The London newspapers attacked the first consul bitterly enough; the English nation was too enlightened not to perceive the drift of his actions. Whenever any translations from the English papers were brought to him, he used to apostrophize Lord Whitworth, who answered him with equal coolness and propriety that the King of Great Britain himself was not protected from the sarcasms of newswriters, and that the constitution permitted no violation of their liberty on that score. However, the English government caused M. Peltier to be prosecuted for some articles in his journal directed against the first consul. Peltier had the honour to be defended by Mr. Mackintosh, who made upon this occasion one of the most eloquent speeches that has been read in modern times; I will mention farther on, under what circumstances this speech came into my hands.
Rupture with England.—Commencement of my Exile.
I was at Geneva, living from taste and from circumstances in the society of the English, when the news of the declaration of war reached us. The rumour immediately spread that the English travellers would all be made prisoners: as nothing similar had ever been heard of in the law of European nations, I gave no credit to it, and my security was nearly proving injurious to my friends: they contrived however, to save themselves. But persons entirely unconnected with political affairs, among whom was Lord Beverley, the father of eleven children, returning from Italy with his wife and daughters, and a hundred other persons provided with French passports, some of them repairing to different universities for education, others to the South for the recovery of their health, all travelling under the safeguard of laws recognised by all nations, were arrested, and have been languishing for ten years in country towns, leading the most miserable life that the imagination can conceive. This scandalous act was productive of no advantage; scarcely two thousand English, including very few military, became the victims of this caprice of the tyrant, making a few poor individuals suffer, to gratify his spleen against the invincible nation to which they belong.
During the summer of 1803 began the great farce of the invasion of England; flat-bottomed boats were ordered to be built from one end of France to the other; they were even constructed in the forests on the borders of the great roads. The French, who have in all things a very strong rage for imitation, cut out deal upon deal, and heaped phrase upon phrase: while in Picardy some erected a triumphal arch, on which was inscribed, "the road to London," others wrote, "To Bonaparte the Great. We request you will admit us on board the vessel which will bear you to England, and with you the destiny and the vengeance of the French people." This vessel, on board of which Bonaparte was to embark, has had time to wear herself out in harbour. Others put, as a device for their flags in the roadstead, "a good wind, and thirty hours". In short, all France resounded with gasconades, of which Bonaparte alone knew perfectly the secret.
Towards the autumn I believed myself forgotten by Bonaparte: I heard from Paris that he was completely absorbed in his English expedition, that he was preparing to set out for the coast, and to embark himself to direct the descent. I put no faith in this project; but I flattered myself that he would be satisfied if I lived at a few leagues distance from Paris, with the small number of friends who would come that distance to visit a person in disgrace. I thought also that being sufficiently well known to make my banishment talked of all over Europe, the first consul would wish to avoid this eclat. I had calculated according to my own wishes; but I was not yet thoroughly acquainted with the character of the man who was to domineer over Europe. Far from wishing to keep upon terms with persons who had distinguished themselves, in whatever line that was, he wished to make all such merely a pedestal for his own statue, either by treading them underfoot, or by making them subservient to his designs.
I arrived at a little country seat, I had at ten leagues from Paris, with the project of establishing myself during the winter in this retreat, as long as the system of tyranny lasted. I only wished to see my friends there, and to go occasionally to the theatre, and to the museum. This was all the residence I wished in Paris, in the state of distrust and espionnage which had begun to be established, and I confess I cannot see what inconsistency there would have been in the first consul allowing me to remain in this state of voluntary exile. I had been there peaceably for a month, when a female, of that description which is so numerous, endeavouring to make herself of consequence at the expense of another female, more distinguished than herself, went and told the first consul that the roads were covered with people going to visit me. Nothing certainly could be more false. The exiles whom the world went to see, were those who in the eighteenth century were almost as powerful as the monarchs who banished them; but when power is resisted, it is because it is not tyrannical; for it can only be so by the general submission. Be that as it may, Bonaparte immediately seized the pretext, or the motive that was given him to banish me, and I was apprized by one of my friends, that a gendarme would be with me in a few days with an order for me to depart. One has no idea, in countries where routine at least secures individuals from any act of injustice, of the terror which the sudden news of arbitrary acts of this nature inspires. It is besides extremely easy to shake me; my imagination more readily lays hold of trouble than hope, and although I have often found my chagrin dissipated by the occurrence of novel circumstances, it always appears to me, when it does come, that nothing can deliver me from it. In fact it is very easy to be unhappy, especially when we aspire to the privileged lots of existence.
I withdrew immediately on receiving the above intimation to the house of a most excellent and intelligent lady*, to whom I ought to acknowledge I was recommended by a person who held an important office in the government*; I shall never forget the courage with which he offered me an asylum himself: but he would have the same good intentions at present, when he could not act in that manner without completely endangering his existence. In proportion as tyranny is allowed to advance, it grows, as we look at it, like a phantom, but it seizes with the strength of a real being. I arrived then, at the country seat of a person whom I scarcely knew, in the midst of a society to which I was an entire stranger, and bearing in my heart the most cutting chagrin, which I made every effort to disguise. During the night, when alone with a female who had been for several years devoted to my service, I sat listening at the window, in expectation of hearing every moment the steps of a horse gendarme; during the day I endeavoured to make myself agreeable, in order to conceal my situation. I wrote a letter from this place to Joseph Bonaparte, in which I described with perfect truth the extent of my unhappiness. A retreat at ten leagues distance from Paris, was the sole object of my ambition, and I felt despairingly, that if I was once banished, it would be for a great length of time, perhaps for ever. Joseph and his brother Lucien generously used all their efforts to save me, and they were not the only ones, as will presently be seen.
* Madame de Latour. * Regnault de Saint-Jean-d'Angely.
Madame Recamier, so celebrated for her beauty, and whose character is even expressed in her beauty, proposed to me to come and live at her country seat at St. Brice, at two leagues from Paris. I accepted her offer, for I had no idea that I could thereby injure a person so much a stranger to political affairs; I believed her protected against every thing, notwithstanding the generosity of her character. I found collected there a most delightful society, and there I enjoyed for the last time, all that I was about to quit. It was during this stormy period of my existence, that I received the speech of Mr. Mackintosh; there I read those pages, where he gives us the portrait of a jacobin, who had made himself an object of terror during the revolution to children, women and old men, and who is now bending himself double under the rod of the Corsican, who ravishes from him, even to the last atom of that liberty, for which he pretended to have taken arms. This morceau of the finest eloquence touched me to my very soul; it is the privilege of superior writers sometimes, unwittingly, to solace the unfortunate in all countries, and at all times. France was in a state of such complete silence around me, that this voice which suddenly responded to my soul, seemed to me to come down from heaven; it came from a land of liberty. After having passed a few days with Madame Recamier, without hearing my banishment at all spoken of, I persuaded myself that Bonaparte had renounced it. Nothing is more common than to tranquillize ourselves against a threatened danger, when we see no symptoms of it around us. I felt so little disposition to enter into any hostile plan or action against this man, that I thought it impossible for him not to leave me in peace; and after some days longer, I returned to my own country seat, satisfied that he had adjourned his resolution against me, and was contented with having frightened me. In truth I had been sufficiently so, not to make me change my opinion, or oblige me to deny it, but to repress completely that remnant of republican habit which had led me the year before, to speak with too much openness.
I was at table with three of my friends, in a room which commanded a view of the high road, and the entrance gate; it was now the end of September. At four o'clock, a man in a brown coat, on horseback, stops at the gate and rings: I was then certain of my fate. He asked for me, and I went to receive him in the garden. In walking towards him, the perfume of the flowers, and the beauty of the sun particularly struck me. How different are the sensations which affect us from the combinations of society, from those of nature! This man informed me, that he was the commandant of the gendarmerie of Versailles; but that his orders were to go out of uniform, that he might not alarm me; he shewed me a letter signed by Bonaparte, which contained the order to banish me to forty leagues distance from Paris, with an injunction to make me depart within four and twenty hours; at the same time, to treat me with all the respect due to a lady of distinction. He pretended to consider me as a foreigner, and as such, subject to the police: this respect for individual liberty did not last long, as very soon afterwards, other Frenchmen and Frenchwomen were banished without any form of trial. I told the gendarme officer, that to depart within twenty four hours, might be convenient to conscripts, but not to a woman and children, and in consequence, I proposed to him to accompany me to Paris, where I had occasion to pass three days to make the necessary arrangements for my journey. I got into my carriage with my children and this officer, who had been selected for this occasion, as the most literary of the gendarmes. In truth, he began complimenting me upon my writings. "You see," said I to him, "the consequences of being a woman of intellect, and I would recommend you, if there is occasion, to dissuade any females of your family from attempting it." I endeavoured to keep up my spirits by boldness, but I felt the barb in my heart.
