The Emperor pettishly replied: "I shall see: it has never been my intention, to refuse to abdicate. I was a soldier; I will become one again: but I want to be allowed, to think of it calmly, with a view to the interests of France and of my son: tell them to wait."
During this conversation, the chamber was extremely agitated. The president, informed by M. Regnier of the disposition of the Emperor, announced, that a message would presently satisfy the wishes of all. But, impatient to enjoy its work, it was unwilling, even to leave Napoleon the merit of sacrificing himself freely for the safety of his country.
M. Duchene, who was the first to interrupt General Grenier's report by his murmurs, moved, that the Emperor should be desired, in the name of the safety of the state, to declare his abdication.
General Solignac proposed, to send a deputation to him, to express the urgency of his decision.
M. de la Fayette, who seems called by fate to be the scourge of kings, exclaimed, that, if Napoleon did not decide, he would move for his deposition.
A number of members, among whom General Sebastiani rendered himself conspicuous by his violence, insisted, that Napoleon should be compelled, to abdicate immediately.
At length it was agreed, "in order to save the honour of the head of the state," to grant him an hour's grace; and the sitting was suspended.
Fresh importunities immediately assailed the Emperor. General Solignac, I believe, and other deputies, came to summon him to abdicate. Prince Lucien, who had never ceased to conjure the Emperor, to make head against the storm, now thought the time was passed, and that it was necessary to submit. Prince Joseph united with him, and their joint advice at length overcame the resistance of the Emperor. This determination he announced to the ministers, and said to the Duke of Otranto with an ironical smile, "Write to those gentlemen, to make themselves easy: they shall soon be satisfied."
[Footnote 63: In fact, the Duke of Otranto did write to M. Manuel.]
Prince Lucien then took up the pen, and wrote, from the dictation of his august brother, the following declaration.
"Declaration to the French People.
"In commencing a war, to maintain the independence of the nation, I reckoned on the joint efforts of all, the unanimity of all, and the concurrence of all the national authorities. From these I had reason, to hope for success; and I set at defiance all the declarations of foreign powers against me.
"Circumstances appear to me to be changed: I offer up myself as a sacrifice to the animosity of the enemies of France: may they prove themselves sincere in their declarations, and that they really aimed at me personally alone! My political life is at an end: and I proclaim my son, under the title of Napoleon II., Emperor of the French.
"The present ministers will form provisionally the council of government. The interest I feel in what concerns my son induces me, to desire the chambers, to form a regency without delay by a law.
"Unite, all of you, for the public safety, and to remain an independent nation.
"Palace of the Elyseum, June the 22d, 1815."
The minute of Prince Lucien was put into my hands by the Duke of Bassano, to make two copies of it. When they were presented to the Emperor, they still exhibited traces of my sorrow. He perceived them, and said to me, with a very expressive look, "They would have it so."
The Duke of Bassano observed to him, that he made a great sacrifice to peace; but that perhaps the allies would not deem it sufficiently complete.—"What do you mean?" asked the Emperor.—"It is possible, they may require the renunciation of the crown by your Majesty's brothers."—"What! by my brothers Ah, Maret, then you would dishonour us all!"
The Duke of Otranto, the Duke of Vicenza, the Duke Decres, were immediately employed, to carry the Emperor's declaration to the chamber of deputies; and the Duke of Gaeta, Count Mollien, and M. Carnot, to carry it to that of the peers.
The Prince of Eckmuhl had been sent previously to the former by the Emperor, to give it information respecting the army, and amuse it till the abdication should arrive.
Scarcely was the abdication sent off, when the Count de la Borde, adjutant-general of the national guard, ran to inform the Emperor, that there was not a moment to be lost, as they were going to put the deposition to the vote. The Emperor, tapping him on the shoulder, said: "These good people are in great haste, then: tell them to be easy; I sent them my abdication a quarter of an hour ago." The ministers and M. de la Borde had passed each other on the way.
When they appeared before the chamber, the president, apprehensive that the enemies of Napoleon would insult his misfortunes by cowardly applauses, reminded it, that its regulations prohibited every sign of approbation or disapprobation: he then read the declaration.
The Duke of Otranto, who had been in secret one of the instigators of the rage of certain deputies, pretended to be affected at the fate of Napoleon, and recommended him to the attention and protection of the chambers. This simulation of generosity disgusted every pure heart in the assembly; it was reserved for the unfortunate Regnault, to rouse their feelings. He reminded them of the benefits and victories of Napoleon with so much eloquence and sensibility; he drew them a picture so true, so affecting, so pathetic, of the misfortunes, to which this great man, the hero of the nation, was about to devote himself without reserve, and without conditions, to ransom his country; that the eyes of his most obdurate enemies were moistened with tears, and the whole assembly remained for some moments plunged in a sad and painful silence. This silence, perhaps the noblest homage, that Napoleon ever obtained, was at length interrupted; and the chamber unanimously decreed, that a solemn deputation should wait on Napoleon, to express to him, in the name of the nation, "the respect and gratitude, with which they accepted the noble sacrifice he had made to the independence and happiness of the French people."
Napoleon received coldly the congratulations of the deputies of the chamber. What value could empty words have in his eyes? He answered them:
[Footnote 64: This answer was cut short by the president: I give it here entire.]
"I thank you for the sentiments you express towards me: I wish, that my abdication may procure the happiness of France; but I have no expectation of it; it leaves the state without a head, without political existence. The time wasted in overturning the monarchy might have been employed in putting France into a condition to crush the enemy. I recommend to the chamber, speedily to reinforce the armies: whoever is desirous of peace ought to prepare for war. Do not leave this great nation at the mercy of foreigners: be on your guard against being deceived by your hopes. There lies the danger. In whatever situation I may find myself, I shall always be at ease, if France be happy. I recommend my son to France. I hope it will not forget, that I abdicated only for him. I have made this great sacrifice also for the good of the nation; it is only with my dynasty, that it can expect to be free, happy, and independent."
The Emperor delivered this answer in such a noble and affecting tone, that all present were deeply moved, and M. Lanjuinais himself could not refrain from tears.
Count Regnault was congratulating himself on being the first interpreter of the sentiments and gratitude of the nation; when the Emperor interrupted him: "Since this deliberation is your work," said he to him, "you ought to have remembered, that the title of Emperor is never lost:" and he turned his back upon him.
[Footnote 65: The title of Emperor had not been given him in this deliberation. He had been called merely Napoleon Bonaparte.]
The chamber of peers hastened, to follow the example of the deputies. The Emperor received it with kindness, and recommended to it, not to forget that he had abdicated only in favour of his son.
The abdication of Napoleon gave free scope to the political speculations of the representatives every one of them thought himself called upon, to give the state a government and a head.
The republicans, still the dupes of their own illusions, flattered themselves with the hope of introducing a federal government into France.
The Bonapartists, confident in the wishes of the nation, and the promises of foreign powers, reckoned on decreeing the crown to Napoleon II., and the regency to Maria Louisa.
The partisans of the Duke of Orleans, in whose ranks were found the most distinguished personages and the ablest orators of the assembly, secretly flattered themselves with seating on the throne the son of kings and of the republic.
Some of the deputies, seduced by the brilliant reputation of the one, or by the valour and family connexions of the other, inclined for the Prince of Sweden, or the Prince of Orange.... In a word, they would have any body, except the legitimate sovereign.
A small number of the deputies only remained neutral. Free from ambition and personal interest, attentive to their country alone, they thought of availing themselves of the passing events, only to turn them to the advantage of liberty and the nation.
The parties, that thus divided the chamber, were not slow in entering on their career.
M. Dupin, too skilful to manifest directly the intention of not acknowledging Napoleon II., and declaring the throne vacant, took a circuitous course. He proposed to the chamber, to form itself into a national assembly to send ambassadors to negotiate for peace; to form an executive committee, selected from the members of the two chambers; and to give it in charge to another committee, to prepare the plan of the new constitution, and to settle the conditions, on which the throne might be filled by the prince, whom the people should choose.
M. Scipio Morgues, though not sitting under the same banners with M. Dupin, took up the proposition; and, carrying it still farther, moved, that the chamber should form itself into a constituent assembly: that the government of the state should be entrusted provisionally to the ministers, who should act in conjunction with a committee of five members belonging to the chamber, with the president at their head; and that the throne should be declared vacant, till the will of the people was known: so that the sovereign people would have had the power of changing the established form of government, and rendering France a republic, or a monarchy, as they pleased.
[Footnote 66: The chamber of peers was of course thus annihilated, and excluded from any share in the government.]
M. Regnault represented, that either of these propositions would tend to throw the state into the labyrinth of a complete disorganization; that they could not be adopted, without announcing to the foreign powers, that there was no established order of things in France, no acknowledged rights, no fixed principles, no basis for a government: yet, soon falling himself into the error of his opponents, he proposed, 1st, to name, instead of the council of regency, prescribed by the fundamental laws, to which he had just referred, an executive committee of five members, two from the chamber of peers, and three from that of deputies, who should exercise the functions of government provisionally.
2dly. In order not to disturb the unity of power, to leave to this committee the choice and direction of the commissioners, to be sent to negotiate with the allies.
In times of doubt and fear, a middle course is always most agreeable to the majority; and the majority of the chamber adopted the sort of conduct proposed by M. Regnier, without perceiving its inconsistency: for, to elude the acknowledgment of the Emperor Napoleon II. was to declare to foreigners, what it had been desirous of avoiding, that there were no established rights in France, and that the throne and even the government were vacant.
