no opposition to his passing. The person who went before him quietly drew aside the tapestry which concealed the door, and General Bonaparte leaped upon his horse, which stood in the court-yard. It is hard to say what would have happened if, on seeing the General retire, the President had said, "Grenadiers, let no one pass!" Instead of sleeping next day at the Luxembourg he would, I am convinced, have ended his career on the Place de la Revolution.
The two Councils—Barras' letter—Bonaparte at the Council of the Five Hundred—False reports—Tumultuous sitting—Lucien's speech— He resigns the Presidency of the Council of the Five Hundred—He is carried out by grenadiers—He harangues the troops—A dramatic scene —Murat and his soldiers drive out the Five Hundred—Council of Thirty—Consular commission—Decree—Return to Paris—Conversation with Bonaparte and Josephine respecting Gohier and Bernadotte—The directors Gohier and Moulins imprisoned.
The scene which occurred at the sitting of the Council of the Ancients was very different from that which passed outside. Bonaparte had scarcely reached the courtyard and mounted his horse when cries of "Vive Bonaparte!" resounded on all sides. But this was only a sunbeam between two storms. He had yet to brave the Council of the Five Hundred, which was far more excited than the Council of the Ancients. Everything tended to create a dreadful uncertainty; but it was too late to draw back. We had already staked too heavily. The game was desperate, and everything was to be ventured. In a few hours all would be determined.
Our apprehensions were not without foundation. In the Council of the Five Hundred agitation was at its height. The most serious alarm marked its deliberations. It had been determined to announce to the Directory the installation of the Councils, and to inquire of the Council of the Ancients their reasons for resolving upon an extraordinary convocation. But the Directory no longer existed. Sieyes and Roger Ducos had joined Bonaparte's party. Gohier and Moulins were prisoners in the Luxembourg, and in the custody of General Moreau; and at the very moment when the Council of the Five Hundred had drawn up a message to the Directory, the Council of the Ancients transmitted to them the following letter, received from Barras. This letter; which was addressed to the Council of the Ancients, was immediately read by Lucien Bonaparte, who was President of the Council of the Five Hundred.
CITIZEN PRESIDENT—Having entered into public affairs solely from my love of liberty, I consented to share the first magistracy of the State only that I might be able to defend it in danger; to protect against their enemies the patriots compromised in its cause; and to ensure to the defenders of, their country that attention to their interests which no one was more calculated to feel than a citizen, long the witness of their heroic virtues, and always sensible to their wants.
The glory which accompanies the return of the illustrious warrior to whom I had the honour of opening the path of glory, the striking marks of confidence given him by the legislative body, and the decree of the National Convention, convince me that, to whatever post he may henceforth be called, the dangers to liberty will be averted, and the interests of the army ensured.
I cheerfully return to the rank of a private citizen: happy, after so many storms, to resign, unimpaired, and even more glorious than ever, the destiny of the Republic, which has been, in part, committed to my care. (Signed) BARRAS.
This letter occasioned a great sensation in the Council of the Five Hundred. A second reading was called far, and a question was started, whether the retirement was legal, or was the result of collusion, and of the influence of Bonaparte's agents; whether to believe Barras, who declared the dangers of liberty averted, or the decree for the removal of the legislative corps, which was passed and executed under the pretext of the existence of imminent peril? At that moment Bonaparte appeared, followed by a party of grenadiers, who remained at the entrance of the hall.
I did not accompany him to the Council of the Five Hundred. He had directed me to send off an express to ease the apprehensions of Josephine, and to assure her that everything would go well. It was some time before I joined him again.
However, without speaking as positively as if I had myself been an eye- witness of the scene, I do not hesitate to declare that all that has been said about assaults and poniards is pure invention. I rely on what was told me, on the very night, by persons well worthy of credit, and who were witnessess of all that passed.
As to what passed at the sitting, the accounts, given both at the time and since, have varied according to opinions. Some have alleged that unanimous cries of indignation were excited by the appearance of the military. From all parts of the hall resounded, "The sanctuary of the laws is violated. Down with the tyrant!—down with Cromwell!—down with the Dictator! "Bonaparte stammered out a few words, as he had done before the Council of the Ancients, but his voice was immediately drowned by cries of "Vive la Republique!" "Vive la Constitution!" "Outlaw the Dictator!" The grenadiers are then said to have rushed forward, exclaiming, "Let us save our General!" at which indignation reached its height, and cries, even more violent than ever, were raised; that Bonaparte, falling insensible into the arms of the grenadiers, said, "They mean to assassinate me!" All that regards the exclamations and threats I believe to be correct; but I rank with the story of the poniards the assertion of the members of the Five Hundred being provided with firearms, and the grenadiers rushing into the hall; because Bonaparte never mentioned a word of anything of the sort to me, either on the way home, or when I was with him in his chamber. Neither did he say anything on the subject to his wife, who had been extremely agitated by the different reports which reached her.
