Fouche had many enemies, and I was not, therefore, surprised to find some of the Ministers endeavouring to take advantage of the difference between his opinion and that of the First Consul; and it must be owned that the utter ignorance of the police respecting this event was a circumstance not very favourable to Fouche. He, however, was like the reed in the fable—he bent with the wind, but was soon erect again. The most skilful actor could scarcely imitate the inflexible calmness he maintained during Bonaparte's paroxysm of rage, and the patience with which he allowed himself to be accused.
Fouche, when afterwards conversing with me, gave me clearly to understand that he did not think the Jacobins guilty. I mentioned this to the First Consul, but nothing could make him retract his opinion. "Fouche," said he, "has good reason for his silence. He is serving his own party. It is very natural that he should seek to screen a set of men who are polluted with blood and crimes! He was one of their leaders. Do not I know what he did at Lyons and the Loire? That explains Fouche's conduct now!"
This is the exact truth; and now let me contradict one of the thousand fictions about this event. It has been said and printed that "the dignitaries and the Ministers were assembled at the Tuileries. 'Well,' said the First Consul, advancing angrily towards Fouche, 'will you still say that this is the Royalist party?' Fouche, better informed than was believed, answered coolly, 'Yes, certainly, I shall say so; and, what is more, I shall prove it.' This speech caused general astonishment, but was afterwards fully borne out." This is pure invention. The First Consul only said to Fouche; "I do not trust to your police; I guard myself, and I watch till two in the morning." This however, was very rarely the case.
On the day after the explosion of the infernal machine a considerable concourse assembled at the Tuileries. There was absolutely a torrent of congratulations. The prefect of the Seine convoked the twelve mayors of Paris and came at their head to wait on the First Consul. In his reply to their address Bonaparte said, "As long as this gang of assassins confined their attacks to me personally I left the law to take its course; but since, by an unparalleled crime, they have endangered the lives of a portion of the population of Paris, their punishment must be as prompt as exemplary. A hundred of these wretches who have libeled liberty by perpetrating crimes in her name must be effectually prevented from renewing their atrocities." He then conversed with the Ministers, the Councillors of State, etc., on the event of the preceding day; and as all knew the First Consul's opinion of the authors of the crime each was eager to confirm it. The Council was several times assembled when the Senate was consulted, and the adroit Fouche, whose conscience yielded to the delicacy of his situation, addressed to the First Consul a report worthy of a Mazarin. At the same time the journals were filled with recollections of the Revolution, raked up for the purpose of connecting with past crimes the individuals on whom it was now wished to cast odium. It was decreed that a hundred persons should be banished; and the senate established its character for complaisance by passing a 'Senatus-consulte' conformable to the wishes of the First Consul.
A list was drawn up of the persons styled Jacobins, who were condemned to transportation. I was fortunate enough to obtain the erasure of the names of several whose opinions had perhaps been violent, but whose education and private character presented claims to recommendation. Some of my readers may probably recollect them without my naming them, and I shall only mention M. Tissot, for the purpose of recording, not the service I rendered him, but an instance of grateful acknowledgment.
When in 1815 Napoleon was on the point of entering Paris M. Tissot came to the prefecture of police, where I then was, and offered me his house as a safe asylum; assuring me I should there run no risk of being discovered. Though I did not accept the offer yet I gladly seize on this opportunity of making it known. It is gratifying to find that difference of political opinion does not always exclude sentiments of generosity and honour! I shall never forget the way in which the author of the essays on Virgil uttered the words 'Domus mea'.
But to return to the fatal list. Even while I write this I shudder to think of the way in which men utterly innocent were accused of a revolting crime without even the shadow of a proof. The name of an individual, his opinions, perhaps only assumed, were sufficient grounds for his banishment. A decree of the Consuls, dated 4th of January 1801, confirmed by a 'Senates-consulte' on the next day, banished from the territory of the Republic, and placed under special inspectors, 130 individuals, nine of whom were merely designated in the report as Septembrizers.
The exiles, who in the reports and in the public acts were so unjustly accused of being the authors of the infernal machine, were received at Nantes, with so much indignation that the military were compelled to interfere to save them from being massacred.
In the discussions which preceded the decree of the Consuls few persons had the courage to express a doubt respecting the guilt of the accused. Truguet was the first to mount the breach. He observed that without denying the Government the extraordinary means for getting rid of its enemies he could not but acknowledge that the emigrants threatened the purchasers of national domains, that the public mind was corrupted by pamphlets, and that—Here the First Consul, interrupting him, exclaimed, "To what pamphlets do you allude?"—"To pamphlets which are publicly circulated."—"Name them!"—"You know them as well as I do."
—[The Parallel between Caesar, Cromwell, and Bonaparte, of which I shall speak a little farther on, is here alluded to.—Bourrienne.]—
After a long and angry ebullition the First Consul abruptly dismissed the Council. He observed that he would not be duped; that the villains were known; that they were Septembrizers, the hatchers of every mischief. He had said at a sitting three days before, "If proof should fail, we must take advantage of the public excitement. The event is to me merely the opportunity. They shall be banished for the 2d September, for the 31st May, for Baboeuf's conspiracy—or anything else."