In the existing state of things there were only two courses to be pursued: either to proclaim Napoleon II. constitutionally, as its essence, its duty, its interest, prescribed:
Or, if, from a cowardly condescension, it would not decide any thing without the assent of the allies, to unite the two chambers into a national assembly, and wait the course of events. In this case it would not have placed the fate of the revolution of the 20th of March in the hands of five individuals; it would have acquired an imposing and national character, which would have given to its acts, its negotiations, and even its resistance, a degree of strength and dignity, that the unusual kind of government, to which it had just given birth, could never obtain.
The resolution taken by the representatives was immediately carried to the chamber of peers.
Prince Lucien was the first who rose to combat it. He eloquently exposed the principles, on which hereditary monarchies are founded. He invoked the constitution, the solemn oaths taken in the Champ de Mai, and conjured the peers, the faithful guardians of the fealty sworn, and of the constituent laws of the monarchy, to reject this unconstitutional resolution, and proclaim Napoleon II. Emperor of the French.
M. de Pontecoulant strongly resisted this proposal; declaring, that he never would consent to acknowledge as sovereign a Prince not in France, and a captive as regent. "Besides," added he, "by what right does the Prince of Cannino come to speak within these walls? is he a Frenchman?"
"If I be not a Frenchman in your eyes," exclaimed Prince Lucien, "I am in the eyes of the whole nation."
Labedoyere darted rapidly to the tribune. "I have seen," said he, "round the throne of the prosperous sovereign, men, who now shun it, because he is in adversity. They are at this moment ready to receive any prince, that foreigners may think proper to impose on them. But, if they reject Napoleon II., the Emperor ought to have recourse to his sword, and to those brave men, who, covered as they are with blood and scars, still cry 'Long live the Emperor!' It was, in favour of his son, that he abdicated: his abdication is void, if Napoleon II. be not acknowledged. Shall French blood have been spilt again, only to make us pass a second time under a foreign yoke? to bow the head beneath a degraded government? to see our brave warriors drink the cup of bitterness and humiliation, and deprived of the rewards due to their services, their wounds, their glory? There are still here perhaps generals," turning his eyes toward Marshal Ney, "who meditate new treasons; but woe to all traitors: may they be devoted to infamy! may their houses be rased, their families proscribed!" At these words the most lively expressions of displeasure burst out in the assembly. Labedoyere, interrupted, impiously exclaimed: "Great God! is it then decreed, that the voices of baseness alone shall be heard within these walls?"
This exclamation excited fresh murmurs. "We have already a foreign war," said M. Boissy d'Anglas: "must we have a civil war also? Unquestionably the Emperor has made the greatest of sacrifices to our country, but the proposal, to proclaim Napoleon II. is unseasonable and impolitic. I move the order of the day."
Messrs. de Segur, de Flahaut, and Roederer, opposed this, and strenuously maintained the rights of Napoleon II. "If the Emperor had been killed," said they, "his son would succeed him as a matter of right. He is politically deceased why should not his son succeed him? The monarchy is composed of three branches: one of these branches is dead; it must be replaced. We are strong only within the sphere of our duties: let us not step out of the constitution, let us not give the foreign powers a right to say to us, you are no longer any thing! They have declared, that Napoleon alone was the obstacle to a peace: let us put their good faith to the test. It is besides as advantageous, as it is just and politic, to acknowledge Napoleon II., and to govern in his name. Look at the soldiers, look at the people of Alsace, Franche Comte, Lorraine, Burgundy, and Champagne, for whom, and in whose name, have they lavished their generous blood? At home, the acknowledgment of Napoleon II. would justify the nation and the army; abroad it would reconcile us to Austria. Could the Emperor view us with the eyes of an enemy, when we had adopted for our sovereign a child of his own blood?"
"The 67th article of the constitution," said M. Thibaudeau, "is still the law of the two chambers: neither the chamber, nor the nation, nor the provisional government we shall form, thinks of bringing back the government, under which we groaned a whole year; but the proposal for acknowledging Napoleon II. cannot be discussed at the present moment. Let us leave things as they are, and adopt the resolution of the chamber of deputies, without prejudging any thing in regard to the entirety of the abdication of Napoleon."
The chamber, delighted at having discovered a method of preserving the rights of Napoleon, without placing itself in manifest opposition to the representatives, adopted this suggestion, and proceeded immediately to the nomination of the two members to the committee of government.
The Duke of Vicenza and Baron Quinette had the suffrages in their favour.
M. Carnot, the Duke of Otranto, and General Grenier, were at the same time chosen by the other chamber.
The committee of government immediately entered on its functions under the presidency of the Duke of Otranto.
Though the question of the entirety of the abdication remained untouched upon, the Emperor nevertheless considered the creation of a committee of government as a manifest violation of its conditions. He reproached the ministers of state, and particularly M. Regnault, with not having maintained the rights of his son: and made them sensible, that it was incumbent on them, as they regarded their honour and duty, to oblige the chambers to declare themselves. "I have not abdicated," said he, "in favour of a new directory. I abdicated in favour of my son. If they do not proclaim him, my abdication must be null, and not made. The chambers well know, that the people, the army, public opinion, desire it, will it; but the foreigners check them. It is not by presenting themselves before the allies with their ears hanging down, and their knee on the ground, that they will compel them to acknowledge the independence of the nation. Had they been sensible of their situation, they would spontaneously have proclaimed Napoleon II. The foreign powers would then have seen, that you know how to have but one will, one object, one rallying point: they would have seen, that the 20th of March was not a party affair, the attempt of a faction; but the result of the attachment of the French to me and to my dynasty. The unanimity of the nation would have had more effect upon them, than all your mean and degrading deference."
The effect produced by the sitting of the chamber of peers, in spite of the pains taken to misrepresent it, roused the attention of the Duke of Otranto, and of the Anti-Napoleon faction, of which he was become the director and the head.
On the other hand the army of Marshal Grouchy, which was supposed to be destroyed, had just re-entered France. Prince Jerome, Marshal Soult, Generals Morand, Colbert, Poret, Petit, and a number of other officers, whom I regret not being able to name, had succeeded in rallying the wreck of Mont St. Jean; and the army already formed a body of fifty or sixty thousand men, whose sentiments in favour of the Emperor had undergone no alteration.
[Footnote 67: Conformably to the orders given him, Marshal Grouchy had confined himself on the 17th, to observing the Prussians: but this he had not done with the ardour and sagacity, that might have been expected of such a consummate general of horse. The timidity, with which he followed them, no doubt inspired them with the idea, that they might fall on the Emperor's rear with impunity.
On the 18th, at nine in the morning only, he quitted his cantonments to march to Wavres: when he reached Walhain, he heard the cannonading at Mont St. Jean. Its continually increasing briskness left no doubt, that it was an extremely serious affair. General Excelmans proposed, to march to the guns by the right bank of the Dyle. "Do you not feel," said he to the marshal, "that the firing makes the ground tremble under our feet? let us march straight to the spot where they are fighting." This advice, had it been followed up, would have saved the army: but it was not. The marshal slowly continued his movements: at two o'clock he arrived before Wavres. The corps of General Vandamme and that of Gerard endeavoured to open a passage, and wasted time and men to no purpose. At seven o'clock he received, according to his own declaration, the order from the major-general, to march to St. Lambert and attack Bulow; which step ought to have been suggested to him before that time by the tremendous cannonading at Waterloo, and by the order given in the first despatch received in the morning, to draw near to the grand army, and place himself in a situation to co-operate with it. He did so then. He crossed the Dyle at the bridge of Limale, and made himself master of the heights, without meeting any resistance; but night being come, he halted.
At three in the morning General Thielman attempted, to drive our troops back across the Dyle: but he was victoriously repulsed. The division of Teste, the cavalry of General Pajol, obliged him to evacuate Bielge and Wavres. The whole of the corps of Vandamme crossed the Dyle, took Rosieren, and became master of the road from Wavres to Brussels.
Marshal Grouchy, though the Emperor had recommended to him, to keep open the communications, and to send him frequent accounts of himself, had given himself no concern about what was passing at Mont St. Jean; and was preparing blindly to pursue his own movements, when an aide-de camp of General Gressot came to announce to him (this was at noon) the disasters of the preceding day. The marshal was then sensible, but too late, of the horrible fault he had committed in remaining unconcerned on the right bank of the Dyle. He effected his retreat, in two columns, by Temploux and Namur.
On the 20th in the morning, his rear-guard was attacked, and thrown into disorder. The division of Teste, the cavalry of Excelmans, extricated it from its confusion. The 20th of dragoons, and its worthy colonel, the young Briqueville, retook from the enemy two pieces of artillery, which they had captured. General Clary and his hussars cut down the horse; and the army reached Namur in tranquillity. The indefatigable division of General Teste was appointed to defend this town; and it maintained its post gloriously, till our wounded and baggage had evacuated it, and our troops were in safety on the heights of Dinan and Bouvine.
On the 22d the whole of the army was assembled at Rocroi. On the 24th it formed a junction with the wreck of Mont St, Jean, which the Emperor had ordered, to bend its course towards Rheims. On the 25th it marched for the capital. During its retreat, it was exposed to the exasperated attacks of the Prussians. It repulsed them all with firmness and vigour. The noble desire of repairing the involuntary evil, that it had done us at Mont St. Jean, inflamed the minds of the soldiers with the most spirited ardour; and perhaps this army of brave fellows would have changed the fate of France under the walls of Paris, had not the inspirations of its patriotism, and generous despair, been repressed or betrayed.]
The Duke of Otranto and his party then perceived the necessity of keeping terms with Napoleon and in a secret conference, which took place at the house of the minister of police, and at which M. Manuel and the deputies of most weight in the party of the Duke of Otranto were present, it was confessed, that it appeared neither prudent nor possible, to prevent the acknowledgment of Napoleon II.; and that they would exert themselves merely to retain the authority in the hands of the committee.