After Bonaparte left the Council of the Five Hundred the deliberations were continued with great violence. The excitement caused by the appearance of Bonaparte was nothing like subsided when propositions of the most furious nature were made. The President, Lucien, did all in his power to restore tranquillity. As soon as he could make himself heard he said, "The scene which has just taken place in the Council proves what are the sentiments of all; sentiments which I declare are also mine. It was, however, natural to believe that the General had no other object than to render an account of the situation of affairs, and of something interesting to the public. But I think none of you can suppose him capable of projects hostile to liberty."
Each sentence of Lucien's address was interrupted by cries of "Bonaparte has tarnished his glory! He is a disgrace to the Republic!"
Lucien —[The next younger brother of Napoleon, President of the Council of the Five Hundred in 1799; Minister of the Interior, 1st December 1799 to 1841; Ambassador in Spain, 1801 to December 1801; left France in disgrace in 1804; retired to Papal States; Prisoner in Malta and England, 1810 to 1814; created by Pope in 1814 Prince de Canino and Duc de Musignano; married firstly, 1794, Christine Boyer, who died 1800; married secondly, 1802 or 118, a Madame Jonberthon. Of his part in the 18th Brumaire Napoleon said to him in 1807, "I well know that you were useful to me en the 18th Brumaire, but it is not so cleat to me that you saved me then" (Iung's Lucien, tome iii. p.89).]—
made fresh efforts to be heard, and wished to be allowed to address the assembly as a member of the Council, and for that purpose resigned the Presidentship to Chasal. He begged that the General might be introduced again and heard with calmness. But this preposition was furiously opposed. Exclamations of "Outlaw Bonaparte! outlaw him!" rang through the assembly, and were the only reply given to the President. Lucien, who had reassumed the President's chair, left it a second time, that he might not be constrained to put the question of outlawry demanded against his brother. Braving the displeasure of the assembly, he mounted the tribune, resigned the Presidentship, renounced his seat as a deputy, and threw aside his robes.
Just as Lucien left the Council I entered. Bonaparte, who was well informed of all that was passing,
—[Lucien distinctly states that he himself, acting within his right as President, had demanded an escort of the grenadiers of the Councils as soon as he saw his withdrawal might be opposed. Then the first entry of the soldiers with Napoleon would be illegal. The second, to withdraw Lucien, was nominally legal (see Iung's Lucien, tome i, pp, 318-322)]—
had sent in soldiers to the assistance of his brother; they carried him off from the midst of the Council, and Bonaparte thought it a matter of no little importance to have with him the President of an assembly which he treated as rebellious. Lucien was reinstalled in office; but he was now to discharge his duties, not in the President's chair, but on horseback, and at the head of a party of troops ready to undertake anything. Roused by the danger to which both his brother and himself were exposed he delivered on horseback the following words, which can never be too often remembered, as showing what a man then dared to say, who never was anything except from the reflection of his brother's glory:—
CITIZENS! SOLDIERS!—The President of the Council of the Five Hundred declares to you that the majority of that Council is at this moment held in terror by a few representatives of the people, who are armed with stilettoes, and who surround the tribune, threatening their colleagues with death, and maintaining most atrocious discussions.
I declare to you that these brigands, who are doubtless in the pay of England, have risen in rebellion against the Council of the Ancients, and have dared to talk of outlawing the General, who is charged with the execution of its decree, as if the word "outlaw" was still to be regarded as the death-warrant of persons most beloved by their country.
I declare to you that these madmen have outlawed themselves by their attempts upon the liberty of the Council. In the name of that people, which for so many years have been the sport of terrorism, I consign to you the charge of rescuing the majority of their representatives; so that, delivered from stilettoes by bayonets, they may deliberate on the fate of the Republic.
General, and you, soldiers, and you, citizens, you will not acknowledge, as legislators of France, any but those who rally round me. As for those who remain in the orangery, let force expel them. They are not the representatives of the people, but the representatives of the poniard. Let that be their title, and let it follow them everywhere; and whenever they dare show themselves to the people, let every finger point at them, and every tongue designate them by the well-merited title of representatives of the poniard!
Vive la Republique!
Notwithstanding the cries of "Vive Bonaparte!" which followed this harangue, the troops still hesitated. It was evident that they were not fully prepared to turn their swords against the national representatives. Lucien then drew his sword, exclaiming, "I swear that I will stab my own brother to the heart if he ever attempt anything against the liberty of Frenchmen." This dramatic action was perfectly successful; hesitation vanished; and at a signal given by Bonaparte, Murat, at the head of his grenadiers, rushed into the hall, and drove out the representatives. Everyone yielded to the reasoning of bayonets, and thus terminated the employment of the armed force on that memorable day.