On leaving one of the sittings of the Council, at which the question of a special tribunal had been discussed, he told me that he had been a little ruffled; that he had said a violent blow must be struck; that blood must be spilt; and that as many of the guilty should be shot as there had been victims of the explosion (from fifteen to twenty); that 200 should be banished, and the Republic purged of these scoundrels.
The arbitrariness and illegality of the proceeding were so evident that the 'Senatus-consulte' contained no mention of the transactions of the 3d Nivose, which was very remarkable. It was, however, declared that the measure of the previous day had been adopted with a view to the preservation of the Constitution. This was promising.
The First Consul manifested the most violent hatred of the Jacobins; for this he could not have been blamed if under the title of Jacobins he had not comprised every devoted advocate of public liberty. Their opposition annoyed him and he could never pardon them for having presumed to condemn his tyrannical acts, and to resist the destruction of the freedom which he had himself sworn to defend, but which he was incessantly labouring to overturn. These were the true motives of his conduct; and, conscious of his own faults, he regarded with dislike those who saw and disapproved of them. For this reason he was more afraid of those whom he called Jacobins than of the Royalists.
I am here recording the faults of Bonaparte, but I excuse him; situated as he was, any other person would have acted in the same way. Truth now reached him with difficulty, and when it was not agreeable he had no disposition to hear it. He was surrounded by flatterers; and, the greater number of those who approached him, far from telling him what they really thought; only repeated what he had himself been thinking. Hence he admired the wisdom of his Counsellors. Thus Fouche, to maintain himself in favour, was obliged to deliver up to his master 130 names chosen from among his own most intimate friends as objects of proscription.
Meanwhile Fouche, still believing that he was not deceived as to the real authors of the attempt of the 3d Nivose, set in motion with his usual dexterity all the springs of the police. His efforts, however, were for sometime unsuccessful; but at length on Saturday, the 31st January 1801, about two hours after our arrival at Malmaison, Fouche presented himself and produced authentic proofs of the accuracy of his conjectures. There was no longer any doubt on the subject; and Bonaparte saw clearly that the attempt of the 3d Nivose was the result of a plot hatched by the partisans of royalty. But as the act of proscription against those who were jumbled together under the title of the Jacobins had been executed, it was not to be revoked.
Thus the consequence of the 3d Nivose was that both the innocent and guilty were punished; with this difference, however, that the guilty at least had the benefit of a trial.
When the Jacobins, as they were called, were accused with such precipitation, Fouche had no positive proofs of their, innocence; and therefore their illegal condemnation ought not to be attributed to him. Sufficient odium is attached to his memory without his being charged with a crime he never committed. Still, I must say that had he boldly opposed the opinion of Bonaparte in the first burst of his fury he might have averted the blow. Every time he came to the Tuileries, even before he had acquired any traces of the truth, Fouche always declared to me his conviction of the innocence of the persons first accused. But he was afraid to make the same observation to Bonaparte. I often mentioned to him the opinion of the Minister of Police; but as proof was wanting he replied to me with a triumphant air, "Bah! bah! This is always the way with Fouche. Besides, it is of little consequence. At any rate we shall get rid of them. Should the guilty be discovered among the Royalists they also shall be punished."
The real criminals being at length discovered through the researches of Fouche, St. Regent and Carbon expiated their crimes by the forfeit of their heads. Thus the First Consul gained his point, and justice gained hers.
—[It was St. Regent, or St. Rejeant, who fired the infernal machine. The violence of the shock flung him against a post and part of his breast bone was driven in. He was obliged to resort to a surgeon, and it would seem that this man denounced him. (Memoirs of Miot de Melito, tome i. p. 264).
The discussions which took place in the Council of State on this affair are remarkable, both for the violence of Napoleon and for the resistance made in the Council, to a great extent successfully, to his views as to the, plot being one of the Jacobin party.]—
I have often had occasion to notice the multifarious means employed by Bonaparte to arrive at the possession of supreme power, and to prepare men's minds for so great change. Those who have observed his life must have so remarked how entirely he was convinced of the truth that public opinion wastes itself on the rumour of a project and possesses no energy at the moment of its execution. In order, therefore, to direct public attention to the question of hereditary power a pamphlet was circulated about Paris, and the following is the history of it:—
In the month of December 1800, while Fouche was searching after the real authors of the attempt of the 3d Nivose, a small pamphlet, entitled "Parallel between Caesar, Cromwell, anal Bonaparte," was sent to the First Consul. He was absent when it came. I read it, and perceived that it openly advocated hereditary monarchy. I then knew nothing about the origin of this pamphlet, but I soon learned that it issued from the office of the Minister of the Interior [Lucien Bonaparte], and that it had been largely circulated. After reading it I laid it on the table. In a few minutes Bonaparte entered, and taking up the pamphlet pretended to look through it: "Have you read this?" said he.—"Yes, General."— "Well! what is your opinion of it?"—"I think it is calculated to produce an unfavourable effect on the public mind: it is ill-timed, for it prematurely reveals your views." The First Consul took the pamphlet and threw it on the ground, as he did all the stupid publications of the day after having slightly glanced over them. I was not singular in my opinion of the pamphlet, for next day the prefects in the immediate neighbourhood of Paris sent a copy of it to the First Consul, complaining of its mischievous effect; and I recollect that in one of their letters it was stated that such a work was calculated to direct against him the poniards of new assassins. After reading this correspondence he said to me, "Bourrienne, sent for Fouche; he must come directly, and give an account of this matter." In half an hour Fouche was in the First Consul's cabinet. No sooner had he entered than the following dialogue took place, in which the impetuous warmth of the one party was strangely contrasted with the phlegmatic and rather sardonic composure of the other.