The next day, as had been foreseen, Count Defermont, dexterously availing himself of a debate on the oath to be taken by the committee, asked the assembly, in whose name the committee was to act? how the titles of its acts should run? and, in fine, whether Napoleon II. were, or were not, Emperor of the French? (Yes, yes, yes!) "The abdication of Napoleon I. calls to the succession him," said he, "who in the order established by the constitution is designated beforehand as his heir." (Here a single voice called out, The order of the day!) "On this fundamental point the slightest hesitation cannot exist. If it did exist, it would be our duty, to put an end to it. We must not allow people, to go and persuade the national guard of Paris, or the armies, that we are waiting for Louis XVIII., and that we all share the same sentiment." (A great majority of the members rose, and exclaimed, "Long live Napoleon II.!" These shouts were repeated with transport by the tribunes, and by the officers of the line and of the national guard, who were at the entrance of the hall.)
"It must frankly be confessed," said another member, M. Boulay de la Meurthe, "that doubts have been started: some newspaper writers have gone so far as to say, that the throne is vacant. Were such our misfortune, this assembly, and our liberties, would be at an end. In fact, what should we be? By what mandate are we here? We exist only through the constitution.... It is the same constitution, that proclaims Napoleon II. Emperor. His father has abdicated: you have accepted his abdication without restriction the contract is formed, Napoleon II. is Emperor by the course of events." (Yes, yes! we ought not even to deliberate.) "Besides, the Emperor gave his abdication only under the express condition (murmurs).... These murmurs do not terrify me: I have long made the sacrifice of my life. I will speak the whole truth in presence of the nation. There exists a faction, that would persuade us we have declared the throne vacant, in the hope of filling up this vacancy immediately by the Bourbons. (No, no! never, never!) This faction is that of the Duke of Orleans. It has seduced some patriots, not too clear-sighted, who do not perceive, that the Duke of Orleans would accept the throne only to resign it to Louis XVIII. The assembly must speak out, and instantly declare, that it acknowledges Napoleon II. as Emperor of the French."
Count Regnault spoke to the same purpose; but threw cold water on the debate, by unskilfully introducing the mention of the foreign powers, and asking in whose name the army was to fight.
The members of the opposition, who had hitherto confined themselves to a few murmurs, and calling for the order of the day, now began to speak. M. Dupin first endeavoured to prove, that the safety of the country was the first thing to be considered. "Why," said he afterward, "has the Emperor abdicated? Because he felt, that it was no longer in his power, to save France. Now, I ask you, if Napoleon I. could not save the state, how can Napoleon II. save it? Besides, are not this prince and his mother captives? Have you any hope, that they will be restored to you?
"What have been our ideas? We have wished, instead of a name, which our enemies object to us, as the sole motive of the war, to bring forward the French nation. Yes, it is in the name of the nation, that we would fight, and that we would treat. It is from the nation we await the choice of a sovereign. The nation precedes all governments, and survives them all."
"Why do you not propose a republic?" a single voice exclaimed.
Numerous and violent murmurs had often interrupted M. Dupin. M. Manuel, more adroit, felt the necessity of being also more temperate. He appeared at first uncertain on the determination it would be proper to take; and, after having brought all the parties on the stage, and placed in the balance the hopes and fears, with which each might inspire the nation, he exclaimed: "But is it an individual, then, is it a family, that is in question? No; it is our country. Why should we deprive ourselves of the means of saving it? Already we have made one great stride: but do we know, whether it will be great enough, whether it will be sufficiently complete, to obtain from it the results we wish? Let us leave it to time to act. In accepting the abdication of Napoleon, you accepted the condition it carries with it; and we ought to acknowledge Napoleon II., since the forms of the constitution require it: but, in conforming to them in this respect, it is impossible for us not to deviate from them, when the object is to secure our independence; and it is to attain this object, that you have thought proper, to place authority in the hands of men, who particularly possess your confidence; in order that this or that prince, appointed by the laws the guardian of the sovereign during a minority, may not claim his rights, and become the arbiter of the fate of France.
[Footnote 68: That of forcing Napoleon to abdicate.]
"I move, therefore, the order of the day, for the following reasons: 1st, that Napoleon II. is become Emperor of the French, by the fact of the abdication of Napoleon I., and by virtue of the constitution of the empire.
"2dly, That the two chambers have willed and intended, by naming a committee of government, to secure to the nation the guarantees it requires, under the extraordinary circumstances, in which it is placed, to preserve its liberty and tranquillity."
This specious proposal seduced the assembly. It was adopted amid the most vociferous acclamations, and shouts of "Long live Napoleon II." a thousand times repeated; without its suspecting, that this order of the day, which appeared to it so decisive, signified nothing, except that it proclaimed Napoleon II. because the constitution required it; but that it declared, at the same time, that it was merely a matter of form, and that it would be ready to give it up, when the provisional government should deem it necessary.
This was the second time of the chamber's being the dupe of its eagerness: yet it reckoned among its members men of great judgment and talents; but the greater number, and it is the majority always that gives the law, never having had a seat in our assemblies, allowed themselves to be subjugated by the illusions of eloquence, and with so much the more facility, because there existed in the assembly no fixed notion, no paramount will, that might serve it as a beacon and guide.
The provisional government, influenced by M. Fouche, soon evinced, that it had caught the true sense of M. Manuel's proposal. Two days after, its acts were issued in the name of the French people. This insult to the sincerity of the chamber, and to the sovereign it had acknowledged, excited its astonishment, and its complaints. The capital and the patriots murmured. The president of the government was summoned, to explain and justify this strange proceeding. He answered: "That it had never been the intention of the committee, to disavow Napoleon II.; but this prince not having been yet acknowledged as sovereign of France by any of the foreign powers, they could not treat with them in his name; and the committee had thought it its duty, to act provisionally in the name of the French people, in order to deprive the enemy of every pretext for refusing to admit the negotiation."
This explanation, strengthened by the hacknied support of the potent words, our country, the public safety, foreign armies, appeared plausible; and no more was said.
The Emperor himself, stunned by the force and rapidity of the blows, that his enemies inflicted on him, thought no longer of defending himself; and seemed to leave to Providence the care of watching over him and his son. He complained: but his dissatisfaction expired on his lips, and excited in him none of those resolutions, that might have been expected from the fire and energy of his character.
The Duke of Otranto, however, and the deputies who had concurred with him in pulling down Napoleon from his throne, did not look on his residence at the Elyseum without alarm. They dreaded, lest, emboldened by the daring counsels of Prince Lucien, by the attachment the army retained for him, by the acclamations of the federates, and citizens of all classes, who assembled daily under the walls of his palace, he should attempt to renew a second 18th Brumaire. They demanded of the chamber, therefore, by the mouth of M. Duchesne, that the ex-Emperor should be desired, in the name of their country, to remove from the capital. This demand having no effect, recourse was had to other means. Endeavours were made to frighten him. Every day officious advisers warned him, that attempts were making against his life: and to give more probability to this clumsy scheme, his guard was suddenly reinforced. Nay, one night, we were roused out of our beds by a messenger from the commandant of Paris, General Hulin, who warned us to be on our guard, as the Elyseum was going to be attacked, &c. But so great was our contempt for these wretched impositions, we did not even think it necessary, to mention it to Napoleon; and saw the return of day, without having lost a single moment's rest. Nothing however could have been more easy, than to carry off or assassinate Napoleon. His palace, which ten days before could scarcely contain the bustling crowd of ambitious men and courtiers, was now one vast solitude. All those men, destitute of faith and honour, whom power attracts, and adversity keeps at a distance, had deserted it. His guard had been reduced to a few old grenadiers: and a single sentry, scarcely in uniform, watched the gate of that Napoleon, that king of kings, who lately reckoned millions of soldiers under his banners.
Napoleon himself, however, was aware, that his presence at Paris, and in an imperial palace, might give the allies room to question the sincerity of his abdication, and be detrimental to the re-establishment of peace. He determined, therefore, to remove.
His private correspondence with the sovereigns, and some original letters, concealed from their search in 1814, he caused to be delivered into his own hands. He then directed us to burn the petitions, letters, and addresses, that had been received since the 20th of March. I was employed in this business one day, when Napoleon passed through the closet. He came up to me, and took a letter I had in my hand. It was one from the Duke of .... He ran it over, and said to me with a smile: "Don't burn this: keep it for yourself. It will be an excellent recommendation, if you find yourself in any trouble. * * * [TN: Missing words in the book] will not fail to swear to those people, that he has maintained his fidelity toward them inviolate; and when he knows, that you have in your hands substantial proof of his having laid himself at my feet, and that I refused both him and his services, he will be ready to quarter himself to serve you, for fear you should blab." I thought the Emperor was jesting: he perceived it, and resumed: "No, I tell you; don't burn that letter, or any of those from persons of the same description: I give them to you for your protection."—"But, Sire, they will accuse me of having stolen them."—"If they complain, threaten, that you will print them all as they are, and they will say no more: I know them."—"Since it is your Majesty's desire, I will keep them." I did, in fact, set aside a certain number of these letters. After the return of the king, I had the complaisance, to restore some of them to the writers. This is not said gratuitously: scarcely had their authors, whom I could name, these letters in their possession, when they extolled their pretended fidelity to the skies; and became the most virulent detractors, both in their conversation and writing, of all who had embraced or served the cause of the 20th of March.
On the 25th, at noon, Napoleon set off for Malmaison. He was received there by the Princess Hortensia. This princess, so odiously calumniated, and so worthy of respect, set us an example of courage and resignation. Her situation, and that of Napoleon, must have wounded her to the heart: yet she found sufficient strength of mind, to suppress her sorrows, and console ours. She was attentive to the Emperor, she was attentive to us, with such constant solicitude, such perfect courteousness, that you would have supposed, she had nothing to think of but the misfortunes of others. If the fate of Napoleon and of France drew from us groans or imprecations, she ran to us; and, restraining her own tears, reminded us with the wisdom of a philosopher, and the sweetness of an angel, that we should surmount our sorrows and regrets, and submit with docility to the decrees of Providence.