I stopt for a few minutes at Madame Recamier's; I found there General Junot, who from regard to her, promised to go next morning to speak to the first consul in my behalf; and he certainly did so with the greatest warmth. One would have thought, that a man so useful from his military ardor to the power of Bonaparte, would have had influence enough with him, to make him spare a female; but the generals of Bonaparte, even when obtaining numberless favours for themselves, have no influence with him. When they ask for money or places, Bonaparte finds that in character; they are in a manner then in his power, as they place themselves in his dependance; but if, what rarely happens to them, they should think of defending an unfortunate person, or opposing an act of injustice, he would make them feel very quickly, that they are only arms employed to support slavery, by submitting to it themselves.
I got to Paris to a house I had recently hired, but not yet inhabited; I had selected it with care in the quarter and exposition which pleased me; and had already in imagination set myself down in the drawing room with some friends, whose conversation is in my opinion, the greatest pleasure the human mind can enjoy. Now, I only entered this house, with the certainty of quitting it, and I passed whole nights in traversing the apartments, in which I regretted the deprivation of still more happiness than I could have hoped for in it. My gendarme returned every morning, like the man in Blue-beard, to press me to set out on the following day, and every day I was weak enough to ask for one more day. My friends came to dine with me, and sometimes we were gay, as if to drain the cup of sorrow, in exhibiting ourselves in the most amiable light to each other, at the moment of separating perhaps for ever. They told me that this man, who came every day to summon me to depart, reminded them of those times of terror, when the gendarmes came to summon their victims to the scaffold.
Some persons may perhaps be surprized at my comparing exile to death; but there have been great men, both in ancient and modern times, who have sunk under this punishment. We meet with more persons brave against the scaffold, than against the loss of country. In all codes of law, perpetual banishment is regarded as one of the severest punishments; and the caprice of one man inflicts in France, as an amusement, what conscientious judges only condemn criminals to with regret. Private circumstances offered me an asylum, and resources of fortune, in Switzerland, the country of my parents; in those respects, I was less to be pitied than many others, and yet I have suffered cruelly. I consider it, therefore, to be doing a service to the world, to signalize the reasons, why no sovereign should ever be allowed to possess the arbitrary power of banishment. No deputy, no writer, will ever express his thoughts freely, if he can be banished when his frankness has displeased; no man will dare to speak with sincerity, if the happiness of his whole family is to suffer for it. Women particularly, who are destined to be the support and reward of enthusiasm, will endeavour to stifle generous feelings in themselves, if they find that the result of their expression will be, either to have themselves torn from the objects of their affection, or their own existence sacrificed, by accompanying them in their exile.
On the eve of the last day which was granted me, Joseph Bonaparte made one more effort in my favour; and his wife, who is a lady of the most perfect sweetness and simplicity, had the kindness to come and propose to me to pass a few days at her country seat at Morfontaine. I accepted her invitation most gratefully, for I could not but feel sensibly affected at the goodness of Joseph, who received me in his own house, at the very time that I was the object of his brother's persecution. I passed three days there, and notwithstanding the perfect politeness of the master and mistress of the house, felt my situation very painfully.
I saw only men connected with the government and breathed only the air of that authority which had declared itself my enemy; and yet the simplest rules of politeness and gratitude forbid me from shewing what I felt. I had only my eldest son with me, who was then too young for me to converse with him on such subjects. I passed whole hours in examining the gardens of Morfontaine, among the finest that could be seen in France, and the possessor of which, then tranquil, appeared to me really an object of envy. He has been since exiled upon thrones, where I am sure he has often regretted his beautiful retreat.
Departure for Germany.—Arrival at Weimar.
I hesitated about the course I was to adopt on quitting France. Should I return to my father, or should I go into Germany? My father would have welcomed his poor bird, ruffled by the storm, with ineffable goodness; but I dreaded the disgust of returning, sent back in this manner, to a country, which I was accused of finding rather monotonous. I was also desirous of exhibiting myself, by the kind reception which I had been promised in Germany, superior to the outrage I had received from the first consul; and of placing in public contrast the kind reception of the ancient dynasties, with the rude impertinence of that which was preparing to subjugate France. This movement of self-love triumphed, for my misfortune; I should have again seen my father, if I had returned to Geneva.
I requested Joseph to ascertain if I might go into Prussia, for it was necessary for me to be at least certain, that the French ambassador would not reclaim me abroad as a Frenchwoman, while in France I was proscribed as a foreigner. Joseph went in consequence to St. Cloud. I was obliged to wait his answer at a public-house, at two leagues from Paris, not daring to return to my own house in the city. A whole day passed before this answer reached me. Not wishing to attract notice by remaining longer at the house where I was, I made a tour of the walls of Paris in search of another, at the same distance of two leagues, but on a different road. This wandering life, at a few steps from my friends and my own residence, occasioned me such painful sensations as I cannot recollect without shuddering. The room is still present to me; the window where I passed the whole day, looking out for the messenger, a thousand painful details, which misfortune always draws after it, the extreme generosity of some friends, the veiled calculations of others, altogether put my mind in such a cruel state of agitation, as I could not wish to my greatest enemy. At last this message, on which I still placed some hopes, arrived. Joseph sent me some excellent letters of recommendation for Berlin, and bid me adieu in a most noble and touching manner. I was obliged, therefore, to depart. Benjamin Constant was good enough to accompany me; but as he also was very fond of Paris, I felt extremely for the sacrifice he made me. Every step the horses advanced made me ill, and when the postillions boasted of having driven me quickly, I could not help sighing at the disagreeable service they were rendering me. In this way I travelled forty leagues without being able to regain my self-possession. At last we stopped at Chalons, and Benjamin Constant, rallying his spirits, relieved by his wonderful powers of conversation, at least for some moments, the weight which oppressed me. Next day we continued our route as far as Metz, where I wished to stop to wait for news from my father. There I passed fifteen days, and met one of the most amiable and intelligent men whom France and Germany combined could produce, M. Charles Villers. I was delighted with his society, but it renewed my regret for that first of pleasures, a conversation, in which there reigns the most perfect harmony in all that is felt, with all that is expressed.
My father was extremely indignant at the treatment I had received at Paris; he considered that his family were in this manner proscribed, and driven as criminals out of that country which he had so faithfully served. He recommended me to pass the winter in Germany, and not to return to him until the spring. Alas! alas! I calculated on then carrying back to him the harvest of new ideas which I was going to collect in this journey. For several years preceding he was frequently telling me that my letters and conversation were all that kept up his connection with the world. His mind had so much vivacity and penetration, that one was excited to think by the pleasure of talking to him. I made observations to report to him,—I listened, to repeat to him. Ever since I have lost him, I see and feel only half what I did, when I had the object in view of giving him pleasure by the picture of my impressions. At Frankfort, my daughter, then five years old, fell dangerously ill. I knew nobody in that city, and was entirely ignorant of the language; even the physician to whose care I entrusted my child scarcely spoke a word of French. Oh! how much my father shared with me in all my trouble! what letters he wrote me! what a number of consultations of physicians, all copied with his own hand, he sent me from Geneva! Never were the harmony of sensibility and reason carried further; never was there any one like him, possessed of such lively emotion for the sufferings of his friends, always active in assisting them, always prudent in the choice of the means of being so; in short, admirable in every thing. My heart absolutely requires this declaration, for what is now to him even the voice of posterity!