"What pamphlet is this? What is said about it in Paris?"—"General, there is but one opinion of its dangerous tendency."—"Well, then, why did you allow it to appear?"—"General, I was obliged to show some consideration for the author!"—"Consideration for the author! What do you mean? You should have sent him to the temple."—"But, General, your brother Lucien patronises this pamphlet. It has been printed and published by his order. In short, it comes from the office of the Minister of the Interior."—"No matter for that! Your duty as Minister of Police was to have arrested Lucien, and sent him to the Temple. The fool does nothing but contrive how he can commit me!"
With these words the First Consul left the cabinet, shutting the door violently behind him. Being now alone with Fouche, I was eager to get an explanation of the suppressed smile which had more than once curled his lips during Bonaparte's angry expostulation. I easily perceived that there was something in reserve. "Send the author to the Temple!" said Fouche; "that would be no easy matter! Alarmed at the effect which this parallel between Caesar, Cromwell, and Bonaparte was likely to produce, I went to Lucien to point out to him his imprudence. He made me no answer, but went and got a manuscript, which he showed me, and which contained corrections and annotations in the First Consul's handwriting."
When Lucien heard how Bonaparte had expressed his displeasure at the pamphlet, he also came to the Tuileries to reproach his brother with having thrust him forward and then abandoned him. "'Tis your own fault," said the First Consul. "You have allowed yourself to be caught! So much the worse for you! Fouche is too cunning for you! You are a mere fool compared with him!" Lucien tendered his resignation, which was accepted, and he departed for Spain. This diplomatic mission turned to his advantage. It was necessary that one should veil the Machiavellian invention of the 'Parallel.'
—[The 'Parallel' has been attributed to different writers; some phrases seemed the work of Lucien, but, says Thiers (tome ii p. 210), its rare elegance of language and its classical knowledge of history should attribute it to its real anchor, Fontanel, Joseph Bonaparte (Erreurs tome i. p. 270) says that Fontanel wrote it, and Lucien Bonaparte corrected it. See Meneval, tome iii. p. 105. Whoever wrote it Napoleon certainly planned its issue. "It was," said he to Roederer, "a work of which he himself had given the idea, but the last pages were by a fool" (Miot, tome i, p. 318). See also Lanfrey, tome ii. p. 208; and compare the story in Iung's Lucien, tome ii. p. 490. Miot, then in the confidence of Joseph, says, that Lucien's removal from, office was the result of an angry quarrel between him and Fouche in the presence of Napoleon, when Fouche attacked Lucien, not only for the pamphlet, but also for the disorder of his public and his private life; but Miot (tome i, p, 319) places the date of this as the 3d November, while Bourrienne dates the disapproval of the pamphlet in December.]—
Lucien, among other instructions, was directed to use all his endeavours to induce Spain to declare against Portugal in order to compel that power to separate herself from England.
The First Consul had always regarded Portugal as an English colony, and he conceived that to attack it was to assail England. He wished that Portugal should no longer favour England in her commercial relations, but that, like Spain, she should become dependent on him. Lucien was therefore sent as ambassador to Madrid, to second the Ministers of Charles IV. in prevailing on the King to invade Portugal. The King declared war, but it was not of long duration, and terminated almost without a blow being struck, by the taking of Olivenza. On the 6th of June 1801 Portugal signed the treaty of Badajoz, by which she promised to cede Olivenza, Almeida, and some other fortresses to Spain, and to close her ports against England. The First Consul, who was dissatisfied with the treaty, at first refused to ratify it. He still kept his army in Spain, and this proceeding determined Portugal to accede to some slight alterations in the first treaty. This business proved very advantageous to Lucien and Godoy.
The cabinet of the Tuileries was not the only place in which the question of hereditary succession was discussed. It was the constant subject of conversation in the salons of Paris, where a new dynasty was already spoken of. This was by no means displeasing to the First Consul; but he saw clearly that he had committed a mistake in agitating the question prematurely; for this reason he waged war against the Parallel, as he would not be suspected of having had any share in a design that had failed. One day he said to me, "I believe I have been a little too precipitate. The pear is not quite ripe!" The Consulate for life was accordingly postponed till 1802, and the hereditary empire till 1804.