Napoleon was roused by the shock, that his departure from the Elyseum gave him. At Malmaison he recovered his spirit, his activity, his energy. Accustomed to see all his wishes, all his enterprises, crowned with success, he had not learned, to contend against the sudden attacks of misfortune; and, notwithstanding the firmness of his character, they threw him occasionally into a state of irresolution, during which a thousand thoughts, a thousand designs, jostled each other in his mind, and deprived him of the possibility of coming to any decision. But this moral catalepsy was not the effect of a cowardly dejection, as has been asserted. His great mind remained erect amid the temporary numbness of his faculties; and Napoleon, when he awoke, was but so much the more terrible, and the more formidable.
A few minutes after his arrival, he was desirous of addressing once more his old companions in arms, and expressing to them for the last time his sentiments and regrets. The affection he bore them, and his despair at being unable to avenge at their head the affront received at Mont St. Jean, made him forget in his first sketch of a proclamation, that he had broken with his own hands his sceptre and his sword. He soon perceived, that the impassioned style, in which he addressed his army, was not such, as his abdication imposed on him: and accordingly he substituted the following address in the place of the too animated effusions of his heart.
"Napoleon to the brave Soldiers of the Army before Paris.
"Malmaison, June the 25th, 1815.
"While I yield to the necessity, that compels me to retire from the brave French army, I carry with me the pleasing certainty, that it will justify, by the eminent services its country expects from it, those praises, which our enemies themselves cannot refuse it.
"Soldiers, though absent, I shall mark your steps. I know all the corps; and no one of them can obtain a signal advantage over the enemy, without my doing justice to the courage it displays. Both you and I have been calumniated. Men not worthy to judge of your actions have seen, in the proofs of attachment you have given me, a zeal, of which I was the sole object: let your future successes teach them, that it was your country you served more especially in obeying me; and that, if I had any share in your affection, I owe it to my ardent love for France, our common mother.
"Soldiers, yet a few efforts, and the coalition is dissolved. Napoleon will know you by the blows you strike.
"Save the honour, the independence of France: continue to the end such as I have known you these twenty years, and you will be invincible."
The Emperor, who perhaps had intended by this proclamation, to turn the remembrance and concern of his ancient soldiers toward himself, inquired after the effect it had produced. He was informed, as was the truth, that it had not been published in the Moniteur, and that the army knew nothing of it. He showed no mark of vexation or discontent, and began to talk of the two chambers.
Since the abdication, the peers and deputies had rivalled each other, in their zeal and endeavours, to put France into a state, to awe its enemies at home and abroad.
They had declared the war national, and summoned all Frenchmen to their common defence.
They had authorized the government, to make requisitions in kind, for victualling the army, and the conveyance of subsistence.
To raise the conscription of 1815.
To suspend the laws respecting personal liberty; and to arrest, or place under inspection, every person charged with exciting disturbances, or conveying intelligence to the enemy.
In fine, they had voted it an immense credit, for defraying provisionally the expense of equipping and paying the army.
The committee, on its part, took, and executed with indefatigable care, every measure, that circumstances demanded. Its task, it must be confessed, was as difficult as perilous. Never was a government placed in similar circumstances. They required, at least in the majority of its members, great courage, great devotion, great patriotism: they required an heroic disregard of ease, of liberty, of life, to assume the responsibility incurred by power, and by events, towards the nation, and towards the king.
The first act of the committee was, to replace in the hands of the Prince of Essling the command in chief of the national guard, which had before devolved on the Emperor. The Duke of Otranto was desirous of taking the post of second in command from General Durosnel, whose rectitude was embarrassing to him, in order to bestow it on M. T**, who appeared to him no doubt more tractable. The Duke of Vicenza and M. Carnot opposed this; and it was left with General Durosnel, to the satisfaction of the national guard, which had already learned how to value the excellent character of this officer.
Marshal Soult not choosing to accept the command, and General Rapp having resigned his, the committee appointed Marshal Grouchy commander of the army of the North.
General Reille was appointed commander of the 1st, 2d, and 6th corps, united into one:
General Drouot commander of the guards:
Marshal Jourdan commander of the army of the Rhine.
Orders were given in all quarters, to replace the stores of the army, remount the cavalry, march out the depots, and oblige the straggling soldiers, to return to their colours.
In fine, the committee, after having had recourse to every possible means of supporting the negotiations, by the simultaneous display of the national forces, appointed MM. de la Fayette, de Pontecoulant, de la Foret, d'Argenson, Sebastiani, and Benjamin Constant, the last being added in the character of secretary, to repair to the allied sovereigns and their generals, to negotiate a suspension of hostilities, and treat of peace.
The day on which these plenipotentiaries departed, M. S*** came to congratulate Napoleon. "The allies," answered the Emperor, "are too deeply interested in imposing the Bourbons on you, to give you my son. My son will reign over France, but his time is not yet arrived. The instructions given the deputies, I have been assured, are in favour of my dynasty: if this be true, other persons should have been chosen to defend it. La Fayette, Sebastiani, Pontecoulant, and Benjamin Constant, have conspired against me. They are my enemies: and the enemies of the father will never be the friends of the son. Besides, the chambers have not sufficient energy, to display an independent will: they obey the directions of Fouche. If they had bestowed on me what they lavish on him, I would have saved France. My presence alone at the head of the army would have done more, than all your negotiations. I would have obtained my son, as the price of my abdication: you will not obtain him. Fouche is not sincere: he has sold himself to the Duke of Orleans. He will make fools of the chambers; the allies will make a fool of him; and you will have Louis XVIII. He thinks himself able, to manage every thing as he pleases; but he is mistaken. He will find, that it requires a hand of a different stamp from his, to guide the reins of a nation, particularly when an enemy is in the land.... The chamber of peers has not done its duty: it has behaved like a chicken. It has suffered Lucien to be insulted, and my son to be dethroned. If it had stood firm, it would have had the army on its side: the generals there would have given it to it. Its order of the day has ruined France, and brought you back the Bourbons, I alone could repair all: but your party-leaders will never consent to it: they would rather be swallowed up in the gulf, than join with me to close it."
[Footnote 69: Most of the peers held commands in the army.]
The complaints, the regrets, the menaces, that Napoleon allowed continually to escape him, alarmed the promoters of his fall more and more. In the first moments of their warmth they had displayed some boldness; but after their heads had grown cool, they appeared themselves to be astonished at their own courage. They turned pale at the very name of Napoleon and conjured the government night and day, to make him embark as speedily as possible.
From the very day of his abdication, the Emperor had thought of seeking an asylum in a foreign country. Accustomed to powerful emotions, to extraordinary events, he familiarized himself to this idea without difficulty; and appeared to take a momentary pleasure in calculating the hazards of the present, and the chances of the future; and balancing the fictions of hope against the dangers of reality.
The Emperor had never confounded the English nation with the political system of its government. He considered the heart of a Briton as the inviolable sanctuary of honour, generosity, and all the public and private virtues, that stamp on man loftiness and dignity. This high opinion prevailed in his mind over the fears, with which the known principles and sentiments of the cabinet of London could not fail to inspire him: and his first intention was, to retire to England, and there place himself under the protection of hospitality and the laws. He opened his mind to the Dukes of Bassano and Vicenza. The former did not appear to relish this determination. The latter, without condemning of approving it, advised him, if he persisted in taking this step, to go on board a smuggling vessel; and, as soon as he landed, to present himself to the magistrate of the place, and declare, that he came with confidence to invoke the protection of the English nation. Napoleon appeared, to relish this advice; but the counsels of other persons induced him, to incline to the United States. He then sent to the minister of marine for an account of the American vessels, that were in our ports. The minister sent it to him immediately. "Take notice, Sire," he wrote, "of the vessel at Havre. Her captain is in my antechamber; his postchaise at my door. He is ready to depart. I will answer for him. To-morrow, if you please, you may be out of the reach of your enemies."
M. de Vicenza pressed the Emperor, to avail himself of this opportunity. "I am well aware," answered the Emperor, "that there are people, who wish me already gone; who want to get rid of me, and to have me taken prisoner." The duke gave signs of surprise and reproach. "Ah! Caulincourt, it is not you I am speaking of." The Duke of Vicenza replied, that his advice came from his heart; and that he had no other motive, than to see him safe from the dangers, with which he was threatened by the approach of the allies.—The Emperor stopped him. "What have I to fear? I have abdicated; it is the business of France to protect me!"
Several Americans, who were at Paris, wrote of their own accord to Napoleon, to offer him their services, and assure him, in the name of their fellow-citizens, that he would be received at Washington with the sentiments of respect, admiration, and devotion, that were his due. Napoleon refused their offers. Not that he had any intention of withdrawing himself from the effects of his abdication: but he had changed his opinion; and considered, that it was his duty, not to quit the country, unless it were exacted of him, till it was no longer in danger.
The government, however, yielding to the continual importunities of the deputies, and of M. Fouche, caused it to be hinted to him, that it was proper he should come to some decision. The Emperor then declared, that he was ready to repair with his family to the United States; and that he would embark, as soon as two frigates were placed at his disposal. The minister of marine was immediately authorized, to fit out these two frigates. Baron Bignon received orders, to demand from Lord Wellington the necessary passports and safeconducts: but the committee, under pretence of not exposing the frigates to fall into the enemy's hands, decreed, that they should not put to sea, till the safeconducts were arrived: a singular condition, that cannot be explained honourably but by the supposition, that the government was not desirous at bottom of letting Napoleon depart; no doubt considering his presence in France as a circumstance, that would render the allies more docile, and less exacting.