I arrived at Weimar, where I resumed my courage, on seeing, through the difficulties of the language, the immense intellectual riches which existed out of France. I learned to read German; I listened attentively to Goethe and Wieland, who, fortunately for me, spoke French extremely well. I comprehended the mind and genius of Schiller, in spite of the difficulty he felt in expressing himself in a foreign language. The society of the duke and duchess of Weimar pleased me exceedingly, and I passed three months there, during which the study of German literature gave all the occupation to my mind which it requires to prevent me from being devoured by my own feelings.
I left Weimar for Berlin, and there I saw that charming queen, since destined to so many misfortunes. The king received me with great kindness, and I may say that during the six weeks I remained in that city, I never heard an individual who did not speak in praise of the justice of his government. This, however does not prevent me from thinking it always desirable for a country to possess constitutional forms, to guarantee to it, by the permanent co-operation of the nation, the advantages it derives from the virtues of a good king. Prussia, under the reign of its present monarch, no doubt possessed the greater part of these advantages; but the public spirit which misfortune has developed in it did not then exist; the military regime had prevented public opinion from acquiring strength, and the absence of a constitution, in which every individual could make himself known by his merit, had left the state unprovided with men of talent, capable of defending it. The favor of a king, being necessarily arbitrary, cannot be sufficient to excite emulation; circumstances which are peculiar to the interior of courts, may keep a man of great merit from the helm of affairs, or place there a very ordinary person. Routine, likewise, is singularly powerful in countries where the regal power has no one to contradict it; even the justice of a king leads him to place barriers around him, by keeping every one in his place; and it was almost without example in Prussia, to find a man deprived of his civil or military employments on account of incapacity. What an advantage therefore ought not the French army to have, composed almost entirely of men born of the revolution, like the soldiers of Cadmus from the teeth of the dragon! What an advantage it had over those old commanders of the Prussian fortified places and armies, to whom every thing that was new was entirely unknown! A conscientious monarch who has not the happiness, and I use the word designedly, the happiness to have a parliament as in England, makes a habit of every thing, in order to avoid making too much use of his own will: and in the present times we must abandon ancient usages, and look for strength of character and understanding, wherever they can be found. Be that as it may, Berlin was one of the happiest and most enlightened cities in the world.
The writers of the eighteenth century were certainly productive of infinite good to Europe, by the spirit of moderation, and the taste for literature, with which their works inspired the greater part of the sovereigns: it must be admitted, however, that the respect which the friends of knowledge paid to French intellect has been one of the causes which has ruined Germany for such a length of time. Many people regarded the French armies as the propagators of the ideas of Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Voltaire; while the fact was, that, if any traces of the opinions of these great men remained in the instruments of the power of Bonaparte, it was only to liberate them from what they called prejudices, and not to establish a single regenerating principle. But there were at Berlin and in the North of Germany, at the period of the spring of 1804, a great many old partizans of the French revolution, who had not yet discovered that Bonaparte was a much more bitter enemy of the first principles of that revolution, than the ancient European aristocracy.
I had the honor to form an acquaintance with Prince Louis-Ferdinand, the same whose warlike ardor so transported him, that his death was almost the precursor of the first reverses of his country. He was a man full of ardor and enthusiasm, but who, for want of glory, cultivated too much the emotions which agitate life. What particularly irritated him against Bonaparte was his practice of calumniating all the persons he dreaded, and even of degrading in public opinion those whom he employed, in order, at all risks, to keep them more strongly dependant on him. Prince Louis said to me frequently, "I will allow him to kill, but, moral assassination is what revolts me." And in truth let us only consider the state in which we have seen ourselves placed, since this great libeller became master of all the newspapers of the European continent, and could, as he has frequently done, pronounce the bravest men to be cowards, and the most irreproachable women to be subjects of contempt, without our having any means of contradicting or punishing such assertions.
Conspiracy of Moreau and Pichegru.
The news had just arrived at Berlin of the great conspiracy of Moreau, of Pichegru, and of George Cadoudal. There was certainly among the principal heads of the republican and royalist parties a strong desire to overturn the authority of the first consul, and to oppose themselves to the still more tyrannical authority which he resolved to establish on making himself be declared emperor: but it has been said, and perhaps not without foundation, that this conspiracy, which has so well served Bonaparte's tyranny, was encouraged by himself, from his wish to take advantage of it, with a Machiavelian art, of which it is of consequence to observe all the springs. He sent an exiled jacobin into England, who could only obtain his return to France by services to be performed for the first consul. This man presented himself, like Sinon in the city of Troy describing himself as persecuted by the Greeks. He saw several emigrants who had neither the vices nor the faculties necessary to detect a certain kind of villainy. He found it therefore a matter of great ease to entrap an old bishop, an old officer, in short some of the wrecks of a government, under which it was scarcely known what factions were. In the sequel he wrote a pamphlet in which he mystified, with a great deal of wit, all who had believed him, and who in truth ought to have made up what they wanted in sagacity by firmness of principle, that is to say, never to place the least confidence in a man capable of bad actions. We have all our own way at looking at things; but from the moment that a person has shewn himself to be treacherous or cruel, God alone can pardon, for it belongs to him only to read the human heart sufficiently to know if it is changed; man ought to keep himself for ever at a distance from the person who has lost his esteem. This disguised agent of Bonaparte pretended that the elements of revolt existed in France to a great extent; he went to Munich to find an English envoy, Mr. Drake, whom he also contrived to deceive. A citizen of Great Britain ought to have kept clear of this web of artifice, composed of the crossed threads of jacobinism and tyranny.
George and Pichegru, who were entirely devoted to the Bourbon party, came into France secretly, and concerted with Moreau, whose wish was to rid France of the first consul, but not to deprive the French nation of its right to choose that form of government by which it desired to be ruled. Pichegru wished to have a conversation with General Bernadotte, who refused it, being dissatisfied with the manner in which the enterprise was conducted, and desiring first of all, to have a guarantee for the constitutional freedom of France. Moreau, whose moral character is most excellent, whose military talent is unquestionable, and whose understanding is just and enlightened, allowed himself in conversation, to go too great lengths in blaming the first consul, before he could be at all certain of overthrowing him. It is a defect very natural to a generous mind to express its opinion, even inconsiderately; but General Moreau attracted too much the notice of Bonaparte, not to make such conduct the cause of his destruction. A pretext was wanting to justify the arrest of a man who had gained so many battles, and this pretext was found in his conversation, if it could not be in his actions.
Republican forms were still in existence; people called each other citizen, whilst the most terrible inequality, that which liberates some from the yoke of the law, while others are under the dominion of despotism, reigned over all France. The days of the week were still reckoned according to the republican calendar; boasts were made of being at peace with the whole of continental Europe; reports were, (as they still continue to be,) continually presenting upon the making of roads and canals, the building of bridges and fountains; the benefits of the government were extolled to the skies; in short, there was not the least apparent reason for endeavouring to change a state of things, with which the nation was said to be so perfectly satisfied. A plot therefore, in which the English, and the Bourbons should be named, was a most desirable event to the government, in order to stir up once more the revolutionary elements of the nation, and to turn those elements to the establishment of an ultra-monarchical power, under the pretence of preventing the return of the ancient regime. The secret of this combination, which appears very complicated, is in fact very simple: it was necessary to alarm the revolutionists as to the danger to which their interests would be exposed, and to propose to complete their security, by a final abandonment of their principles; and so it was done.
Pichegru was become a decided royalist, as he had formerly been a republican; his opinion had been completely turned; his character was superior to his understanding; but the one was as little calculated as the other to draw men after him. George had more elasticity about him, but he was not fitted either by nature or education for the rank of chief. As soon as it was known that these two were at Paris, Moreau was immediately arrested, the barriers were shut, death was denounced to any one who should give an asylum to Pichegru or George, and all the measures of jacobinism were put in force to protect the life of one man. This man is not only of too much importance in his own eyes to stick at any thing, when his own interests are in question, but it likewise entered into his calculations to alarm men's minds, to recall the days of terror, in short to inspire the nation, if possible, with the desire of throwing itself entirely upon him, in order to escape the troubles which it was the tendency of all his measures to increase. The retreat of Pichegru was discovered, and George was arrested in a cabriolet; for, being unable to live longer in any house, he in this manner traversed the streets night and day, to keep himself out of sight of his pursuers. The police agent who seized him, was recompensed with the legion of honour. I imagine that French soldiers would have wished him any reward but that.