After the failure of the artful publication of the pamphlet Fouche invited me to dine with him. As the First Consul wished me to dine out as seldom as possible, I informed him of the invitation I had received. He was, however, aware of it before, and he very readily gave me leave to go. At dinner Joseph was placed on the right of Fouche, and I next to Joseph, who talked of nothing but his brother, his designs, the pamphlet, and the bad effect produced by it. In all that fell from him there was a tone of blame and disapproval I told him my opinion, but with greater reserve than I had used towards his brother. He seemed to approve of what I said; his confidence encouraged me, and I saw with pleasure that he entertained sentiments entirely similar to my own. His unreserved manner so imposed upon me that, notwithstanding the experience I had acquired, I was far from suspecting myself to be in the company of a spy. Next day the First Consul said to me very coldly, "Leave my letters in the basket, I will open them myself." This unexpected direction surprised me exceedingly, and I determined to play him a trick in revenge for his unfounded distrust. For three mornings I laid at the bottom of the basket all the letters which I knew came from the Ministers, and all the reports which were addressed to me for the First Consul. I then covered them over with those which; judging from their envelopes and seals, appeared to be of that trifling kind with which the First Consul was daily overwhelmed: these usually consisted of requests that he would name the number of a lottery ticket, so, that the writer might have the benefit of his good luck—solicitations that he would stand godfather to a child—petitions for places—announcements of marriages and births—absurd eulogies, etc. Unaccustomed to open the letters, he became impatient at their number, and he opened very few. Often on the same day, but always on the morrow, came a fresh letter from a Minister, who asked for an answer to his former one, and who complained of not having received one. The First Consul unsealed some twenty letters and left the rest.
The opening of all these letters, which he was not at other times in the habit of looking at, annoyed him extremely; but as I neither wished to carry the joke too far, nor to remain in the disagreeable position in which Joseph's treachery had placed me, I determined to bring the matter to a conclusion. After the third day, when the business of the night, which had been interrupted by little fits of ill-humour, was concluded, Bonaparte retired to bed. Half an hour after I went to his chamber, to which I was admitted at all hours. I had a candle in my hand, and, taking a chair, I sat down on the right side of the bed, and placed the candle on the table. Both he and Josephine awoke. "What is the matter?" he asked with surprise. "General, I have come to tell you that I can no longer remain here, since I have lost your confidence. You know how sincerely I am devoted to you; if you have, then, anything to reproach me with, let me at least know it, for my situation during the last three days lies been very painful."—"What has Bourrienne done?" inquired Josephine earnestly.—"That does not concern you," he replied. Then turning to me he said, "Tis true, I have cause to complain of you. I have been informed that you have spoken of important affairs in a very indiscreet manner."—"I can assure you that I spoke to none but your brother. It was he who led me into the conversation, and he was too well versed in the business for me to tell him any secret. He may have reported to you what he pleased, but could not I do the same by him? I could accuse and betray him as he has accused and betrayed me. When I spoke in confidence to your brother, could I regard him as an inquisitor?"—"I must confess," replied Bonaparte, "that after what I heard from Joseph I thought it right to put my confidence in quarantine."—"The quarantine has lasted three days, General; surely that is long enough."—"Well, Bourrienne, let us say no more about it. Open my letters as usual; you will find the answers a good deal in arrear, which has much vexed me; and besides, I was always stumbling on some stupid nonsense or other!"
I fancy I still see and hear the amiable Josephine sitting up in bed and saying, in her gentle way, "What! Bonaparte, is it possible you could suspect Bourrienne, who is so attached to you, and who is your only friend? How could you suffer such a snare to be laid for him? What! a dinner got up on purpose! How I hate these odious police manoeuvres!"—"Go to sleep," said Bonaparte; "let women mind their gewgaws, and not interfere with politics." It was near two in the morning before I retired.
When, after a few hours' sleep, I again saw the First Consul, he was more kind to me than ever, and I perceived that for the present every cloud had dispersed.'
—[Joseph Bonaparte (Erreurs, tome i. p. 273) says what he reported to his brother was Bourrienne's conversation to him in the First Consul's cabinet during Napoleon's absence. It is curious that at the only time when Napoleon became dissatisfied with Meneval (Bourrienne's successor), and ordered him not to open the letters, he used the same expression when returning to the usual order of business, which in this case was to a few hours. "My dear Meneval," said he, "there are circumstances in which I am forced to put my confidence in quarantine." (Meneval, tome i. p. 123). For any one who has had to manage an office it is pleasant to find that even Napoleon was much dependent on a good secretary. In an illness of his secretary he said, showing the encumbrance of his desk, "with Meneval I should soon clear off all that." (Meneval, tome i. p. 151.)]
Austria bribed by England—M. de St. Julien in Paris—Duroc's mission—Rupture of the armistice—Surrender of three garrisons— M. Otto in London—Battle of Hohenlinden—Madame Moreau and Madame Hulot—Bonaparte's ill-treatment of the latter—Congress of Luneville—General Clarke—M. Maret—Peace between France and Austria—Joseph Bonaparte's speculations in the funds— M. de Talleyrand's advice—Post-office regulation—Cambaceres— Importance of good dinners in the affairs of Government—Steamboats and intriguers—Death of Paul I.—New thoughts of the reestablishment of Poland—Duroc at St. Petersburg—Bribe rejected— Death of Abercromby.