The promise made by the Emperor, and the measures taken to ensure his departure, were not sufficient, to quiet the apprehensions of his enemies. They were afraid, that he would avail himself of the delay, which must take place before the safeconducts could arrive, to seize on the sovereign authority by main force. Accordingly, they returned to the charge; and the government, to put an end to their importunate fears, and answer by anticipation the objections of the foreign powers, consented to appoint a guardian to the late head of the state. General Count Beker, a member of the chamber of deputies, was named commander of the Emperor's guard; and, under this pretext, directed, to repair to Malmaison, "to watch over the preservation (conservation) of the person of Napoleon, and the respect due to him; and to prevent ill-disposed persons from making use of his name, to excite disturbances."
[Footnote 70: These are the literal terms of General Beker's commission.]
When the general made his appearance at Malmaison, it was supposed, that he came to arrest Napoleon. An exclamation of sorrow escaped from every heart. Gourgaud and some other officers swore, that no one should lay a sacrilegious hand off the Emperor. I ran to inform Napoleon of what was passing. He came out of his closet, and appeared to our eyes
Avec cet air serein, ce front majestueux, Tels que dans les combats, maitre de son courage, Tranquille, il arretait ou pressait le carnage.
[Footnote 71: With air majestic, and with brow serene, As, master of his fire, amid the fray, He coolly urges, or restrains the sword.]
The Emperor ordered us, to respect the person and mission of General Beker, and let him know, that he might appear without scruple, and without fear. But this officer had already explained the purpose of his journey; and a person came to inform the Emperor, that the object of his mission was, not to arrest him, but to watch over the safety of his person, placed under the protection of the national honour.
[Footnote 72: I am eager here to pay the general the homage he merits. He knew perfectly well, how to reconcile his duty with the attentions and respect, that were due to Napoleon, and to his misfortune.]
This declaration deceived no one. It grieved us profoundly. The Princess Hortensia's heart was torn by it. "O, my God!" said she, sorrowfully lifting her eyes to Heaven; "was I born, to see the Emperor a prisoner to the French in Malmaison?"
M. Fouche and his followers did not stop at this first precautionary step; and, to deprive the Emperor of the means "of forming plots," they took from him in succession, under one pretence or other, most of the officers, on whose attachment he could depend. Some were sent for to be about the government, others received missions or commands. All were spoken to in the sacred name of their country, and all obeyed. I too was not forgotten and I received orders, as well as my colleague, Baron Fain, to repair to Paris. I informed the Emperor of it. "Go," said he: "you have my consent. You will know what passes there, and will acquaint me with it. I am sorry, that we did not think of sending you in the suite of the plenipotentiaries: you would have reminded Metternich of what was said at Bale: you would have informed him, that Fouche is labouring for the Duke of Orleans, &c. &c. Perhaps it may not yet be too late. See Caulincourt from me, and tell him, to give you some mission."
As soon as I arrived at the Tuileries, I expressed to the president of the committee, and to M. de Vicence, a wish to make part of the embassy. I reminded them of the proposals of M. Werner, &c. &c. M. de Vicence thought, that my services might be very useful. The Duke of Otranto answered me, that I must give up all thoughts of that; and nothing more was said about it.
Thus Napoleon remained at Malmaison almost alone; and there retired, as Achilles to his tent, he was cursing his state of idleness, when the minister of marine came to announce to him, in the name of the government, that the enemy was at Compiegne; that the committee, apprehensive for his safety, dispensed with his waiting for the safeconducts, and requested him to depart incognito. The Emperor promised to depart: but, when he heard at a distance the first report of a cannon, his whole body thrilled, and he lamented in a tone of despair, that he was condemned to remain far from the field of battle. He ordered General Beker to be called: "The enemy is at Compiegne; at Senlis!" said he to him: "to-morrow he will be at the gates of Paris. I cannot conceive the blindness of the government. A man must be mad, or a traitor to his country, to question the bad faith of the foreign powers. These people understand nothing of affairs." General Beker made a motion with his head, which Napoleon took for a sign of approbation, and he went on: "All is lost: is it not so? In this case, let them make me general; I will command the array; I will immediately demand this (speaking in an authoritative tone): General, you shall carry my letter; set off immediately a carriage is ready for you. Explain to them, that it is not my intention, to seize again the sovereign power: that I will fight the enemy, beat them, and compel them by victory, to give a favourable turn to the negotiations: that afterward, this great point obtained, I will pursue my journey. Go, general, I depend on you; you shall quit me no more."
[Footnote 73: His court, formerly so numerous, was now customarily composed only of the Duke of Bassano, Count Lavalette, General Flahaut, and the persons who were to go with him, as the following orderly officers, General Gourgaud, Counts Montholon and de Lascases, and the Duke of Rovigo. The attachment, that induced the latter to attend Napoleon, was so much the more to his honour, as Napoleon, when he returned from the island of Elba, reproached him very harshly with having neglected him. He passes however in the opinion of the public, though very erroneously, for being one of the contrivers of the 20th of March: but he had always to complain of the public opinion. It imputes to him a number of wicked actions, in which he had really no share, and which he frequently indeed had endeavoured to prevent. The Emperor employed him on all occasions; because he found him possessed of a bold and clear judgment, an acute understanding, and great skill in perceiving the consequences of a thing, and acting with spirit. Unfavourable suspicions have been thrown on the motives, that induced Napoleon, to entrust to him the administrations of the police: but he was called to this important office solely because the Emperor had experience of the infidelity of the Duke of Otranto, who deserted him on all occasions of difficulty; and wished to supply his place by a man of tried attachment, a man who, unconnected with the revolution, and having no party to keep terms with, could serve him alone, and do his duty without tergiversation.]
General Beker, overcome by the ascendancy of his prisoner, set off immediately. The letter, the former part of which I am sorry I cannot warrant to be exact, was in substance as follows:
"To the Committee of Government.
"In abdicating the sovereign authority, I did not renounce the noblest right of a citizen, the right of defending my country.
"The approach of the enemy to the capital leaves no doubt of their intentions, of their bad faith.
"Under these weighty circumstances, I offer my services as general, still considering myself as the first soldier of my country."
The Duke of Otranto read this letter aloud, and exclaimed: "Is he laughing at us?"
M. Carnot appeared to be of opinion, that the Emperor should be replaced at the head of the army.
The Duke of Otranto replied, that the Emperor no doubt had spared the committee this trouble; that he had probably stolen away, the moment General Beker departed; and was already haranguing the soldiers, and reviewing them.
General Beker pledged himself, that Napoleon would await his return.
The president of the committee observed then, that the recall of Napoleon would destroy for ever all hope of conciliation: that the enemy, indignant at our Punic faith, would no longer grant us either truce or quarter: that the character of Napoleon would not allow any confidence, to be placed in his promises; and that, if he should meet with any success, he would re-ascend the throne, and bury himself under its ruins, rather than descend from it a second time, &c.
These observations united all their suffrages, and the members of the committee answered the Emperor, "That their duty toward their country, and the engagements the plenipotentiaries had entered into with the foreign powers, did not permit them, to accept his offer." They appointed M. Carnot, to go to Malmaison; explain to the Emperor his situation, and that of France; and conjure him, to spare those calamities, that he appeared desirous of bringing upon France and upon himself.
The proposal of Napoleon was soon known all over Paris. It was first reported, that he had wished, to resume the command; and at last, that he had resumed it. In fact, immediately after the departure of General Beker, Napoleon ordered his chargers to be saddled; and for three hours it was supposed, that he was going to the army. But he had no thought of basely availing himself of the absence of his guardian, to make his escape. Such an idea was beneath a man, who had come to attack and invade a kingdom with eight hundred soldiers.
General Beker returned to Malmaison. The Emperor snatched the answer of the committee, ran it hastily through, and exclaimed: "I was sure of it; these people have no energy. Well, general, since it is so, let us be gone, let us be gone." He ordered M. de Flahaut to be called; and directed him, to go to Paris immediately, and concert measures for his departure and embarkation with the members of the committee.
The Prince of Eckmuhl was at the Tuileries when M. de Flahaut made his appearance there. In the mission of this general he saw nothing but a subterfuge of the Emperor, to defer his departure. "This Bonaparte of yours," said he to him in a tone of anger and contempt, "will not depart: but we must get rid of him: his presence hampers us, is troublesome to us; it is injurious to the success of our negotiations. If he hope, that we shall take him again, he deceives himself: we will have nothing more to do with him. Tell him from me, that he must go; and if he do not depart instantly, I will have him arrested, I will arrest him myself." M. de Flahaut, burning with indignation, answered: "I could not have believed, M. marshal, that a man, who was at the knees of Napoleon but a week ago, could to-day hold such language. I have too much respect for myself, I have too much respect for the person and misfortunes of the Emperor, to report to him your words; go yourself, M. marshal, it will befit you better than me."—The Prince of Eckmuhl, irritated at this, reminded him, that he was speaking to the minister at war, to the general in chief of the army: and enjoined him, to repair to Fontainebleau, where he should receive his orders.—"No, sir," replied Count de Flahaut briskly, "I will not go; I will not abandon the Emperor I will preserve to the last moment that fidelity to him, which so many others have sworn."—"I will have you punished for your disobedience."—"You have no longer the right to do so. From this moment I give in my resignation. I can no longer serve under your orders, without disgracing my epaulettes."