The Moniteur was filled with addresses to the first consul, congratulating him on his escape from this danger; this incessant repetition of the same phrases, bursting from every corner of France, offers such a concord in slavery as is perhaps unexampled in the history of any other people. You may in turning over the Moniteur, find, according to the different epochs, exercises upon liberty, upon despotism, upon philosophy, and upon religion, in which the departments and good cities of France strive to say the same thing in different terms; and one feels astonished that men so intelligent as the French, should attach themselves entirely to success in the style, and never once have had the desire of exhibiting ideas of their own; one might say that the emulation of words was all that they required. These hymns of dictation, however, with the points of admiration which accompany them, announced that France was completely tranquil, and that the small number of the emissaries of perfidious Albion were seized. One general, it is. true, amused himself with reporting, that the English had thrown bales of Levant cotton on the coast of Normandy, to give France the plague; but these inventions of grave buffoonery were only regarded as pieces of flattery addressed to the first consul; and the chiefs of the conspiracy, as well as their agents, being in the power of the government, there was reason for believing that calm was restored in France; but Bonaparte had not vet attained his object.
Assassination of the Duke d'Enghien.
I resided at Berlin on the Spree Quay, and my apartment was on the ground floor. One morning I was awoke at eight o'clock, and told that Prince Louis-Ferdinand was on horseback under my windows, and wished me to come and speak to him. Much astonished at this early visit, I hastened to get up and go to him. He was a singularly graceful horseman, and his emotion heightened the nobleness of his countenance. "Do you know," said he to me, "that the Duke d'Enghien has been carried off from the Baden territory, delivered to a military commission, and shot within twenty four hours after his arrival in Paris?" "What nonsense!" I answered, "don't you see that this can only be a report spread by the enemies of France?" In fact I confess that my hatred of Bonaparte, strong as it was, never went the length of making me believe in the possibility of his committing such an atrocity. "As you doubt what I tell you," replied Prince Louis, "I will send you the Moniteur, in which you will read the sentence." He left me at these words, and the expression of his countenance was the presage of revenge or death. A quarter of an hour afterwards, I had in my hands this Moniteur of the 21st March, (30th Pluviose), which contained the sentence of death pronounced by the military commission sitting at Vincennes, against the person called Louis d'Enghien! It is thus that the French designated the descendant of heroes, who were the glory of their country. Even if they abjured all the prejudices of illustrious birth, which the return of monarchical forms would necessarily recall, could they blaspheme in thus manner the recollection of the battles of Lens and Rocroi? This Bonaparte who has gained so many battles, does not even know how to respect them; with him there is neither past nor future; his imperious and contemptuous soul will recognize nothing for opinion to hold sacred; he admits only respect for the force which is in existence. Prince Louis wrote to me, beginning his note in these words, "The person called Louis of Prussia begs to know of Madame de Stael, &c." He felt the insult offered to the royal blood from which he sprung, to the recollection of the heroes, in the roll of whom he burned to place his name. How was it possible, after this horrible action, for a single monarch in Europe to connect himself with such a man? Necessity, will it be said? There is a sanctuary in the soul to which his empire never ought to penetrate; if there were not, what would virtue be upon this earth? a mere liberal amusement which could only suit the peaceful leisure of private individuals.
A lady of my acquaintance related to me, that a few days after the death of the Duke d'Enghien, she went to take a walk round the castle of Vincennes; the ground, still fresh, marked the spot where he had been buried; some children were playing with little quoits upon this mound of turf, the only monument for the ashes of such a man. An old invalid, with silvered locks, was sitting at a little distance, and remained some time looking at these children; at last he arose, and leading them away by the hand, said to them, shedding some tears, "Do not play there, my children, I beseech you." These tears were all the honors that were paid to the descendant of the great Conde, and the earth did not long bear the impression of them.
For a moment at least, public opinion seemed to awaken in France, and indignation, was general. But when these generous flames were extinguished, despotism was but the more easily established, from the vain efforts which had been made to resist it. The first consul was for some days rather uneasy at the disposition of men's minds. Fouche himself blamed this action; he made use of this expression, so characteristic of the present regime: "It is worse than a crime; it is a fault." There are many ideas in this short phrase; but fortunately we may reverse it with truth, by affirming that the greatest of faults is crime. Bonaparte asked an honest senator, what was thought of the death of the Duke d'Enghien. "General," replied he, "it has given great affliction." "I am not astonished at it," said Bonaparte, "a house which has long reigned in a country always interests:" thus wishing to connect with motives of party interest the most natural feeling that the human heart can experience. Another time he put the same question to a tribune, who, from the desire of pleasing him, answered: "Well, general, if our enemies take measures against us, we are in the right to do the same against them;" not perceiving that this was tantamount to a confession that the deed was atrocious. The first consul affected to consider this act as dictated by reasons of state. One day, about this period, in a discussion with an intelligent man about the plays of Corneille, he said, "You see that the public safety, or to express it better, that state necessity, has with the moderns been substituted in the place of the fatality of the ancients: there is, for instance, such a man, who naturally would be incapable of a crime, but political circumstances impose it upon him as a law. Corneille is the only one who has shewn, in his tragedies, an acquaintance with state necessity; on that account, if he had lived in my time, I would have made him my prime minister." All this appearance of good humour in the discussion was intended to prove that there was nothing of passion in the death of the Duke d'Enghien, and that circumstances, meaning such as the head of the state is exclusively the judge of, might cause and justify every thing. That there was nothing of passion in his resolution about the Duke d'Enghien, is perfectly true; people would have it that rage inspired the crime,—it had nothing to do with it. By what could this rage have been provoked? The Duke d'Enghien had in no way provoked the first consul: Bonaparte hoped at first to have got hold of the Duke de Berry, who it was said, was to have landed in Normandy, if Pichegru had given him notice that it was a proper time. This prince is nearer the throne than the Duke d'Enghien, and besides, he would by coming into France have infringed the existing laws. It therefore suited Bonaparte in every way better to have sacrificed him than the Duke d'Enghien; but as he could not get at the first, he chose the second, in discussing the matter in cold blood. Between the order for carrying him off, and that for his execution, more than eight days had elapsed, and Bonaparte ordered the punishment of the Duke d'Enghien long beforehand, as coolly, as he has since sacrificed millions of men to the caprices of his ambition. We now ask, what were the motives of this horrible action, and I believe it is very easy to penetrate them. First, Bonaparte wished to secure the revolutionary party, by contracting with it an alliance of blood. An old jacobin, when he heard the news, exclaimed, "So much the better! General Bonaparte is now become one of the convention." For a long time the jacobins would only have a man who had voted for the death of the king, for the first magistrate of the republic; that was what they termed, giving pledges to the revolution. Bonaparte fulfilled this condition of crime, substituted for that of property required in other countries; he thus afforded the certainty that he would never serve the Bourbons; and thus such of that party as attached themselves to his, burnt their vessels, never to return.
On the eve of causing himself to be crowned by the same men who had proscribed royalty, and of re-establishing a noblesse composed of the partisans of equality, he believed it necessary to satisfy them by the horrible guarantee of the assassination of a Bourbon. In the conspiracy of Pichegru and Moreau, Bonaparte knew that the republicans and royalists had united against him; this strange coalition, of which the hatred he inspired was the sole bond, had astonished him. Several persons who held places under him, were marked out for the service of that revolution which was to break his power, and it was of consequence to him that henceforward all his agents should consider themselves ruined beyond redemption, if their master was overturned; and, finally, above all, he wished at the moment of his seizing the crown to inspire such terror, that no one in future should think of resisting him. Every thing was violated in this single action: the European law of nations, the constitution such as it then existed, public shame, humanity, and religion. Nothing could go beyond it; every thing was therefore to be dreaded from the man who had committed it. It was thought for some time in France, that the murder of the Duke d'Enghien was the signal of a new system of revolution, and that the scaffolds were about to be re-erected. But Bonaparte only wished to teach the French one thing, and that was, that he dared do every thing; in order that they might give him credit for the evil he abstained from, as others get it for the good they do. His clemency was praised when he allowed a man to live; it had been seen how easy it was for him to cause one to perish. Russia, Sweden, and above all England, complained of this violation of the Germanic empire; the German princes themselves were silent, and the weak sovereign on whose territory the outrage had been committed, requested in a diplomatic note, that nothing more should be said of the event that had happened. Did not this gentle and veiled expression, applied to such an act, characterize the meanness of those princes, who made their sovereignty consist only in their revenues, and treated a state as a capital, of which they must get the interest paid as quietly as they could?