Mm armistice concluded after the battle of Marengo, which had been first broken and then resumed, continued to be observed for some time between the armies of the Rhine and Italy and the Imperial armies. But Austria, bribed by a subsidy of 2,000,000 sterling, would not treat for peace without the participation of England. She did not despair of recommencing the war successfully.
M. de St. Julien had signed preliminaries at Paris; but the Court of Vienna disavowed them, and Duroc, whom Bonaparte sent to convey the preliminaries to Vienna for the Imperial ratification, was not permitted to pass the Austrian advance poets. This unexpected proceeding, the result of the all-powerful influence of England, justly incensed the First Consul, who had given decided proofs of moderation and a wish for peace. "I want peace," said he to me, "to enable me to organise the interior; the people also want it. You see the conditions I offer. Austria, though beaten, obtains all she got at Campo-Formio. What can she want more? I could make further exactions; but, without fearing the reverses of 1799, I must think of the future. Besides, I want tranquillity, to enable me to settle the affairs of the interior, and to send aid to Malta and Egypt. But I will not be trifled with. I will force an immediate decision!"
In his irritation the First Consul despatched orders to Moreau, directing him to break the armistice and resume hostilities unless he regained possession of the bridges of the Rhine and the Danube by the surrender of Philipsburg, Ulm, and Ingolstadt. The Austrians then offered to treat with France on new bases. England wished to take part in the Congress, but to this the First Consul would not consent until she should sign a separate armistice and cease to make common cause with Austria.
The First Consul received intelligence of the occupation of the three garrisons on the 23d of September, the day he had fixed in his ultimatum to England for the renewal of hostilities. But for the meanwhile he was satisfied with the concessions of Austria: that power, in the expectation of being supported by England, asked her on what terms she was to treat.
During these communications with Austria M. Otto was in London negotiating for the exchange of prisoners. England would not hear of an armistice by sea like that which France had concluded with Austria by land. She alleged that, in case of a rupture, France would derive from that armistice greater advantage than Austria would gain by that already concluded. The difficulty and delay attending the necessary communications rendered these reasons plausible. The First Consul consented to accept other propositions from England, and to allow her to take part in the discussions of Luneville, but on condition that she should sign a treaty with him without the intervention of Austria. This England refused to do. Weary of this uncertainty, and the tergiversation of Austria, which was still under the influence of England, and feeling that the prolongation of such a state of things could only turn to his disadvantage, Bonaparte broke the armistice. He had already consented to sacrifices which his successes in Italy did not justify. The hope of an immediate peace had alone made him lose sight of the immense advantages which victory had given him.
Far from appearing sensible to the many proofs of moderation which the First Consul evinced, the combined insolence of England and Austria seemed only to increase. Orders were immediately given for resuming the offensive in Germany and Italy, and hostilities then recommenced.
The chances of fortune were long doubtful. After a reverse Austria made promises, and after an advantage she evaded them; but finally, fortune proved favourable to France. The French armies in Italy and Germany crossed the Mincio and the Danube, and the celebrated battle of Hohenlinden brought the French advanced posts within ten leagues of Vienna. This victory secured peace; for, profiting by past experience, the First Consul would not hear of any suspension of arms until Austria should consent to a separate treaty. Driven into her last intrenchments, Austria was obliged to yield. She abandoned England; and the English Cabinet, in spite of the subsidy of 2,000,000 sterling, consented to the separation. Great Britain was forced to come to this arrangement in consequence of the situation to which the successes of the army of Moreau had reduced Austria, which it was certain would be ruined by longer resistance.
England wished to enter into negotiations at Luneville. To this the First Consul acceded; but, as he saw that England was seeking to deceive him, he required that she should suspend hostilities with France, as Austria had done. Bonaparte very reasonably alleged that an indefinite armistice on the Continent would be more to the disadvantage of France than a long armistice by sea would be unfavourable to England. All this adjourned the preliminaries to 1801 and the peace to 1802.
The impatience and indignation of the First Consul had been highly excited by the evasions of Austria and the plots of England, for he knew all the intrigues that were carrying on for the restoration of the Bourbons. His joy may be therefore conceived when the battle of Hohenlinden balanced the scale of fortune in his favour. On the 3d of December 1800 Moreau gained that memorable victory which at length put an end to the hesitations of the Cabinet of Vienna.
—[On the eve of the battle of Hohenlinden Moreau was at supper with his aides de camp and several general officers, when a despatch was delivered to him. After he had read it be said to his guests, though he was far from being in the habit of boasting, "I am here made acquainted with Baron Kray's movements. They are all I could wish. To-morrow we will take from him 10,000 prisoners." Moreau took 40,000, besides a great many flags.—Bourrienne.]—
On the 6th of December the First Consul received intelligence of the battle of Hohenlinden. It was on a Saturday, and he had just returned from the theatre when I delivered the despatches to him. He literally danced for joy. I must say that he did not expect so important a result from the movements of the army of the Rhine. This victory gave a new face to his negotiations for peace, and determined the opening of the Congress of Luneville, which took place on the 1st of January following.