He went away. The Emperor perceived on his return, that something had cut him to the heart. He questioned him; and at length brought him to confess all that had passed. Accustomed since his abdication, to be surprised at nothing, and to endure every thing without complaint, Napoleon appeared neither astonished nor displeased at the insults of his former minister. "Let him come," answered he coolly: "I am ready, if he desire it, to hold out my throat to him. Your conduct, my dear Flahaut, touches me; but your country wants you: remain in the army, and forget, like me, the Prince of Eckmuhl and his dastardly menaces."
History, more rigid, will not forget them. Respect for misfortune has always been placed in the foremost rank of military virtues. If the warrior, who insults his disarmed enemy, lose the esteem of the brave, what sentiment should he inspire, who abuses, insults, and threatens, his friend, his benefactor, his prince, when under misfortunes?
In the bosom of faithful friendship the Emperor disburdened his mind of the chagrin, that the refusal of his services by the committee occasioned him. "Those people," said he to M. de Bassano, "are blinded by their avidity of enjoying power, and continuing to act the sovereign. They feel, that, if they replaced me at the head of the army, they would be no longer any thing more than my shadow; and they are sacrificing me and their country to their pride, to their vanity. They will ruin every thing." After a few moments silence he added: "But why should I let them reign? I abdicated, to save France, to save the throne of my son. If this throne must be lost, I had rather lose it in the field of battle than here. I can do nothing better for all of you, for my son, and for myself, than throw myself into the arms of my soldiers. My presence will electrify the army, will be a clap of thunder to the foreign powers. They will be aware, that I return to the field, to conquer or die: and, to get rid of me, they will grant all you ask. If, on the contrary, you leave me to gnaw my sword here; they will laugh at you, and you will be forced to receive Louis XVIII. cap in hand. We must come to a close: if your five Emperors will not have me, to save France, I must dispense with their consent. It will be sufficient for me, to show myself, and Paris and the army will receive me a second time, as their deliverer."—"I do not doubt it, Sire," answered M. de Bassano: "but the chamber will declare against you: perhaps it will even venture, to declare you outlawed. On the other hand, Sire, if fortune should not prove favourable to your efforts; if the army, after performing prodigies of valour, should be overpowered by numbers; what will become of France? what will become of your Majesty? The enemy will be justified in abusing their victory; and perhaps your Majesty would have to reproach yourself with having caused the ruin of France for ever."—"Come, I see, I must always give way." The Emperor remained some minutes, without uttering another word. He then said: "You are right: I ought not to take upon myself the responsibility of so great an event. I ought to wait, till the voice of the people, of the soldiers, of the chambers recall me. But how is it, that Paris does not call for me? Do not the people then perceive, that the allies give you no credit for my abdication?"—"Sire, so much uncertainty pervades their minds, that they cannot come to an understanding with each other. If they were fully convinced, that it is the intention of the allies, to restore Louis XVIII., perhaps they would not hesitate to speak out; but they entertain hopes, that the allies will keep their promises."—"That infamous Fouche deceives you. The committee suffers itself, to be led by him. It will have severe reproaches to make itself. There is nobody in it worth any thing, except Caulincourt and Carnot: and they are badly fitted with associates. What can they do with a traitor, a couple of blockheads, and two chambers, that do not know what they would be at? You all believe, like innocents, the fine promises of the foreign powers. You believe, that they will give you a fowl in the pot, and a prince of your own liking, do you not? You deceive yourselves. Alexander, in spite of his magnanimous sentiments, suffers himself to be influenced by the English: he is afraid of them; and the Emperor of Austria will do, as he did in 1814, what others think proper."
[Footnote 74: This epithet was not an insult in the mouth of Napoleon. He even applied it commonly to his ministers, when they showed any irresolution.]
This conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Generals P. and Chartran. They had already been refused admittance twice: but this time they declared, that they would not go away, till they had spoken with the Emperor. Their business was, to get money from him. General Chartran, as fatally inspired as Labedoyere, told him, that he had ruined himself in his service; that the Bourbons were on the point of returning; that he should be shot, if he had not money to make his escape; and that money he must have. Napoleon caused a thousand crowns, to be given to each; and they went away. The Princess Hortensia, afraid that these illustrious Cossacks should do the Emperor some ill turn, would generously have given them whatever they asked. I had infinite difficulty in tranquillising her, and making her understand, that they had more design on the purse than the person of Napoleon.
After they were departed, Napoleon gave me some commands for Paris. I returned thither. The moment I entered the Tuileries, the committee had just been informed, that the enemy, after having beaten our troops, was advancing with all speed to Paris. This news rendered the government uneasy; and, as there was no orderly officer then at hand, the Duke of Vicenza requested me, to go and reconnoitre. I set off. On my arrival at the entrance of Bourget, I met General Reille with his army. He informed me, that the enemy was following him; but that there was no reason, to be in fear for the capital. "I know not what is passing there," said he to me; "but this very moment the brother of M. de Talleyrand was brought before me. He had with him a false passport, under the name of Petit. I had an inclination, to send him before the committee of government: but he declared to me, that he was employed by it on a mission as important as it was urgent; and as, at all events, one enemy more can do us no injury, I thought it better to let him pass, than risk the frustrating of his mission by useless delays." I hastened to return, to calm the anxiety of the government.
As soon as I was at liberty, I flew to Malmaison. Napoleon, who felt himself obliged by this continual posting, always condescended to receive me immediately. I gave him an account of every thing, that could be interesting to him. I did not omit to inform him, that the enemy was already master of part of the environs of Paris; and that it was important for him, to be on his guard. "I shall have no fear of them to-morrow," said he to me; "I have promised Decres to set out, and I will be gone to-night. I am tired of myself, of Paris, of France. Make your preparations, and do not be out of the way."—"Sire," answered I, "when I promised yesterday, to attend your Majesty, I consulted only my attachment; but when I imparted this resolution to my mother, she conjured me by her gray hairs, not to desert her. Sire, she is seventy-four years old: she is blind; my brothers have perished in the field of honour; she has only me, me alone in the world, to protect her: and I confess to your Majesty, that I had not the heart to refuse her."—"You have done well," said Napoleon to me, "you owe yourself to your mother: remain with her. If at some future time you should be master of your own actions, come to me: you will always be well received."—"Your Majesty is resolved, then," I replied, "to depart?"—"What would you have me do here now?"—"Your Majesty is right: but...."—"But what? would you have me remain?"—"Sire, I confess to your Majesty, I cannot look on your departure without alarm."—"In fact the path is difficult; but fortune and a fair wind...."—"Ah, Sire! fortune is no longer in our favour: besides, whither will your Majesty go?"—"I will go to the United States. They will give me land, or I will buy some, and we will cultivate it. I will end, where mankind began: I will live on the produce of my fields and my flock."—"That will be very well, Sire: but do you think, that the English will suffer you, to cultivate your fields in peace?"—"Why not? what harm could I do them?"—"What harm, Sire! Has your Majesty then forgotten, that you have made England tremble? As long as you are alive, Sire, or at least at liberty, she will dread the effects of your hatred and your genius. You were perhaps less dangerous to her on the degraded throne of Louis XVIII., than you would be in the United States. The Americans love and admire you: you have a great influence over them; and you would perhaps excite them to enterprises fatal to England."—"What enterprises? The English well know, that the Americans would lose their lives to a man in defence of their native soil; but they are not fond of making war abroad. They are not yet arrived at a pitch, to give the English any serious uneasiness. Some future day perhaps, they will be the avengers of the seas; but this period, which I might have had it in my power to accelerate, is now at a distance. The Americans advance to greatness but slowly."—"Admitting, that the Americans can give England no serious uneasiness at this moment, your presence in the United States will at least furnish it with an occasion, to stir up Europe against them. The combined powers will consider their work as imperfect, till you are in their possession; and they will compel the Americans, if not to deliver you up, at least to expel you from their territory."—"Well! then I will go to Mexico. I shall there find patriots, and will put myself at their head."—"Your Majesty forgets, that they have leaders already: people bring about revolutions for themselves, not for others; and the chiefs of the independents would be disconcerted by your Majesty's presence, if they did not oblige you, to seek an asylum elsewhere...."—"Well, I will leave them as they are; and go to Caracas; if I do not find myself well received there, I will go to Buenos Ayres; I will go to California; in fine, I will go from shore to shore, till I meet with an asylum against the malignancy and persecutions of men."—"Supposing your Majesty to speak seriously, can you reasonably flatter yourself with continually escaping the snares and fleets of the English?"—"If I cannot escape them, they will take me: their government is good for nothing, but the nation is great, noble, generous; they will treat me as I ought to be treated. After all, what would you have me do? Do you wish, that I should suffer myself to be taken here like a dolt by Wellington, and give him the pleasure of parading me in triumph through the streets of London like King John? Since my services are refused, there is but one step I can take: to depart. The destinies will do the rest."—"There is still another, Sire, if I dared suggest it to you: your Majesty is not a man to run away."—"What do you call running away?" said Napoleon with a proud and angry look: "where do you see me running away?"—"I entreat your Majesty not to dwell on that expression."—"Go on, go on."—"I think then, Sire, that your Majesty ought not thus to quit France, first, for your safety's sake, next for your honour's. The English are informed, that you have the intention of going to the United States; and no doubt our coasts already swarm with their cruisers. This is not all: your Majesty is aware of the hatred and perfidy of the Duke of Otranto: and who can say, whether secret orders have not been issued, to delay your departure, or retard the progress of the vessels, that you may be taken by the English? I consider it impossible, therefore, that your Majesty should escape them; or, if you should escape, but that you must ultimately fall into their hands, sooner or later. In this dilemma, it is right, at least, to endeavour to fall as nobly as possible."—"What are you driving at?" said Napoleon peevishly, thinking I meant to propose suicide to him: "I know, I might say, like Hannibal, 'Let us deliver them from the terror my name inspires:' but suicide is the business only of minds not thoroughly steeled, or of distempered brains. Whatever my destiny may be, I will never hasten my end a single moment."—"Such is not my meaning, Sire; and, since your Majesty condescends to listen to me, were I in your place, I would renounce the chimerical hope of finding an asylum in a foreign country; and I would say to the chambers: I abdicated, in order to disarm our enemies; I learn, that they are not satisfied; if they must have my liberty, or my life, I am ready, to place myself in their hands, happy to be able at this price, to save France and my son. How noble it would be," exclaimed I, "to see Napoleon the Great, after having laid down the crown placed on his head by twenty years of victory, offering himself as a sacrifice to the independence of his country!"—"Yes, yes," said Napoleon, "the sacrifice would be noble; but a nation of thirty millions of souls, that could suffer it, would be dishonoured for ever. Besides, to whom shall I surrender myself? to Blucher? to Wellington? They have not the power necessary, to treat with me on such conditions. They would begin with making me their prisoner; and then would do with me, and with France, whatever they took into their heads."—"I would surrender myself, Sire, to the Emperor Alexander."—"To Alexander! you know nothing of those Russians. It would cost the lives of both of us. However, your idea deserves consideration: I will reflect upon it. Before taking a step, that cannot be retracted, it is proper to look at it twice. The sacrifice of myself would be nothing on my own account; but perhaps it would be lost to France. The faith of an enemy is never to be trusted. See if Maret and Lavalette be here, and send them to me."