Illness and death of M. Necker.
My father lived long enough to hear of the assassination of the Duke d'Enghien, and the last lines which I received, that were traced by his own hand, expressed his indignation at this atrocity.
In the midst of the most complete security, I found one day upon my table two letters, announcing to me that my father was dangerously ill. The courier who brought them was concealed from me, as well as the news of his death. I set out immediately with the strongest hope, which I preserved in spite of all the circumstances which ought to have extinguished it. When the real truth became known to me at Weimar, I was seized with a mingled sensation of inexpressible terror and despair. I saw myself without support in the world, and compelled to rely entirely on myself for sustaining my soul against misfortune. Many objects of attachment still remained to me, but the sentiment of affectionate admiration which I felt for my father, exercised a sway over me with which no other could come in competition. Grief, which is the truest of prophets, predicted to me that I should never more be happy at heart, as I had been, whilst this man of all-powerful sensibility watched over my fate; and not a single day has elapsed since the month of April 1804, in which I have not connected all my troubles with his loss. So long as my father lived, I suffered only from imagination; for in the affairs of real life, he always found means to be of service to me; after I lost him, I came in direct communication with destiny. It is nevertheless still to the hope that he is praying for me in heaven, that I am indebted for the fortitude I retain. It is not merely the affection of a daughter, but the most intimate knowledge of his character which makes me affirm that I have never seen human nature carried nearer to perfection than it was in his soul; if I was not convinced of the truth of a future state, I should become mad with the idea that such a being could have ceased to exist. There was so much of immortality in his thoughts and feelings, that it happens to me a hundred times, whenever I feel emotions that elevate me above myself, I believe I still hear him.
During my melancholy journey from Weimar to Coppet, I could not help envying the existence of every object that circulated in nature, even the birds and insects which were flying round me; I asked only a day, a single day, to talk to him once more, to excite his compassion; I envied those forest trees whose existence is prolonged for centuries; but the inexorable silence of the grave has something in it which confounds the human intellect; and although it is the truth of all others the best known to us, the strength of the impression it leaves can never be effaced. As I approached my father's residence, one of my friends pointed out to me on the mountain some clouds which bore the resemblance of an immense human figure, which would disappear towards the evening: it seemed to me that the heavens thus offered me the symbol of the loss I had just sustained. He was a man truly great: a man, who in no circumstances of his life ever preferred the most important of his interests to the least of his duties;—a man, whose virtues were inspired to that degree by his goodness, that he could have dispensed with principles, and whose principles were so strict that he might have dispensed with goodness.
On my arrival at Coppet, I learned that my father, during the illness of nine days which had deprived me of him, had been continually and anxiously occupying himself about my fate. He reproached himself for his last book, as the cause of my exile; and with a trembling hand, he wrote, during his fever, a letter to the first consul, in which he assured him that I had nothing whatever to do with the publication of his last work, but that on the contrary, I had desired that it should not be printed. This voice of a dying man had so much solemnity! this last prayer of a man who had played so important a part in France, asking as an only favor, the return of his children to the place of their birth, and an act of oblivion to the imprudences which a daughter, then young, might have committed,—all this appeared to me irresistible: and well as I ought to have known the character of the man, that happened to me, which I believe is in the nature of all who ardently desire the cessation of a great affliction:—I hoped contrary to all expectation. The first consul received this letter, and doubtless must have thought me an extreme simpleton to flatter myself for a moment that he would be in the least moved by it. Certainly, I am in that point quite of his opinion.
Trial of Moreau.
The trial of Moreau still proceeded, and although the journals preserved the most profound silence on the subject, the publicity of the pleadings was sufficient to rouse the minds, and never did the public opinion in Paris show itself so strongly against Bonaparte as it did at that period. The French have more need than any other people of a certain degree of liberty of the press; they require to think and to feel in common; the electricity of the emotions of their neighbours is necessary to make them experience the shock in their turn, and their enthusiasm never displays itself in an isolated manner. Whoever wishes to become their tyrant therefore does well to allow no kind of manifestation to public opinion; Bonaparte joins to this idea, which is common to all despots, an artifice peculiar to the present time, to wit, the art of proclaiming some factitious opinion in journals which have the appearance of being free, they make so many phrases in the sense which they are ordered. It must be confessed that our French writers are the only ones who can in this manner every morning embellish the same sophism, and who hug themselves in the very superfluity of servitude. While the instruction of this famous affair was in progress, the journals informed Europe that Pichegru had strangled himself in the Temple; all the gazettes were filled with a surgical report, which appeared very improbable, notwithstanding the care with which it was drawn up. If it is true that Pichegru had perished the victim of assassination, let us figure to ourselves the situation of a brave general, surprised by cowards in the bottom of his dungeon,—defenceless,—condemned for several days to that prison solitude which sinks the courage of the soul,—ignorant even if his friends will ever know in what manner he perished,—if his death will be revenged,—if his memory will not be outraged! Pichegru had, in his first interrogatory, exhibited a great deal of courage, and threatened, it was said, to exhibit proofs of the promises which Bonaparte had made to the Vendeans of effecting the return of the Bourbons. Some persons pretend that he had been subjected to the torture, as well as two other conspirators, (one of whom, named Picot, shewed his mutilated hands at the tribunal), and that they dared not expose to the eyes of the French people one of its old defenders subjected to the torture of slaves. I give no credit to this conjecture; we must always, in the actions of Bonaparte, look for the calculation which has dictated them, and we shall find none in this latter supposition: while it is, perhaps, true, that the appearance of Moreau and Pichegru together at the bar of a tribunal would have inflamed public opinion to its highest pitch. Already the crowd in the tribunes was immense; several officers, at the head of whom was a loyal man, General Lecourbe, exhibited the most lively and courageous interest for General Moreau. When he repaired to the tribunal, the gendarmes who guarded him always respectfully presented arms to him. Already it had begun to be felt that honor was on the side of the persecuted; but Bonaparte, by his all at once making himself be declared emperor, in the midst of this fermentation, entirely diverted mens' minds by this new perspective, and concealed his progress better in the midst of the storm by which he was surrounded, than he could have done in the calm.
General Moreau pronounced before the tribunal one of the best speeches which history presents to us; he recalled, with perfect modesty, the battles which he had gained since Bonaparte governed France; he excused himself for having frequently expressed himself, perhaps with too much freedom, and contrasted in an indirect manner the character of a Breton with that of a Corsican; in short, he exhibited at Once a great deal of mind, and the most perfect presence of mind, at a moment so critical. Regnier at that time united the ministry of police with that of justice, in the room of Fouchc, who had been disgraced. He repaired to Saint Cloud on leaving the tribunal. The emperor asked him what sort of speech Moreau had made: "Contemptible," said he. "In that case," said the emperor, "let it be printed, and distributed all over Paris." When Bonaparte found afterwards how much his minister had been mistaken, he returned at last to Fouche, the only man who could really second him, from his carrying, unfortunately for the world, a sort of skilful moderation into a system that had no limits.