On receiving information of the battle of Hohenlinden, Madame Moreau came to the Tuileries to call on the First Consul and Madame Bonaparte. She did not see them, and repeated her calls several times with no better success. The last time she came she was accompanied by her mother, Madame Hulot. She waited for a considerable time in vain, and when she was going away her mother, who could no longer restrain her feelings, said aloud, before me and several persons of the household, that "it ill became the wife of the conqueror of Hohenlinden to dance attendance in this way." This remark reached the ears of those to whom it was directed. Madame Moreau shortly after rejoined her husband in Germany; and some time after her departure Madame Hulot came to Malmaison to solicit promotion for her eldest son, who was in the navy. Josephine received Madame Hulot very kindly, and requested her to stay to dinner. She accepted the invitation. The First Consul, who did not see her until the hour of dinner, treated her very coolly: he said little to her, and retired as soon as dinner was over. His rudeness was so marked and offensive that Josephine, who was always kind and amiable, thought it necessary to apologise, by observing that his mind was disturbed by the non-arrival of a courier whom he expected.
Bonaparte entertained no dislike of Moreau, because he did not fear him; and after the battle of Hohenlinden he spoke of him in the highest terms, and frankly acknowledged the services he had rendered on that important occasion; but he could not endure his wife's family, who, he said, were a set of intriguers.
—[Napoleon had good reason for his opinion. "Moreau had a mother- in-law and a wife lively and given to intrigue. Bonaparte could not bear intriguing women. Besides, on one occasion Madame Moreau's mother, when at Malmaison, had indulged in sharp remarks on a suspected scandalous intimacy between Bonaparte and his young sister Caroline, then just married. The Consul had not forgiven such conversation" (Remusat tome i. P. 192). see also Meneval, tome iii. p. 57, as to the mischief done by Madame Hulot.]—
Luneville having been fixed upon for the Congress, the First Consul sent his brother Joseph to treat with Count Louis de Cobentzel. On his way Joseph met M. de Cobentzel, who had passed Luneville, and was coming to Paris to sound the sentiments of the French Government. Joseph returned to Paris with him. After some conversation with the First Consul they set out next day for Luneville, of which place Bonaparte appointed General Clarke governor. This appeared to satisfy Clarke, who was very anxious to be something, and had long been importuning Bonaparte for an appointment.
A day or two after the news of the battle of Hohenlinden M. Maret came to present for Bonaparte's signature some, decrees made in Council. While affixing the signatures, and without looking up, the First Consul said to M. Maret, who was a favourite with him, and who was standing at his right hand, "Are you rich, Maret?"—"No, General."—"So much the worse: a man should be independent."—"General, I will never be dependent on any one but you." The First Consul then raised his eyes to Maret and said, "Hem! that is not bad!" and when the secretary-general was gone he said to me, "Maret is not deficient in cleverness: he made me a very good answer."
On the 9th of February 1801, six weeks after the opening of the Congress of Luneville, peace was signed between Austria and France. This peace—the fruit of Marengo and Hohenlinden—restored France to that honourable position which had been put in jeopardy by the feeble and incapable government of the pentarchy and the reverses of 1799. This peace, which in the treaty, according to custom, was called perpetual, lasted four years.
Joseph Bonaparte, while treating for France at Luneville, was speculating on the rise of the funds which he thought the peace would produce. Persons more wise, who were like him in the secret, sold out their stock at the moment when the certainty of the peace became known. But Joseph purchased to a great extent, in the hope of selling to advantage on the signature of peace. However, the news had been discounted, and a fall took place. Joseph's loss was considerable, and he could not satisfy the engagements in which his greedy and silly speculations had involved him. He applied to his brother, who neither wished nor was able to advance him the necessary sum. Bonaparte was, however, exceedingly sorry to see his elder brother in this embarrassment. He asked me what was to be done. I told him I did not know; but I advised him to consult M. de Talleyrand, from whom he had often received good advice. He did so, and M. de Talleyrand replied, with that air of coolness which is so peculiar to him, "What! is that all? Oh! that is nothing. It is easily settled. You have only to raise the price of the funds."—"But the money?"— "Oh, the money may be easily obtained. Make some deposits in the Mont-de-Piste, or the sinking fund. That will give you the necessary money to raise the funds; and then Joseph may sell out, and recover his losses." M. de Talleyrand's advice was adopted, and all succeeded as he had foretold. None but those who have heard M. de Talleyrand converse can form an accurate idea of his easy manner of expressing himself, his imperturbable coolness, the fixed unvarying expression of his countenance, and his vast fund of wit.