[Footnote 75: The uneasiness given her by the terrors of 1815 conducted her to the grave. I hope the reader will pardon me these particulars, and this note.]
Every thing, that bears the stamp of greatness of mind, seduces and transports me. I confess, that my imagination was fired at the idea of Napoleon generously devoting himself for France, and for his son. But this remark of Napoleon's, "A nation of thirty millions of men, that could suffer such a sacrifice, would be for ever dishonoured," a remark that I had not foreseen, dissipated the enchantment. On quitting the closet, I was stopped by the Duke of Rovigo, who said to me: "You have been talking a long while with the Emperor, has any thing new passed?"—"No," answered I; "we have been talking of his departure:" and I gave him an account of our conversation. "Your advice was noble," replied he; "but what I gave him was, I think, preferable. It was, to come and fall with us before the walls of Paris. He will not do so; because, in the first place, Fouche will not leave it in his power; and, in the next, because the fear of endangering every thing has laid hold of him. He will set off to-night. God knows whither we shall go: but no matter, I will follow him. My first object is, to know that he is out of danger. Besides, I would rather ramble at a venture with him, than remain here. Fouche thinks, that he shall get himself out of the scrape: he is mistaken; he will be hanged like the rest, and more richly deserve it. France is sunk, lost! I wish I was dead!"
While I was conversing with the Duke of Rovigo, Napoleon was discussing the proposal, which I had ventured to submit to him. Several times he was on the point of adopting it; but still recurred to his prevailing idea, that such a sacrifice was unworthy a great nation; and that France probably would derive no more advantage from it, than had been derived from his abdication. All things considered, therefore, Napoleon resolved, to entrust his fate "to fortune and the winds." But the committee, advised by a despatch from our plenipotentiaries, which I shall transcribe farther on, "that the escape of Napoleon, before the conclusion of the negotiations, would be considered by the allies as an act of bad faith on our part, and would compromise the safety of France," directed him to be informed, that unforeseen political circumstances compelled it, to subject his departure anew to the arrival of the safeconduct. Thus Napoleon was obliged to remain.
I returned to Paris. Here I learned, that the enemy had made immense progress; and, according to custom, I was desirous of getting off, to acquaint Napoleon with it. The barriers were strictly closed, and no one could go out without permission. I endeavoured to obtain one. The Duke of Otranto answered me, that my presence with the cabinet was necessary; and ordered me to remain. I knew, that one Chauvin, who was to go with the Emperor, was setting out for Malmaison. I ran to acquaint him with what was passing; and directed him, to give the information to Count Bertrand. At the same moment M. G. D., informed, I know not by what means, that the Prussians designed, to carry off the Emperor; that Blucher had said, "If I can catch Bonaparte, I will hang him up at the head of my army;" and that Wellington had strenuously opposed this cowardly and criminal design, M. G. D. hastened, to transmit this information to Napoleon; and soon after found means, by favour of his employment in the national guard, to repair in person to Malmaison. Napoleon made him relate at large all he knew. When he was acquainted with the position of the Prussians, he laid it down on the map, and said with a smile: "Aha! so I have suffered myself in fact to be turned." He then sent an orderly officer, to see whether the bridges of Bezons and Peck had been broken down. He found, that the latter was not. "I desired it, however: but I am not surprised at it."
[Footnote 76: From accounts communicated to me.]
[Footnote 77: That is, be marked out the enemy's positions with pins.]
The Emperor then made some arrangements, to secure himself against a surprise: but these precautions were superfluous; he had found, without calling for it, an inviolable rampart against the enterprises of his enemies in the devotion of his old companions in arms. The soldiers, officers, and generals, posted in the direction of Malmaison, sent him assurances, that they would watch over him, and were ready to pour out their blood to the last drop in his defence. One of the commanders of the red lancers of the guard, the young de Brock, rendered himself particularly distinguished by his indefatigable zeal.
The schemes of Blucher, and the proximity of our troops to the place where the Emperor was detained, gave the committee the most serious alarms.
They had at once to fear:
That Napoleon, roused by the sound of arms, and the acclamations of his faithful soldiers, would be unable to repress the desire of coming to fight at their head:
That the army, still idolizing its ancient general, would come to tear him from his state of repose, and oblige him to lead it against the enemy:
Or, lastly, that the enemy would contrive to seize his person by surprise, or by force.
The removal of the Emperor to a distance would quiet at once this state of anxiety: but the despatch of the plenipotentiaries stood in the way; and the committee, restrained by the fear of offending the allies, dared not either oblige, or even authorize Napoleon to remove. Meantime the Duke of Wellington informed M. Bignon, "that he had no authority from his government, to give any answer whatever to the demand of a passport and safeconduct for Napoleon Bonaparte." Having no longer any plausible pretence for detaining him, and unwilling to take on itself the disgrace and responsibility of events, the committee no longer hesitated on the path it had to pursue: it directed the Duke Decres and Count Boulay, to go immediately to the Emperor (it was half after three in the morning); to inform him, that Lord Wellington had refused the safeconducts; and to notify to him the injunction, to depart immediately.
The Emperor received this communication without any emotion, and promised to be gone in the course of the day.
Orders were immediately given to General Beker, not to allow him to return:
To the prefect of the Lower Charente, to prevent his stay at Rochefort, as far as possible:
To the commandant of the marine, not to suffer him to set foot on shore, from the moment he should embark, &c. &c. &c.
Never was criminal surrounded with precautions more numerous, and at the same time more useless.
If Napoleon, instead of yielding to the fear of compromising the independence and existence of the nation, had wished to revive a second 20th of March, neither the instructions of General Beker, nor the threats of Marshal Davoust, nor the intrigues of M. Fouche, could have prevented him: it would have been sufficient for him to make his appearance. The people, the army, would have received him with enthusiasm and not one of his enemies, the Prince of Eckmuhl at their head, would have dared to lift their eyes, and oppose his triumph.
The moments preceding his departure were exceedingly affecting. He conversed with the few friends, who had not deserted him, on the great vicissitudes of fortune. He deplored the evils, which their devotion to his person, and to his dynasty, would accumulate on their heads; and exhorted them, to oppose their strength of mind, and the purity of their consciences, to the persecutions of their enemies. The fate of France, who can doubt it? was also the object of his anxious and tender solicitude: he put up ardent prayers for its repose, its happiness, and its prosperity.
When information was brought him, that all was ready, he pressed the Princess Hortensia affectionately to his bosom; tenderly embraced his friends, melting into tears; and recommended to them a new unity, courage, and resignation. His demeanour was firm, his voice calm, his countenance serene: not a complaint, not a reproach, escaped his lips.
On the 29th of June, at five in the afternoon, he threw himself into a carriage prepared for his suite; and made General Gourgaud, and his orderly officers, take that intended for himself. His eyes were several times turned towards that last abode, so long the witness of his happiness and his power. He thought, no doubt, that he should see it again no more!
He had demanded, that an advice-boat should be placed under his orders; and that rear-admiral Violette should have the command of his convoy. The committee, which, in all its intercourse with the Emperor, had not ceased to pay him the most respectful attention, readily complied with these demands. Admiral Violette being absent, it was agreed, that the command should be given to the senior captain of the two frigates; and the following are the instructions given him.
"Instructions for Captain Philibert, commanding the Saale, and Ponce, commanding the Medusa.
"The two frigates are appointed, to carry him, who was lately our Emperor, to the United States of America.
"He will embark in the Saale, with such persons of his suite as he shall choose. The rest will embark in the Medusa.
"The baggage will be distributed between the two frigates agreeably to his directions.
"If, previous to sailing, or on the voyage, the Medusa shall be found to be a swifter sailer than the Saale, he will go on board the Medusa, and captains Philibert and Ponce will exchange their commands.
"The profoundest secrecy is to be kept respecting the embarkation, which will be conducted under the care of the maritime prefect, as well as respecting the person on board.
"Napoleon travels, incognito; and he will make known himself the name and title, by which he chooses to be called.
"Immediately after his embarkation, all communication with the shore must cease.
"The commanders of the frigates, the officers, and the crews, will be informed by their own hearts, that it is their duty, to treat him personally with all the attention and respect due to his situation, and to the crown he has worn.