At ten o'clock at night the palace of St. Cloud, where so many tumultuous scenes had occurred, was perfectly tranquil. All the deputies were still there, pacing the hall, the corridors, and the courts. Most of them had an air of consternation; others affected to have foreseen the event, and to appear satisfied with it; but all wished to return to Paris, which they could not do until a new order revoked the order for the removal of the Councils to St. Cloud.
At eleven o'clock Bonaparte, who had eaten nothing all day, but who was almost insensible to physical wants in moments of great agitation, said to me, "We must go and write, Bourrienne; I intend this very night to address a proclamation to the inhabitants of Paris. To-morrow morning I shall be all the conversation of the capital." He then dictated to me the following proclamation, which proves, no less than some of his reports from Egypt, how much Bonaparte excelled in the art of twisting the truth to own advantage:
TO THE PEOPLE.
19th Brumaire, 11 o'clock, p.m.
Frenchmen!—On my return to France I found division reigning amongst all the authorities. They agreed only on this single point, that the Constitution was half destroyed, and was unable to protect liberty!
Each party in turn came to me, confided to me their designs, imparted their secrets, and requested my support. I refused to be the man of a party.
The Council of the Ancients appealed to me. I answered their appeal. A plan of general restoration had been concerted by men whom the nation has been accustomed to regard as the defenders of, liberty, equality, and property. This plan required calm and free deliberation, exempt from all influence and all fear. The Ancients, therefore, resolved upon the removal of the legislative bodies to St. Cloud. They placed at my disposal the force necessary to secure their independence. I was bound, in duty to my fellow-citizens, to the soldiers perishing in our armies, and to the national glory, acquired at the cost of so much blood, to accept the command.
The Councils assembled at St. Cloud. Republican troops guaranteed their safety from without, but assassins created terror within. Many members of the Council of the Five Hundred, armed with stilettoes and pistols, spread menaces of death around them.
The plans which ought to have been developed were withheld. The majority of the Council was rendered inefficient; the boldest orators were disconcerted, and the inutility of submitting any salutary proposition was quite evident.
I proceeded, filled with indignation and grief, to the Council of the Ancients. I besought them to carry their noble designs into execution. I directed their attention to the evils of the nation, which were their motives for conceiving those designs. They concurred in giving me new proofs of their uniform goodwill, I presented myself before the Council of the Five Hundred, alone, unarmed, my head uncovered, just as the Ancients had received and applauded me. My object was to restore to the majority the expression of its will, and to secure to it its power.
The stilettoes which had menaced the deputies were instantly raised against their deliverer. Twenty assassins rushed upon me and aimed at my breast. The grenadiers of the legislative body, whom I had left at the door of the hall, ran forward, and placed themselves between me and the assassins. One of these brave grenadiers (Thome) had his clothes pierced by a stiletto. They bore me off.
—[Thome merely had a small part of his coat torn by a deputy, who took him by the collar. This constituted the whole of the attempted assassinations of the 19th Brumaire.—Bourrienne]—
At the same moment cries of "Outlaw him!" were raised against the defender of the law. It was the horrid cry of assassins against the power destined to repress them.
They crowded round the President, uttering threats. With arms in their hands they commanded him to declare "the outlawry." I was informed of this. I ordered him to be rescued from their fury, and six grenadiers of the legislative body brought him out. Immediately afterwards some grenadiers of the legislative body charged into the hall and cleared it.
The factions, intimidated, dispersed and fled. The majority, freed from their assaults, returned freely and peaceably into the hall; listened to the propositions made for the public safety, deliberated, and drew up the salutary resolution which will become the new and provisional law of the Republic.
Frenchmen, you doubtless recognise in this conduct the zeal of a soldier of liberty, of a citizen devoted to the Republic. Conservative, tutelary, and liberal ideas resumed their authority upon the dispersion of the factions, who domineered in the Councils, and who, in rendering themselves the most odious of men, did not cease to be the most contemptible. (Signed) BONAPARTE, General, etc.
The day had been passed in destroying a Government; it was necessary to devote the night to framing a new one. Talleyrand, Raederer, and Sieyes were at St. Cloud. The Council of the Ancients assembled, and Lucien set himself about finding some members of the Five Hundred on whom he could reckon. He succeeded in getting together only thirty; who, with their President, represented the numerous assembly of which they formed part. This ghost of representation was essential, for Bonaparte, notwithstanding his violation of all law on the preceding day, wished to make it appear that he was acting legally. The Council of the Ancients had, however, already decided that a provisional executive commission should be appointed, composed of three members, and was about to name the members of the commission—a measure which should have originated with the Five Hundred—when Lucien came to acquaint Bonaparte that his chamber 'introuvable' was assembled.