—[Talleyrand had a large experience in all sorts of speculation. When old he gave this counsel to one of his proteges: "Do not speculate. I have always speculated on assured information, and that has cost me so many millions;" and he named his losses. We may believe that in this reckoning he rather forgot the amount of his gains (Sainte-Beuve, Talleyrand, 93).]—
During the sitting of the Congress the First Consul learnt that the Government couriers conveyed to favoured individuals in Paris various things, but especially the delicacies of the table, and he ordered that this practice should be discontinued. On the very evening on which this order was issued Cambaceres entered the salon, where I was alone with the First Consul, who had already been laughing at the mortification which he knew this regulation would occasion to his colleague: "Well, Cambaceres, what brings you here at this time of night?"—"I come to solicit an exception to the order which you have just given to the Director of the Posts. How do you think a man can make friends unless he keeps a good table? You know very well how much good dinners assist the business of Government." The First Consul laughed, called him a gourmand, and, patting him on the shoulder, said, "Do not distress yourself, my dear Cambaceres; the couriers shall continue to bring you your 'dindes aux truffes', your Strasburg 'pates', your Mayence hams, and your other titbits."
Those who recollect the magnificent dinners given by Cambaceres and others, which were a general topic of conversation at the time, and who knew the ingenious calculation which was observed in the invitation of the guests, must be convinced of the vast influence of a good dinner in political affairs. As to Cambaceres, he did not believe that a good government could exist without good dinners; and his glory (for every man has his own particular glory) was to know that the luxuries of his table were the subject of eulogy throughout Paris, and even Europe. A banquet which commanded general suffrage was to him a Marengo or a Friedland.
—[Bourrienne does not exaggerate this excellent quality of the worthy Cambaceres. When Beugnot was sent to administer the Grand Duchy of Berg, Cambaceres said to him, "My dear Beugnot, the Emperor arranges crowns as he chooses; here is the Grand Duke of Berg (Murat) going to Naples; he is welcome, I have no objection, but every year the Grand Duke sent me a couple of dozen hams from his Grand Duchy, and I warn you I do not intend to lose them, so you must make your preparations.". . . . I never once omitted to acquit myself of the obligation, and if there were any delay, . . . his Highness never failed to cause one of his secretaries to write a good scolding to my house steward; but when the hams arrived exactly, his highness never failed to write to my wife himself to thank her.
This was not all; the hams were to come carriage free. This petty jobbery occasioned discontent, . . . and it would not have cost me more to pay the carriage. The Prince would not allow it. There was an agreement between him and Lavalette (the head of the Posts), . . . And my Lord appeared to lay as much stress on the performance of this treaty as on the procuring of the ham, (Beugnot, tome i. p. 262).
Cambaceres never suffered the cares of Government to distract his attention from the great object of life. On one occasion, for example, being detained in consultation with Napoleon beyond the appointed hour of dinner—it is said that the fate of the Duc d'Enghien was the topic under discussion—he was observed, when the hour became very late, to show great symptoms of impatience sod restlessness. He at last wrote a note which he called a gentleman usher in waiting to carry. Napoleon, suspecting the contents, nodded to an aide de camp to intercept the despatch. As he took it into his hands Cambaceres begged earnestly that he would not read a trifling note upon domestic matters. Napoleon persisted, and found it to be a note to the cook containing only the following words, "Gardez les entremetes—les rotis sont perdue." When Napoleon was in good humor at the result of a diplomatic conference he was accustomed to take leave of the plenipotentiaries with, "Go and dine Cambaceres." His table was in fact an important state engine, as appears from the anecdote of the trout sent to him by the municipality of Geneva, and charged 300 francs in their accounts. The Imperial 'Cour des Comptes' having disallowed the item, was interdicted from meddling with similar municipal affairs in future (Hayward's Art of Dining, p. 20).]
At the commencement of 1801 Fulton presented to Bonaparte his memorial on steamboats. I urged a serious examination of the subject. "Bah!" said he, "these projectors are all either intriguers or visionaries. Don't trouble me about the business." I observed that the man whom he called an intriguer was only reviving an invention already known, and that it was wrong to reject the scheme without examination. He would not listen to me; and thus was adjourned, for some time, the practical application of a discovery which has given such an important impulse to trade and navigation.
Paul I. fell by the hands of assassins on the night of the 24th of March 1801. The First Consul was much shocked on receiving the intelligence. In the excitement caused by this unexpected event, which had so important an influence on his policy, he directed me to send the following note to the Moniteur:—
Paul I. died on the night of the 24th of March, and the English squadron passed the Sound on the 30th. History will reveal the connection which probably exists between these two events.
Thus were announced the crime of the 24th of March and the not ill-founded suspicions of its authors.
—[We do not attempt to rescue the fair name of our country. This is one among many instances in which Bourrienne was misled.—Editor of 1886 edition.]—
The amicable relations of Paul and Bonaparte had been daily strengthened. "In concert with the Czar," said Bonaparte, "I was sure of striking a mortal blow at the English power in India. A palace revolution has overthrown all my projects." This resolution, and the admiration of the Autocrat of Russia for the head of the French Republic, may certainly be numbered among the causes of Paul's death. The individuals generally accused at the time were those who were violently and perseveringly threatened, and who had the strongest interest in the succession of a new Emperor. I have seen a letter from a northern sovereign which in my mind leaves no doubt on this subject, and which specified the reward of the crime, and the part to be performed by each actor. But it must also be confessed that the conduct and character of Paul I., his tyrannical acts, his violent caprices, and his frequent excesses of despotism, had rendered him the object of accumulated hatred, for patience has its limit. These circumstances did not probably create the conspiracy, but they considerably facilitated the execution of the plot which deprived the Czar of his throne and his life.