An old jacobin, one of Bonaparte's condemned spirits, was employed to speak to the judges, to induce them to condemn Moreau to death. "That is necessary" said he to them, "to the consideration due to the emperor, who caused him to be arrested; but you ought to make the less scruple in consenting to it, as the emperor is resolved to pardon him." "And who will enable us to pardon ourselves, if we cover ourselves with such infamy?" replied one of the judges,* whose name I am not at liberty to mention, for fear of exposing him. General Moreau was condemned to two years' imprisonment; George and several others of his friends to death; one of the MM. de Polignac to two, and the other to four years' imprisonment: and both of them are still confined, as well as several others, of whom the police laid hold, when the period of their sentence had expired. Moreau requested to have his imprisonment commuted for perpetual banishment; perpetual in this instance should be called for life, for the misery of the world is placed on the head of one man. Bonaparte readily consented to this banishment, which suited his views in all respects. Frequently, on Moreau's passage to the place where he was to embark, the mayors of the towns, whose business it was to viser his passport of banishment, shewed him the most respectful attention. "Gentlemen," said one of them to his audience, "make way for General Moreau," and he made an obeisance to him as he would have done to the emperor. There was still a France in the hearts of men, but the idea of acting according to one's opinion had already ceased to exist, and at present it is difficult to know if there remains any, it has been so long stifled. When he arrived at Cadiz, these same Spaniards, who were a few years after destined to give so great an example, paid every possible homage to a victim of tyranny. When Moreau passed through the English fleet, their vessels saluted him as if he had been the commander of an allied army. Thus the supposed enemies of France took upon them to acquit her debt to one of her most illustrious defenders. When Bonaparte caused Moreau to be arrested, he said, "I might have made him come to me, and have told him: 'Listen, you and I cannot remain upon the same soil; go therefore, as I am the strongest;' and I believe he would have gone. But these chivalrous manners are puerile in public matters." Bonaparte believes, and has had the art to persuade several of the Machiavelian apprentices of the new generation, that every generous feeling is mere childishness. It is high time to teach him that virtue also has something manly in it, and more manly than crime with all its audacity.
* M. Clavier.
Commencement of the Empire.
The motion to call Bonaparte to the Empire was made in the tribunate by a conventionalist, formerly a jacobin, supported by Jaubert, an advocate, and deputy from the merchants of Bourdeaux, and seconded by Simeon, a man of understanding and good sense, who had been proscribed as a royalist under the republic. It was Bonaparte's wish that the partisans of the old regime, and those of the permanent interests of the nation, should unite in choosing him. It was settled that registers should be opened all over France, to enable every one to express his wish regarding the elevation of Bonaparte to the throne. But without waiting for the result of this, prepared as it was before-hand, he took the title of emperor by a senatus consultum, and this unfortunate senate had not even the strength to put constitutional limits to this new monarchy. A tribune, whose name I wish I dared mention,* had the honor to make a special motion for that purpose. Bonaparte, in order to anticipate this idea, adroitly sent for some of the senators, and told them, "I feel very much at thus being placed in front; I like my present situation much better. The continuation of the republic is, however, no longer possible; people are quite tired out with it: I believe that the French wish for royalty. I had at first thought of recalling the old Bourbons, but that would have only ruined them, and myself. It is my thorough conviction, that there must be at last a man at the head of all this; perhaps, however, it would be better to wait some time longer I have made France a century older in the last five years; liberty, that is a good civil code, and modern nations care little for any thing but property. However, if you will believe me, name a committee, organise the constitution, and, I tell you fairly." added he smiling, "take precautions against my tyranny; take them, believe me." This apparent good nature seduced the senators, who, to say the truth, desired nothing better than to be seduced. One of them, a men of letters, of some distinction, but one of those philosophers who are always finding philanthropic motives for being satisfied with power, said to one of my friends, "It is wonderful! with what simplicity the emperor allows himself to be told every thing! The other day, I made him a discourse an hour long, to prove the absolute necessity of founding the new dynasty on a charter which should secure the rights of the nation." And what reply did he make you? was asked. "He clapped me on the shoulder with the most perfect good humour, and told me: 'You are quite right, my dear senator; but trust me, this is not the moment for it'." And this senator, like many others, was quite satisfied with having spoken, though his opinion was not in the least degree acted upon. The feelings of self-importance have a prodigiously greater influence over the French than those of character.
* M. Gallois.
A very odd peculiarity in the French, and which Bonaparte has penetrated with great sagacity, is, that they, who are so ready to perceive what is ridiculous in others, desire nothing better than to render themselves ridiculous, as soon as their vanity finds its account in it in some other way. Nothing certainly presents a greater subject for pleasantry, than the creation of an entirely new noblesse, such as Bonaparte established for the support of his new throne. The princesses and queens, citizenesses of the day before, could not themselves refrain from laughing at hearing themselves styled, your majesty. Others, more serious, delighted in having their title of monseigneur repeated from morning to night, like Moliere's City Gentleman. The old archives were rummaged for the discovery of the best documents on etiquette; men of merit found a grave occupation in making coats of armour for the new families; finally, no day passed which did not afford some scene worthy of the pen of Moliere; but the terror, which formed the back ground of the picture, prevented the grotesque of the front from being laughed at as it deserved to be. The glory of the French generals illustrated all, and the obsequious courtiers contrived to slide themselves in under the shadow of military men, who doubtless deserved the severe honors of a free state, but not the vain decorations of such a court. Valor and genius descend from heaven, and whoever is gifted with them has no need of other ancestors. The distinctions which are accorded in republics or limited monarchies ought to be the reward of services rendered to the country, and every one may equally pretend to them; but nothing savours so much of Tartar despotism as this crowd of honors emanating from one man, and having his caprice for their source.
Puns without end were darted against this nobility of yesterday; and a thousand expressions of the new ladies were quoted, which presumed little acquaintance with good manners. And certainly there is nothing so difficult to learn, as the kind of politeness which is neither ceremonious nor familiar: it seems a trifle, but it requires a foundation in ourselves; for no one acquires it, if it is not inspired by early habits or elevation of mind. Bonaparte himself is embarrassed on occasions of representation; and frequently in his own family, and even with foreigners, he seems to feel delighted in returning to those vulgar actions and expressions which remind him of his revolutionary youth. Bonaparte knew very well that the Parisians made pleasantries on his new nobility; but he knew also that their opinions would only be expressed in vulgar jokes, and not in strong actions. The energy of the oppressed went not beyond the equivoque of a pun; and as in the East they have been reduced to the apologue, in France they sunk still lower, namely, to the clashing of syllables. A single instance of a jeu de mots deserves, however, to survive the ephemeral success of such productions; one day as the princesses of the blood were announced, some one added, of the blood of Enghien. And in truth, such was the baptism of this new dynasty.
Several of the old nobility who had been ruined by the revolution, were not unwilling to accept employments at court. It is well known by what a gross insult Bonaparte rewarded their complaisance. "I proposed to give them rank in my army, and they declined it; I offered them places in the administration, and they refused them; but when I opened my anti-chambers, they rushed into them in crowds." They had no longer any asylum but in his power. Several gentlemen, on this occasion, set an example of the most noble resistance; but how many others have represented themselves as menaced before they had the least reason for apprehension! and how many more have solicited for themselves or their families, employments at court, which all of them, ought to have spurned at! The military or the administrative careers are the only ones in which we can flatter ourselves with being useful to our country, whoever may be the chief who governs it; but employments at court render you dependant on the man, and not on the state.
Registers were made to receive votes for the empire, like those which had been opened for the consulship for life; even all those who did not sign, were, as in the former instance, reckoned as voting for; and the small number of individuals who thought proper to write no, were dismissed from their employments. M. de Lafayette, the constant friend of liberty, again exhibited an invariable resistance; he had the greater merit, because already in this country of bravery, they no longer knew how to estimate courage. It is quite necessary to make this distinction, as we see the divinity of fear reign in France over the most intrepid warriors. Bonaparte would not even subject himself to the law of hereditary monarchy, but reserved the power of adopting and choosing his successor in the manner of the East. As he had then no children, he wished not to give his own family the least right; and at the very moment of his elevating them to ranks to which assuredly they had no pretensions, he subjected them to his will by profoundly combined decrees, which entwined the new thrones with chains.
The fourteenth of July was again celebrated this year, (1804) because it was said the empire consecrated all the benefits of the revolution. Bonaparte had said that storms had strengthened the roots of government; he pretended that the throne would guarantee liberty: he repeated in all manner of ways, that Europe would be tranquillized by the re-establishment of monarchy in the government of France. In fact, the whole of Europe, with the exception of illustrious England, recognized his new dignity: he was styled my brother, by the knights of the ancient royal brotherhood. We have seen in what manner he has rewarded them for their fatal condescension. If he had been sincerely desirous of peace, even old King George himself, whose reign has been the most glorious in the English annals, would have been obliged to recognize him as his equal. But, a very few days after his coronation, Bonaparte pronounced some words which disclosed all his purposes: "People laugh at my new dynasty; in five years time it will be the oldest in all Europe." And from that moment he has never ceased tending towards this end.