This chamber, which called itself the Council of the Five Hundred, though that Council was now nothing but a Council of Thirty, hastily passed a decree, the first article of which was as follows:
The Directory exists no longer; and the individuals hereafter named are no longer members of the national representation, on account of the excesses and illegal acts which they have constantly committed, and more particularly the greatest part of them, in the sitting of this morning.
Then follow the names of sixty-one members expelled.
By other articles of the same decree the Council instituted a provisional commission, similar to that which the Ancients had proposed to appoint, resolved that the said commission should consist of three members, who should assume the title of Consuls; and nominated as Consuls Sieyes, Roger Ducos, and Bonaparte. The other provisions of the nocturnal decree of St. Cloud had for their object merely the carrying into effect those already described. This nocturnal sitting was very calm, and indeed it would have been strange had it been otherwise, for no opposition could be feared from the members of the Five Hundred, who were prepared to concur with Lucien. All knew beforehand what they would have to do. Everything was concluded by three o'clock in the morning; and the palace of St. Cloud, which had been so agitated since the previous evening, resumed in the morning its wonted stillness, and presented the appearance of a vast solitude.
All the hurrying about, the brief notes which I had to write to many friends, and the conversations in which I was compelled to take part, prevented me from dining before one o'clock in the morning. It was not till then that Bonaparte, having gone to take the oath as Consul before the Five Hundred, afforded me an opportunity of taking some refreshment with Admires Bruix and some other officers.
At three o'clock in the morning I accompanied Bonaparte, in his carriage to Paris. He was extremely fatigued after so many trials and fatigues. A new future was opened before him. He was completely absorbed in thought, and did not utter a single word during the journey. But when he arrived at his house in the Rue de la Victoire, he had no sooner entered his chamber and wished good morning to Josephine, who was in bed, and in a state of the greatest anxiety on account of his absence, than he said before her, "Bourrienne, I said many ridiculous things?"—"Not so very bad, General"—"I like better to speak to soldiers than to lawyers. Those fellows disconcerted me. I have not been used to public assemblies; but that will come in time."
We then began, all three, to converse. Madame Bonaparte became calm, and Bonaparte resumed his wonted confidence. The events of the day naturally formed the subject of our conversation. Josephine, who was much attached to the Gohier family, mentioned the name of that Director in a tone of kindness. "What would you have, my dear?" said Bonaparte to her. "It is not my fault. He is a respectable man, but a simpleton. He does not understand me!—I ought, perhaps, to have him transported. He wrote against me to the Council of the Ancients; but I have his letter, and they know nothing about it. Poor man! he expected me to dinner yesterday. And this man thinks himself a statesman!—Speak no more of him."
During our discourse the name of Bernadotte was also mentioned. "Have you seen him, Bourrienne?" said Bonaparte to me.—"No, General"— "Neither have I. I have not heard him spoken of. Would you imagine it? I had intelligence to-day of many intrigues in which he is concerned. Would you believe it? he wished nothing less than to be appointed my colleague in authority. He talked of mounting his horse and marching with the troops that might be placed under his command. He wished, he said, to maintain the Constitution: nay, more; I am assured that he had the audacity to add that, if it were necessary to outlaw me, the Government might come to him and he would find soldiers capable of carrying the decree into execution."—"All this, General, should give you an idea how inflexible his principles are."—"Yes, I am well aware of it; there is something in that: he is honest. But for his obstinacy, my brothers would have brought him over. They are related to him. His wife, who is Joseph's sister-in-law, has ascendency over him. As for me, have I not, I ask you, made sufficient advances to him? You have witnessed them. Moreau, who has a higher military reputation than he, came over to me at once. However, I repent of having cajoled Bernadotte. I am thinking of separating him from all his coteries without any one being able to find fault with the proceeding. I cannot revenge myself in any other manner. Joseph likes him. I should have everybody against me. These family considerations are follies! Goodnight, Bourrienne.—By the way, we will sleep in the Luxembourg to-morrow."
I then left the General, whom, henceforth, I will call the First Consul, after having remained with him constantly during nearly twenty-four hours, with the exception of the time when he was at the Council of the Five Hundred. I retired to my lodging, in the Rue Martel, at five o'clock in the morning.
It is certain that if Gohier had come to breakfast on the morning of the 18th Brumaire, according to Madame Bonaparte's invitation, he would have been one of the members of the Government. But Gohier acted the part of the stern republican. He placed himself, according to the common phrase of the time, astride of the Constitution of the year III.; and as his steed made a sad stumble, he fell with it.