"When on board, the highest honours will be paid him, unless refused by himself. He will dispose of the interior of the frigates for his own accommodation, in whatever manner he may deem most convenient, without detriment to their means of defence. His table, and the service of his person, will be conducted as he shall direct.
"Every thing that can contribute to his accommodation on the voyage will be prepared, without regard to the expense; and the prefect has received orders for this purpose.
"Such provision for himself and suite will be sent on board by the prefect, as is compatible with the profound secrecy to be observed respecting his abode and his embarkation.
"When Napoleon has embarked, the frigates will put to sea within four-and-twenty hours at farthest, if the wind permit, and the enemy's cruisers do not prevent their sailing.
"They will not remain in the road twenty-four hours after the embarkation of Napoleon, unless he desire it; for it is of importance, to depart as soon as possible.
"The frigates will proceed with all possible speed to the United States of America; and will land Napoleon and his suite either at Philadelphia, or at Boston, or at any other port of the United States, that they can most easily and speedily reach.
"The commanders of the two frigates are forbidden to enter any roadsteads, from which they might find difficulty or delay in departing. They are authorized to do so, only if it should be necessary for the safety of the vessels.
"They will avoid all the ships of war they may fall in with: if they should be obliged to engage a superior force, the frigate, that has not Napoleon on board, will sacrifice herself to detain the enemy; and to give that, on board of which he is, an opportunity of escaping.
"I need not remind you, that the chambers and the government have placed Napoleon under the protection of French loyalty.
"When arrived at the United States, the disembarkation will take place with all possible celerity; and the frigates will not remain there more than four-and-twenty hours, under any pretence whatever, unless they be prevented from sailing by a superior force; and they will return directly to France.
"The laws and regulations respecting the police of vessels at sea, and the military subordination of the persons embarked as passengers to the commanders of the vessels, will be strictly observed.
"I recommend to the captains' own sense of duty, as well as to their delicacy, every circumstance not provided for by these presents.
"I have nothing to add to what I have said already, that the person of Napoleon is placed under the safeguard of the loyalty of the French people; and this trust is confided specially, on the present occasion, to the captains of the Saale and the Medusa, and the officers and crews of these two vessels.
"Such are the orders, which the committee of government has directed me to transmit to captains Philibert and Ponce.
(Signed) "The Duke DECRES."
On the 29th of June, the committee informed the two chambers by a message, that "the approach of the enemy, and the fear of an internal commotion, had imposed on it the sacred duty, of causing Napoleon to depart."
The terms, in which this message was couched, gave reason to suppose, that the Emperor had shown some resistance. M. de Lavalette called on the Duke Decres to explain the facts; and it was then known, that the Emperor had not hesitated for a moment, to submit to the fate imposed upon him by his abdication; and that, if he did not set out before, it was because the committee had judged it proper to defer his departure, till the arrival of the safeconducts demanded.
The Emperor had at first expressed his intention of not stopping on the road. When he arrived at Rambouillet, he alighted from his carriage, and said, that he would pass the night at the castle. He made the grand marshal write to the keeper of the moveables of the crown, to require him to send to Rochefort, where they would be embarked, the necessary beds and furniture for seven or eight principal apartments. He had previously claimed the library of Petit Trianon, M. de Visconti's Greek Iconography, and a copy of the grand work of the Egyptian Institute. The faculty of associating thoughts the most serious with ideas of the greatest simplicity, occupations the most vast with cares the most minute, was one of the distinguishing features of the character of Napoleon.
At daybreak he received a courier from M. de ****. He read his despatches, and then said to General Beker, casting a sorrowful look toward Heaven: "The business is finished! it is all over with France! let us begone!"
He was received on his journey with the most lively testimonies of interest and attachment: but nothing could equal the transports, which the troops and inhabitants of Niort expressed at seeing him. He recommended to General Beker, to inform the government of this. "Tell them, general, that they knew little of the spirit of France; that they were too hasty in sending me away; that, if they had accepted my proposal, the face of affairs would have been changed; that I might still, in the name of the nation, exert a great influence on the course of political transactions, in backing the negotiations of government by an army, to which my name would serve as a rallying point."
The general was preparing, to forward to the committee the words of the Emperor; and had just finished his despatch, when information was brought that a heavy cannonade had been heard on the 30th. The Emperor immediately made him add the following postscript, which the general wrote from his dictation: "We hope, that the enemy will allow you time, to cover Paris, and to see the issue of the negotiations. If, under these circumstances, the English cruisers should prevent the Emperor's departure, he is at your disposal as a soldier."
The Emperor continued his course; and, his journey from Niort to Rochefort affording no remarkable incident, I resolved, though with regret, to lose sight for a moment of this august victim, and return to the government, that had succeeded him.
The government, impressed with the importance of its functions, had not ceased, since its formation, to use its utmost endeavours, to justify the confidence of the chambers. Its politics, which were perfectly open, were included in these few words: no war, no Bourbons: and its double resolve was, to make every concession to the allies, necessary to obtain a peace conformable to the wishes of the nation; or to oppose to them an inflexible resistance, if they resolved to intrench on the independence of the nation, and impose on it a sovereign not of its own choice.
The Duke of Otranto, president of the committee, appeared in the council, and in public, to approve the principles and determinations of his colleagues. In private, it was a different affair. Devoted in appearance to all parties, he flattered and deceived them in turn, by pretended confidential communications, and chimerical hopes. He spoke of liberty to the republicans, of glory and Napoleon II. to the Bonapartists, of legitimacy to the friends of the King, of guarantees and a general peace to the partizans of the Duke of Orleans; and thus contrived to secure himself on all sides, in case of need, favourable chances and supporters. Men familiar with his practices were not the dupes of his artifices, and endeavoured to unmask them: but his apparent conduct was so irreproachable, that their warnings were considered as the result of personal prejudice, or unjust suspicion.
[Footnote 78: The Emperor, informed of the manoeuvres of M. Fouche, said: "He is ever the same; always ready to thrust his foot into every one's slipper."]
Besides, it was agreed on all hands, that the fate of France depended on the negotiations with foreign powers: and it was hoped, that the plenipotentiaries, and particularly Messrs. d'Argenson and la Fayette, whose principles were inflexible, would render every kind of surprise or treachery impracticable.
These plenipotentiaries had left Paris on the 25th of June. Their instructions were as follows:
Instructions for Messieurs the Plenipotentiaries of the Committee of Government to the Allied Powers.
"Paris, June the 23d, 1815.
"The object of the mission of messieurs the plenipotentiaries, appointed to repair to the allied powers, has no farther need of being developed. It is in their hearts, as it is in the hearts of all Frenchmen: the business is, to save their country.
"The salvation of the country is connected with two essential subjects: the independence of the nation, and the integrity of its territories.
"The independence of the nation cannot be complete, except the constituent principles of the present organization of France be secure from every foreign attack. One of the principles of this organization is the inheritance of the throne in the imperial family. The Emperor having abdicated, his rights have devolved on his son. The foreign powers cannot make the least attack on this principle of inheritance, established by our constitutions, without violating our independence.
"The declaration of the 13th, and the treaty of the 25th of March, have received an important modification by the explanatory article, which the British cabinet annexed to the ratification of this treaty: an article, by which this cabinet announces, that it has no intention of pursuing the war for the purpose of imposing a particular government on France. This modification has been adopted by the allies; it has been sanctioned by Lord Clancarty's letter of the 6th of May, to the drawing up of which all the other plenipotentiaries gave their assent; it has been sanctioned by a note of Prince Metternich's, dated the 9th; and finally by the declaration of the combined powers dated the 12th of the same month.
"It is this grand principle, acknowledged by the combined powers, to which messieurs the plenipotentiaries ought particularly to appeal.
"We cannot conceal, that it is much to be feared, that the combined powers will think themselves at present bound more by the declarations, which they made before the commencement of hostilities. They will not fail to object,
"That, if, previous to the war, they set up a distinction between the nation and the Emperor, this distinction no longer exists, when the nation, by uniting all its forces in the hands of this prince, has in fact united his fate with its own:
"That, though, previous to the war, they were sincere in their intention of not interfering in the internal concerns of France, they are compelled to interfere in them now, precisely for the prevention of any similar recurrence of war, and for ensuring tranquillity for the future.
"It would be superfluous, to point out to messieurs the plenipotentiaries the answers they may make to these objections. They will find their best refutation in the sentiments of national honour, which, after the whole nation had joined the Emperor, could not but fight with him and for him; and could not separate from him, till some act, such as that of an abdication, dissolved the ties between the nation and its sovereign. It will be easy to them to demonstrate, that, if this sacred duty of honour compelled the French nation, to make war for its own defence, as well as that of the head, that was attempted to be taken from it; the abdication of this head replaces the nation in a state of peace with all the powers, since it was this head alone, that they wished to remove: and that, if the declaration made by the combined powers, of having no intention to impose on France a particular government, were frank and sincere, this sincerity, and this frankness, ought now to be manifested by their respect for the national independence, when recent circumstances have removed the only grievance, of which they thought themselves authorised to complain.
"There is an objection of a more serious nature, which the combined powers might bring forward first, if they be determined to avail themselves of all the advantages, which their military position seems to offer them. This objection would be that of an inclination to refuse to acknowledge the committee of government, and the plenipotentiaries, and the acts of the national representatives, as proceeding from a state of things illegal in their eyes, because they have constantly refused, to admit the principle, on which it is founded. This objection, if it be strongly urged, and the combined powers will not wave it, will leave little prospect of the possibility of an accommodation. However messieurs the plenipotentiaries will assuredly neglect no endeavour, to combat such objections; and they will be in no want of arguments, to combat them with success, particularly with respect to the British government, the present dynasty of which reigns solely in virtue of those principles, the application of which we in our turn have occasion to claim.