A pretext was required, to be always advancing, and this pretext was the liberty of the seas. It is quite incredible how easy it is to make the most intelligent people on earth swallow any nonsense for gospel. It is still one of those contrasts which would be altogether inexplicable, if unhappy France had not been stripped of religion and morality by a fatal concurrence of bad principles and unfortunate events. Without religion no man is capable of any sacrifice, and as without morality no one speaks the truth, public opinion is incessantly led astray. It follows therefore, as we have already said, that there is no courage of conscience, even when that of honor exists: and that with admirable intelligence in the execution, no one even asks himself what all this is to lead to?
At the time that Bonaparte formed the resolution to overturn the thrones of the Continent, the sovereigns who occupied them were all of them very honorable persons. The political and military genius of the world was extinct, but the people were happy; although the principles of free constitutions were not admitted into the generality of states, the philosophical ideas which had for fifty years been spreading over Europe had at least the merit of preserving from intolerance, and mollifying the reign of despotism. Catherine II. and Frederic II. both cultivated the esteem of the French authors, and these two monarchs, whose genius might have subjected the world, lived in presence of the opinion of enlightened men and sought to captivate it. The natural bent of men's minds was directed to the enjoyment and application of liberal ideas, and there was scarcely an individual who suffered either in his person or in his property. The friends of liberty were undoubtedly in the right, in discovering that it was necessary to give the faculties an opportunity of developing themselves; that it was not just that a whole people should depend on one man; and that a national representation afforded the only means of guaranteeing the transitory benefits that might be derived from the reign of a virtuous sovereign. But what came Bonaparte to offer? Did he bring a greater liberty to foreign nations? There was not a monarch in Europe who would in a whole year have committed the acts of arbitrary insolence which signalized every day of his life. He came solely to make them exchange their tranquillity, their independence, their language, their laws, their fortunes, their blood, and their children, for the misfortune and the shame of being annihilated as nations, and despised as men. He began finally that enterprize of universal monarchy, which is the greatest scourge by which mankind can be menaced, and the certain cause of eternal war.
None of the arts of peace at all suit Bonaparte: he finds no amusement but in the violent crises produced by battles. He has known how to make truces, but he has never said sincerely, enough; and his character, irreconcileable with the rest of the creation, is like the Greek fire, which no strength in nature has been known to extinguish.
END OF THE FIRST PART.
ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR.
There is at this place in the manuscript a considerable vacuum, of which I have already given an explanation*, and which I am not sufficiently informed to make the attempt to fill up. But to put the reader in a situation to follow my mother's narrative, I will run over rapidly the principal circumstances of her life during the five years which separate the first part of these memoirs from the second.
* See the Preface.
On her return to Switzerland after the death of her father, the first desire she felt was to seek some alleviation of her sorrow in giving to the world the portrait of him whom she had just lost, and in collecting the last traces of his thoughts. In the Autumn of 1804, she published the MSS. of her father, with a sketch of his public and private character.
My mother's health, impaired by misfortune, necessitated her to go and breathe the air of the South. She set out for Italy. The beautiful sky of Naples, the recollections of antiquity, and the chefs-d'oeuvre of art, opened to her new sources of enjoyment, to which she had been hitherto a stranger; her soul, overwhelmed with grief, seemed to revive to these new impressions, and she recovered sufficient strength to think and to write. During this journey, she was treated by the diplomatic agents of France without favor, but without injustice. She was interdicted a residence at Paris; she was banished from her friends and her habits; but tyranny had not, at least at that time, pursued her beyond the Alps; persecution had not as yet been established as a system, as it was afterwards. I even feel a real pleasure in mentioning that some letters of recommendation sent her by Joseph Bonaparte, contributed to render her residence at Rome more agreeable.
She returned from Italy in the summer of 1805, and passed a year at Coppet and Geneva, where several of her friends were collected. During this period she began to write Corinne.
During the following year, her attachment to France, that feeling which had so much power over her heart, made her quit Geneva and go nearer to Paris, to the distance of forty leagues from it, which was still permitted to her. I was then pursuing my studies, preparatory to entering into the Polytechnic school; and from her great goodness to her children, she wished to watch over their education, as near as her exile could allow her. She went in consequence to settle at Auxerre, a little town where she had no acquaintance, but of which the prefect, M. de la Bergerie, behaved to her with great kindness and delicacy.
From Auxerre she went to Rouen: this was approaching some leagues nearer the centre to which all the recollections and all the affections of her youth attracted her. There she could at least receive letters daily from Paris; she had penetrated without any obstacle the inclosure, entrance into which had been forbidden to her; she might hope that the fatal circle would progressively be contracted. Those only who have suffered banishment will be able to understand what passed in her heart. M. de Savoie-Rollin was then prefect of the Lower Seine; it is well known by what glaring injustice he was removed some years afterwards, and I have reason to believe that his friendship for my mother, and the interest which he shewed for her, during her residence at Rouen, were no slight causes of the rigor of which he became the object.
Fouche was still minister of police. His system was, as my mother has said, to do as little evil as possible, the necessity of the object admitted. The Prussian monarchy had just fallen; there was no longer any enemy upon the Continent to struggle with the government of Napoleon; no internal resistance shackled his progress, or could afford the least pretext for the employment of arbitrary measures; what motive, therefore, could he have for prolonging the most gratuitous persecution of my mother? Fouche then permitted her to come and settle at the distance of twelve leagues from Paris, upon an estate belonging to M. de Castellane. There she finished Corinne, and superintended the printing of it. In other respects, the retired life she there led, the extreme prudence of her whole conduct, and the very small number of persons who were not prevented by the fear of disgrace from coming to visit her, might have been sufficient to tranquillize the most suspicious despotism. But all this did not satisfy Bonaparte; he wanted my mother to renounce entirely the employment of her talents, and to interdict her from writing even upon subjects the most unconnected with politics. It will be seen that even at a later period this abnegation was not sufficient to preserve her from a continually increasing persecution.
Scarcely had Corinne made her appearance, when a new exile commenced for my mother, and she saw all the hopes vanish, with which she had for some months been consoling herself. By a fatality which rendered her grief more pungent, it was on the 9th of April, the anniversary of her father's death, that the order which again banished her from her country, and her friends, was signified to her. She returned to Coppet, with a bleeding heart, and the prodigious success of Corinne afforded very little diversion to her sorrow.
Friendship, however, succeeded in accomplishing what literary glory had failed to do; and, thanks to the proofs of affection which she received on her return to Switzerland, the summer passed more agreeably than she could have hoped. Several of her friends left Paris to come to see her, and Prince Augustus of Prussia, to whom peace had restored his liberty, did us the honor to stop several months at Coppet, prior to his return to his native country.
Ever since her journey to Berlin, which had been so cruelly interrupted by the death of her father, my mother had regularly continued the study of the German literature and philosophy; but a new residence in Germany was necessary to enable her to complete the picture of that country, which she proposed to present to France. In the autumn of 1807, she set out for Vienna, and she there once more found, in the society of the Prince de Ligne, of the Princess Lubomirski, &c. &c. that urbanity of manners and ease of conversation, which had such charms in her eyes. The Austrian government, exhausted by the war, had not then the strength to be an oppressor on its own account, and notwithstanding preserved towards France, an attitude which was not without dignity and independence. The objects of Napoleon's hatred might still find an asylum at Vienna; the year she passed in that city, was therefore, the most tranquil one she had enjoyed since the commencement of her exile.
On her return to Switzerland, where she spent two years in writing her reflections upon Germany, she was not long in perceiving the progress which the imperial tyranny was every day making, and the contagious rapidity with which the passion for places, and the fear of disgrace, were spreading. No doubt several friends, both at Geneva and in France, preserved to her during her misfortunes, a courageous and unshaken fidelity; but, whoever had any connection with the government, or aspired to any employment, began to keep at a distance from her house, and to dissuade timid people from approaching it. My mother suffered a great deal from all these symptoms of servitude, which she detected with incomparable sagacity; but the more unhappy she was, the more she felt the desire of diverting from the persons who were about her, the miseries of her situation, and of diffusing around her that life and intellectual movement, which solitude seemed to exclude.