It was a singular circumstance which prevented the two Directors Gohier and Moulins from defending their beloved Constitution. It was from their respect for the Constitution that they allowed it to perish, because they would have been obliged to violate the article which did not allow less than three Directors to deliberate together. Thus a king of Castile was burned to death, because there did not happen to be in his apartment men of such rank as etiquette would permit to touch the person of the monarch.
General approbation of the 18th Brumaire—Distress of the treasury— M. Collot's generosity—Bonaparte's ingratitude—Gohier set at Liberty—Constitution of the year VIII.—The Senate, Tribunate, and Council of State—Notes required on the character of candidates— Bonaparte's love of integrity and talent—Influence of habit over him—His hatred of the Tribunate—Provisional concessions—The first Consular Ministry—Mediocrity of La Place—Proscription lists— Cambaceres report—M. Moreau de Worms—Character of Sieyes— Bonaparte at the Luxembourg—Distribution of the day and visits— Lebrun's opposition—Bonaparte's singing—His boyish tricks— Assumption of the titles "Madame" and "Monseigneur"—The men of the Revolution and the partisans of the Bourbons—Bonaparte's fears— Confidential notes on candidates for office and the assemblies.
It cannot be denied that France hailed, almost with unanimous voice, Bonaparte's accession to the Consulship as a blessing of Providence. I do not speak now of the ulterior consequences of that event; I speak only of the fact itself, and its first results, such as the repeal of the law of hostages, and the compulsory loan of a hundred millions. Doubtless the legality of the acts of the 18th Brumaire may be disputed; but who will venture to say that the immediate result of that day ought not to be regarded as a great blessing to France? Whoever denies this can have no idea of the wretched state of every branch of the administration at that deplorable epoch. A few persons blamed the 18th Brumaire; but no one regretted the Directory, with the exception, perhaps, of the five Directors themselves. But we will say no more of the Directorial Government. What an administration! In what a state were the finances of France! Would it be believed? on the second day of the Consulate, when Bonaparte wished to send a courier to General Championet, commander-in-chief of the army of Italy, the treasury had not 1200 francs disposable to give to the courier!
It may be supposed that in the first moments of a new Government money would be wanted. M. Collot, who had served under Bonaparte in Italy, and whose conduct and administration deserved nothing but praise, was one of the first who came to the Consul's assistance. In this instance M. Collot was as zealous as disinterested. He gave the Consul 500,000 francs in gold, for which service he was badly rewarded. Bonaparte afterwards behaved to M. Collot as though he was anxious to punish him for being rich. This sum, which at the time made so fine an appearance in the Consular treasury, was not repaid for a long time after, and then without interest. This was not, indeed, the only instance in which M. Collot had cause to complain of Bonaparte, who was never inclined to acknowledge his important services, nor even to render justice to his conduct.
On the morning of the 20th Brumaire Bonaparte sent his brother Louis to inform the Director Gohier that he was free. This haste in relieving Gohier was not without a reason, for Bonaparte was anxious to install himself in the Luxembourg, and we went there that same evening.
Everything was to be created. Bonaparte had with him almost the whole of the army, and on the soldiers he could rely. But the military force was no longer sufficient for him. Wishing to possess a great civil power established by legal forms, he immediately set about the composition of a Senate and Tribunate; a Council of State and a new legislative body, and, finally, a new Constitution.
—[The Constitution of the year VIII. was presented an the 18th of December 1799 (22d Frimaire, year VIII.), and accepted by the people on the 7th of February 1800 (18th Pluviose, year VIII.). It established a Consular Government, composed of Bonaparte, First Consul, appointed for ten years; Cambaceres, Second Consol, also for ten Years; and Lebrun, Third Consul appointed for five years. It established a conservative Senate, a legislative body of 800 members, and a Tribunate composed of 100 members. The establishment of the Council of State took place on the 29th of December 1799. The installation of the new legislative body and the Tribunate was fixed for the 1st of January 1800.—Bourrienne. Lanfrey (tome i. p. 329) sees this Constitution foreshadowed in that proposed by Napoleon in 1797 for the Cisalpine Republic.]—
As Bonaparte had not time to make himself acquainted with the persons by whom he was about to be surrounded; he requested from the most distinguished men of the period, well acquainted with France and the Revolution, notes respecting the individuals worthy and capable of entering the Senate, the Tribunate, and the Council of State. From the manner in which all these notes were drawn up it was evident that the writers of them studied to make their recommendation correspond with what they conceived to be Bonaparte's views, and that they imagined he participated in the opinions which were at that time popular. Accordingly they stated, as grounds for preferring particular candidates, their patriotism, their republicanism, and their having had seats in preceding assemblies.
Of all qualities, that which most influenced the choice of the First Consul was inflexible integrity; and it is but just to say that in this particular he was rarely deceived. He sought earnestly for talent; and although he did not like the men of the Revolution, he was convinced that he could not do without them. He had conceived an extreme aversion for mediocrity, and generally rejected a man of that character when recommended to him; but if he had known such a man long, he yielded to the influence of habit, dreading nothing so much as change, or, as he was accustomed to say himself, new faces.'