Her talent for declamation was the means of amusement which had the greatest influence over herself, at the same time that it varied the pleasures of her society. It was at this period, and while she was still laboring on her great work on Germany, that she composed and played at Coppet, the greater part of the little pieces which are collected in the 16th volume of her works*, under the title of Dramatic Essays.
* Or the Second Volume of her OEuvres inedites.
Finally, at the beginning of summer, 1810, having finished the three volumes of Germany, she wished to go and superintend the printing of them, at 40 leagues distance from Paris, a distance which was still permitted to her, and where she might hope to see again those of her old friends, whose affections had not bent before the disgrace of the Emperor.
She went, therefore, to reside in the neighbourhood of Blois, in' the old castle of Chaumont-sur-Loire, which had in former times been inhabited by the Cardinal d'Amboise, Diana of Poitiers, and Catherine de Medicis. The present proprietor of this romantic residence, M. Le Ray, with whom my parents were connected by the ties of friendship and business, was then in America. But just at the time we were occupying his chateau, he returned from the United States with his family, and though he was very urgent in wishing us to remain in his house, the more he pressed us politely to do so, the more anxiety we felt, lest we should incommode him. M. de Salaberry relieved us from this embarrassment with the greatest kindness, by placing at our disposal his house at Fosse. At this period my mother's narrative recommences.
Part The Second
Suppression of my Work on Germany.—Banishment from France.
Being unable to remain longer in the castle of Chaumont, the proprietors of which had returned from America, I went and fixed myself at a farm called Fosse, which a generous friend lent me.* The house was inhabited by a Vendean soldier, who certainly did not keep it in the nicest order, but who had a loyal good nature that made every thing easy, and an originality of character that was very amusing. Scarcely had we arrived, when an Italian musician, whom I had with me to give lessons to my daughter, began playing upon the guitar; my daughter accompanied upon the harp the sweet voice of my beautiful friend Madame Recamier; the peasants collected round the windows, astonished to see this colony of troubadours, which had come to enliven the solitude of their master. It was there I passed my last days in France, with some friends, whose recollection lives in my heart. Certainly this intimate assemblage, this solitary residence, this agreeable occupation with the fine arts did no harm to any one. We frequently sung a charming air composed by the Queen of Holland, and of which the burden is: 'Do what you ought, happen what may'. After dinner, we had imagined the idea of seating ourselves round a green table and writing letters to each other, instead of conversing. These varied and multiplied tetes-a-tete amused us so much, that we were impatient to get from table, where we were talking, in order to go and write to one another. When any strangers came in accidentally, we could not bear the interruption of our habits; and our penny post (it is thus we called it) always went its round. The inhabitants of the neighbouring town were somewhat astonished at these new manners, and looked upon them as pedantic, while there was nothing in this game, but a resource against the monotony of solitude. One day a gentleman of the neighbourhood who had never thought of any thing in his life but the chase, came to take my boys with him into the woods; he remained sometime seated at our active but silent table; Madame Recamier wrote a little note with her beautiful hand to this jolly sportsman, in order that he might not be too much a stranger to the circle in which he was placed. He excused himself from receiving it, assuring us that he could never read writing by day-light: we laughed a little at the disappointment which the benevolent coquetry of our beautiful friend had met with, and thought that a billet from her hand would not have always had the same fate. Our life passed in this manner, without any of us, if I may judge from myself, finding the time at all burdensome.
* M. de Salaberry.
The opera of Cinderella was making a great noise at Paris; I wished to go and see it represented at a paltry provincial theatre at Blois. Coming out of the theatre on foot, the people of the place followed me in crowds from curiosity, more desirous of knowing me because I was an exile, than from any other motive. This kind of celebrity which I derived from misfortune, much more than from talent, displeased the minister of police, who wrote sometime after to the prefect of Loir and Cher, that I was surrounded by a court. "Certainly," said I to the prefect* "it is not power at least which gives it me."
* M. de Corbigny, an amiable and intelligent man.
I had always the intention of repairing to England by the way of America; but I was anxious to terminate my work on Germany. The season was now advancing; we were already at the fifteenth of September, and I began to foresee that the difficulty of embarking my daughter with me would detain me another winter, in some town, I knew not where, at forty leagues from Paris. I was then desirous that it should be Vendome, where I knew several clever people, and where the communication with the capital was easy. After having formerly had one of the most brilliant establishments in Paris, I was now contented to anticipate considerable pleasure from establishing myself at Vendome; fate however denied me even this modest happiness.
On the 23d of September I corrected the last proof of Germany; after six years' labor, I felt the greatest delight in putting the word End to my three volumes. I made a list of one hundred persons to whom I wished to send copies, in different parts of France and Europe; I attached great importance to this book, which I thought well adapted to communicate new ideas to France; it appeared to me that a sentiment elevated without being hostile, had inspired it, and that people would find in it a language which was no longer spoken.
Furnished with a letter from my publisher, which assured me that the censorship had authorised the publication of my work, I believed that I had nothing to apprehend, and set out with my friends for an estate of M. Mathieu de Montmorency, at five leagues from Blois. The house belonging to this estate is situated in the middle of a forest; there I walked about with the man whom I most respect in the world, since I have lost my father. The fineness of the weather, the magnificence of the forest, the historical recollections which the place recalled, being the scene of the battle of Fretteval, fought between Philip Augustus and Richard Coeur-de-Lion, all contributed to fill my mind with the most quiet and delightful impressions. My worthy friend, who is only occupied in this world with rendering himself worthy of heaven, in this conversation, as in all those we have had together, paid no attention to affairs of the day, and only sought to do good to my soul. We resumed our journey the next day, and in these plains of the Vendomois, where you meet not with a single habitation, and which like the sea seem to present every where the same appearance, we contrived to lose ourselves completely. It was already midnight, and we knew not what road to take, in a country every where the same, and where fertility is as monotonous as sterility is elsewhere, when a young man on horseback, perceiving our embarrassment, came and requested us to pass the night in the chateau of his parents.* We accepted his invitation, which was doing us a real service, and we found ourselves all of a sudden in the midst of the luxury of Asia, and the elegance of France. The masters of the house had spent a considerable time in India, and their chateau was adorned with every thing they had brought back from their travels. This residence excited my curiosity, and I found myself extremely comfortable in it. Next day M. de Montmorency gave me a note from my son which pressed me to return home, as my work had met with fresh difficulties from the censorship. My friends who were with me in the chateau conjured me to go; I had not the least suspicion of what they were concealing from me, and thinking there was nothing but what Augustus's letter mentioned,* whiled away the time in examining the Indian curiosities without any idea of what was in store for me. At last I got into the carriage, and my brave and intelligent Vendean whom his own dangers had never moved, squeezed my hand, with tears in his eyes: I guessed immediately that they were making a mystery to me of some new persecution, and M. de Montmorency, in reply to my interrogations, at last acquainted me that the minister of the police had sent his myrmidons to destroy the ten thousand copies which had been printed of my book, and that I had received an order to quit France within three days. My children and friends had wished me not to hear this news while I was among strangers; but they had taken every possible precaution to prevent the seizure of my manuscript, and they succeeded in saving it, some hours before I was required to deliver it up. This new blow affected me most severely, I had flattered myself with an honorable success by the publication of my book: if the censors had in the first instance refused to authorise its being printed, that would have appeared to me very simple; but after having submitted to all their observations, and made all the alterations required of me, to learn that my work was destroyed, and that I must separate my self from the friends who had supported my courage, all this made me shed tears. But I endeavored once more to get the better of my feelings, in order to determine what was best to be done in a crisis where the step I was about to take might have so much influence on the fortunes of my family. As we drew near my habitation, I gave my writing desk, which contained some further notes upon my book, to my youngest son; he jumped over a wall to get into the house by the garden. An English lady*, my excellent friend, came out to meet me and inform me of all that had happened. I observed at a distance some, gendarmes who were wandering round residence, but it did not appear that they were in search of me: they were no doubt in pursuit of some other unfortunates, conscripts, exiles, persons in surveillance, or, in short, of some of the numerous classes of oppressed which the present government of France has created.