—[Napoleon loved only men with strong passions and great weakness; he judged the most opposite qualities in men by these defects (Metternich, tome iii. p.589)]—
Bonaparte then proceeded to organise a complaisant Senate, a mute legislative body, and a Tribunals which was to have the semblance of being independent, by the aid of some fine speeches and high-sounding phrases. He easily appointed the Senators, but it was different with the Tribunats. He hesitated long before he fixed upon the candidates for that body, which inspired him with an anticipatory fear. However, on arriving at power he dared not oppose himself to the exigencies of the moment, and he consented for a time to delude the ambitious dupes who kept up a buzz of fine sentiments of liberty around him. He saw that circumstances were not yet favourable for refusing a share in the Constitution to this third portion of power, destined apparently to advocate the interests of the people before the legislative body. But in yielding to necessity, the mere idea of the Tribunate filled him with the utmost uneasiness; and, in a word, Bonaparte could not endure the public discussions on his projects.'
—[The Tribunate under this Constitution of the year VIII. was the only body allowed to debate in public on proposed laws, the legislative body simply hearing in silence the orators sent by the Council of State and by the Tribunals to state reasons for or against propositions, and then voting in silence. Its orators were constantly giving umbrage to Napoleon. It was at first Purified, early in 1802, by the Senate naming the members to go out in rotation then reduced to from 100 to 50 members later in 1802, and suppressed in 1807; its disappearance being regarded by Napoleon as his last break with the Revolution.]—
Bonaparte composed the first Consular Ministry as follows: Berthier was Minister of War; Gaudin, formerly employed in the administration of the Post Office, was appointed Minister of Finance; Cambaceres remained Minister of Justice; Forfait was Minister of Marine; La Place of the Interior; Fouche of Police; and Reinhard of Foreign Affairs.
Reinhard and La Place were soon replaced, the former by the able M. Talleyrand, the latter by Lucien Bonaparte.
—[When I quitted the service of the First Consul Talleyrand was still at the head of the Foreign Department. I have frequently been present at this great statesman's conferences with Napoleon, and I can declare that I never saw him flatter his dreams of ambition; but, on the contrary, he always endeavoured to make him sensible of his true interests.—Bourrienne.]—
It maybe said that Lucien merely passed through the Ministry on his way to a lucrative embassy in Spain. As to La Place, Bonaparte always entertained a high opinion of his talents. His appointment to the Ministry of the Interior was a compliment paid to science; but it was not long before the First Consul repented of his choice. La Place, so happily calculated for science, displayed the most inconceivable mediocrity in administration. He was incompetent to the most trifling matters; as if his mind, formed to embrace the system of the world, and to interpret the laws of Newton and Kepler, could not descend to the level of subjects of detail, or apply itself to the duties of the department with which he was entrusted for a short, but yet, with regard to him, too long a time.
On the 26th Brumaire (17th November 1799) the Consuls issued a decree, in which they stated that, conformably with Article III. of the law of the 19th of the same month, which especially charged them with the reestablishment of public tranquillity, they decreed that thirty-eight individuals, who were named, should quit the continental territory of the Republic, and for that purpose should proceed to Rochefort, to be afterwards conducted to, and detained in, the department of French Guiana. They likewise decreed that twenty-three other individuals, who were named, should proceed to the commune of Rochelle, in the department of the lower Charente, in order to be afterwards filed and detained in such part of that department as should be pointed out by the Minister of General Police. I was fortunate enough to keep my friend M. Moreau de Worms, deputy from the Youne, out of the fiat of exiles. This produced a mischievous effect. It bore a character of wanton severity quite inconsistent with the assurances of mildness and moderation given at St. Cloud on the 19th Brumaire. Cambaceres afterwards made a report, in which he represented that it was unnecessary for the maintenance of tranquillity to subject the proscribed to banishment, considering it sufficient to place them under the supervision of the superior police. Upon receiving the report the Consuls issued a decree, in which they directed all the individuals included in the proscription to retire respectively into the different communes which should be fixed upon by the Minister of Justice, and to remain there until further orders.
At the period of the issuing of these decrees Sieyes was still one of the Consuls; conjointly with Bonaparte and Roger Ducos; and although Bonaparte had, from the first moment, possessed the whole power of the government, a sort of apparent equality was, nevertheless, observed amongst them. It was not until the 25th of December that Bonaparte assumed the title of First Consul, Cambaceres and Lebrun being then joined in the office with him. He had fixed his eyes on them previously to the 18th Brumaire, and he had no cause to reproach them with giving him much embarrassment in his rapid progress towards the imperial throne.
I have stated that I was so fortunate as to rescue M. Moreau de Worms from the list of proscription. Some days after Sieyes entered Bonaparte's cabinet and said to him, "Well, this M. Moreau de Worms, whom M. Bourrienne induced you to save from banishment, is acting very finely! I told you how it would be! I have received from Sens, his native place, a letter which informs me that Moreau is in that town, where he has assembled the people in the market-place, and indulged in the most violent declamations against the 18th Brumaire,"—"Can you, rely upon your agent" asked Bonaparte.—"Perfectly. I can answer for the truth of his communication." Bonaparte showed me the bulletin of Sieyes' agent, and reproached me bitterly. "What would you say, General," I observed, "if I should present this same M. Moreau de Worms, who is declaiming at Sens against the 18th Brumaire, to you within an hour?"—"I defy you to do it."—"I have made myself responsible for him, and I know what I am about. He is violent in his politics; but he is a man of honour, incapable of failing in his word."—" Well, we shall see. Go and find him." I was very sure of doing what I had promised, for within an hour before I had seen M. Moreau de Worms. He had been concealed since the 13th Brumaire, and had not quitted Paris. Nothing was easier than to find him, and in three-quarters of an hour he was at the Luxembourg. I presented him to Bonaparte, who conversed with him a long time concerning the 18th Brumaire. When M. Moreau departed Bonaparte said to me, "You are right. That fool Sieyes is as inventive as a Cassandra. This proves that one should not be too ready to believe the reports of the wretches whom we are obliged to employ in the police." Afterwards he added, "Bourrienne, Moreau is a nice fellow: I am satisfied with him; I will do something for him." It was not long before M. Moreau experienced the effect of the Consul's good opinion. Some days after, whilst framing the council of prizes, he, at my mere suggestion, appointed M. Moreau one of the members, with a salary of 10,000 francs. On what extraordinary circumstances the fortunes of men frequently depend! As to Sieyes, in the intercourse, not very frequent certainly, which I had with him, he appeared to be far beneath the reputation which he then—enjoyed.'
—[M. de Talleyrand, who is so capable of estimating men, and whose admirable sayings well deserve to occupy a place in history, had long entertained a similar opinion of Sieyes. One day, when he was conversing with the Second Consul concerning Sieyes, Cambaceres said to him. "Sieyes, however, is a very profound man."—"Profound?" said Talleyrand. "Yes, he is, a cavity, a perfect cavity, as you would say."—Bourrienne.]—
He reposed a blind confidence in a multitude of agents, whom he sent into all parts of France. When it happened, on other occasions, that I proved to him, by evidence as sufficient as that in the case of M. Moreau, the falseness of the reports he had received, he replied, with a confidence truly ridiculous, "I can rely on my men." Sieyes had written in his countenance, "Give me money!" I recollect that I one day alluded to this expression in the anxious face of Sieyes to the First Consul. "You are right," observed he to me, smiling; "when money is in question, Sieyes is quite a matter-of-fact man. He sends his ideology to the right about and thus becomes easily manageable. He readily abandons his constitutional dreams for a good round sum, and that is very convenient."
—[Everybody knows, in fact, that Sieyes refused to resign his consular dignities unless he received in exchange a beautiful farm situated in the park of Versailles, and worth about 15,000 livres a year. The good abbe consoled himself for no longer forming a third of the republican sovereignty by making himself at home in the ancient domain of the kings of France.—Bourrienne.]—
Bonaparte occupied, at the Little Luxembourg, the apartments on the ground floor which lie to the right on entering from the Rue de Vaugirard. His cabinet was close to a private staircase, which conducted me to the first floor, where Josephine dwelt. My apartment was above.
After breakfast, which was served at ten o'clock, Bonaparte would converse for a few moments with his usual guests, that is to say, his 'aides de camp', the persons he invited, and myself, who never left him. He was also visited very often by Deferment, Regnault (of the town of St. Jean d'Angely), Boulay (de la Meurthe), Monge, and Berber, who were, with his brothers, Joseph and Lucien, those whom he most delighted to see; he conversed familiarly with them. Cambaceres generally came at mid-day, and stayed some time with him, often a whole hour. Lebrun visited but seldom. Notwithstanding his elevation, his character remained unaltered; and Bonaparte considered him too moderate, because he always opposed his ambitious views and his plans to usurp power. When Bonaparte left the breakfast-table it was seldom that he did not add, after bidding Josephine and her daughter Hortense good-day, "Come, Bourrienne, come, let us to work."
After the morning audiences I stayed with Bonaparte all the day, either reading to him, or writing to his dictation. Three or four times in the week he would go to the Council. On his way to the hall of deliberation he was obliged to cross the courtyard of the Little Luxembourg and ascend the grand staircase. This always vexed him, and the more so as the weather was very bad at the time. This annoyance continued until the 25th of December, and it was with much satisfaction that he saw himself quit of it. After leaving the Council he used to enter his cabinet singing, and God knows how wretchedly he sung! He examined whatever work he had ordered to be done, signed documents, stretched himself in his arm-chair, and read the letters of the preceding day and the publications of the morning. When there was no Council he remained in his cabinet, conversed with me, always sang, and cut, according to custom, the arm of his chair, giving himself sometimes quite the air of a great boy. Then, all at once starting up, he would describe a plan for the erection of a monument, or dictate some of those extraordinary productions which astonished and dismayed the world. He often became again the same man, who, under the walls of St. Jean d'Acre, had dreamed of an empire worthy his ambition.
At five o'clock dinner was served up. When that was over the First Consul went upstairs to Josephine's apartments, where he commonly received the visits of the Ministers. He was always pleased to see among the number the Minister of Foreign Affairs, especially since the portfolio of that department had been entrusted to the hands of M. de Talleyrand. At midnight, and often sooner, he gave the signal for retiring by saying in a hasty manner, "Allons nous coucher."
It was at the Luxembourg, in the salons of which the adorable Josephine so well performed the honours, that the word 'Madame' came again into use. This first return towards the old French politeness was startling to some susceptible Republicans; but things were soon carried farther at the Tuileries by the introduction of 'Votre Altesse' on occasions of state ceremony, and Monseigneur in the family circle.
If, on the one hand, Bonaparte did not like the men of the Revolution, on the other he dreaded still more the partisans of the Bourbons. On the mere mention of the name of those princes he experienced a kind of inward alarm; and he often spoke of the necessity of raising a wall of brass between France and them. To this feeling, no doubt, must be attributed certain nominations, and the spirit of some recommendations contained in the notes with which he was supplied on the characters of candidates, and which for ready reference were arranged alphabetically. Some of the notes just mentioned were in the handwriting of Regnault de St. Jean d'Angely, and some in Lucien Bonaparte's.
—[Among them was the following, under the title of "General Observations": "In choosing among the men who were members of the Constituent Assembly it is necessary to be on guard against the Orleans' party, which is not altogether a chimera, and may one day or other prove dangerous.
"There is no doubt that the partisans of that family are intriguing secretly; and among many other proofs of this fact the following is a striking one: the journal called the 'Aristargue', which undisguisedly supports royalism, is conducted by a man of the name of Voidel, one of the hottest patriots of the Revolution. He was for several months president of the committee of inquiry which caused the Marquis de Favras to be arrested and hanged, and gave so much uneasiness to the Court. There was no one in the Constituent Assembly more hateful to the Court than Voidel, so much on account of his violence as for his connection with the Duke of Orleans, whose advocate and counsel he was. When the Duke of Orleans was arrested, Voidel, braving the fury of the revolutionary tribunals, had the courage to defend him, and placarded all the walls of Paris with an apology for the Duke and his two sons. This man, writing now in favour of royalism, can have no other object than to advance a member of the Orleans family to the throne."—Bourrienne.]—
At the commencement of the First Consul's administration, though he always consulted the notes he had collected, he yet received with attention the recommendations of persons with whom he was well acquainted; but it was not safe for them to recommend a rogue or a fool. The men whom he most disliked were those whom he called babblers, who are continually prating of everything and on everything. He often said,— "I want more head and less tongue." What he thought of the regicides will be seen farther on, but at first the more a man had given a gage to the Revolution, the more he considered him as offering a guarantee against the return of the former order of things. Besides, Bonaparte was not the man to attend to any consideration when once his policy was concerned.
As I have said a few pages back, on taking the government into his own hands Bonaparte knew so little of the Revolution and of the men engaged in civil employments that it was indispensably necessary for him to collect information from every quarter respecting men and things. But when the conflicting passions of the moment became more calm and the spirit of party more prudent, and when order had been, by his severe investigations, introduced where hitherto unbridled confusion had reigned, he became gradually more scrupulous in granting places, whether arising from newly-created offices, or from those changes which the different departments often experienced. He then said to me, "Bourrienne, I give up your department to you. Name whom you please for the appointments; but remember you must be responsible to me."
What a list would have been which should contain the names of all the prefects, sub-prefects, receivers-general, and other civil officers to whom I gave places! I have kept no memoranda of their names; and indeed, what advantage would there have been in doing so? It was impossible for me to have a personal knowledge of all the fortunate candidates; but I relied on recommendations in which I had confidence.
I have little to complain of in those I obliged; though it is true that, since my separation from Bonaparte, I have seen many of them take the opposite side of the street in which I was walking, and by that delicate attention save me the trouble of raising my hat.