As soon as Alexander ascended the throne the ideas of the First Consul respecting the dismemberment of Poland were revived, and almost wholly engrossed his mind. During his first campaign in Italy, and several times when in Egypt, he told Sulkowsky that it was his ardent wish to reestablish Poland, to avenge the iniquity of her dismemberment, and by that grand repertory act to restore the former equilibrium of Europe. He often dictated to me for the 'Moniteur' articles tending to prove, by various arguments, that Europe would never enjoy repose until those great spoilations were avenged and repaired; but he frequently destroyed these articles instead of sending them to press. His system of policy towards Russia changed shortly after the death of Paul. The thought of a war against that empire unceasingly occupied his mind, and gave birth to the idea of that fatal campaign which took place eleven years afterwards, and which had other causes than the re-establishment of Poland. That object was merely set forward as a pretext.
Duroc was sent to St. Petersburg to congratulate the Emperor Alexander on his accession to the throne. He arrived in the Russian capital on the 24th of May. Duroc, who was at this time very young, was a great favourite of the First Consul. He never importuned Bonaparte by his solicitations, and was never troublesome in recommending any one or busying himself as an agent for favour; yet he warmly advocated the cause of those whom he thought injured, and honestly repelled accusations which he knew to be false. These moral qualities; joined to an agreeable person and elegant manners, rendered him a very superior man.
The year 1801 was, moreover, marked by the fatal creation of special tribunals, which were in no way justified by the urgency of circumstances. This year also saw the re-establishment of the African Company, the treaty of Luneville (which augmented the advantages France had obtained by the treaty of Campo-Formio), and the peace concluded between Spain and Portugal by means of Lucien. On the subject of this peace I may mention that. Portugal, to obtain the cession of Olivenza, secretly offered Bonaparte, through me, 8,000,000 of francs if he would contribute his influence towards the acquisition of that town by Portugal. He, rejected this offer indignantly, declaring that he would never sell honour for money. He has been accused of having listened to a similar proposition at Passeriano, though in fact no such proposition was ever made to him. Those who bring forward such accusations little know the inflexibility of his principles on this point.
One evening in April 1801 an English paper—the London Gazette—arrived at Malmaison. It announced the landing in Egypt of the army commanded by Abercromby, the battle given by the English, and the death of their General. I immediately translated the article, and presented it to the First Consul, with the conviction that the news would be very painful to him. He doubted its truth, or at least pretended to do so. Several officers and aides de camp who were in the salon coincided in his opinion, especially Lannes, Bessieres, and Duroc. They thought by so doing to please the First Consul, who then said to me, in a jeering tone, "Bah! you do not understand English. This is the way with you: you are always inclined to believe bad news rather than good!" These words, and the approving smiles of the gentlemen present, ruffled me, and I said with some warmth, "How, General, can you believe that the English Government would publish officially so important an event if it were not true? Do you think that a Government that has any self-respect would, in the face of Europe, state a falsehood respecting an affair the truth of which cannot long remain unknown? Did you ever know an instance of so important an announcement proving untrue after it had been published in the London Gazette? I believe it to be true, and the smiles of these gentlemen will not alter my opinion." On these observations the First Consul rose and said, "Come, Bourrienne, I want you in the library." After we had left the salon he added, "This is always the way with you. Why are you vexed at such trifles? I assure you I believe the news but too confidently, and I feared it before it came. But they think they please me by thus appearing to doubt it. Never mind them."—"I ask your pardon," said I, "but I conceive the best way of proving my attachment to you is to tell you what I believe to be true. You desire me not to delay a moment in announcing bad news to you. It would be far worse to disguise than to conceal it."
An experiment of royalty—Louis de Bourbon and Maria Louisa, of Spain—Creation of the kingdom of Etruria—The Count of Leghorn in Paris—Entertainments given him—Bonaparte's opinion of the King of Etruria—His departure for Florence, and bad reception there— Negotiations with the Pope—Bonaparte's opinion on religion—Te Deum at Notre Dame—Behaviour of the people in the church—Irreligion of the Consular Court—Augerean's remark on the Te Deum—First Mass at St. Cloud-Mass in Bonaparte's apartments—Talleyrand relieved from his clerical vows—My appointment to the Council of State.
Before he placed two crowns on his own head Bonaparte thought it would promote the interests of his policy to place one on the head of a prince, and even a prince of the House of Bourbon. He wished to accustom the French to the sight of a king. It will hereafter be seen that he gave sceptres, like his confidence, conditionally, and that he was always ready to undo his own work when it became an obstacle to his ambitious designs.
In May 1801 the Infanta of Spain, Maria Louisa, third daughter of Charles IV., visited Paris. The Infante Louis de Bourbon, eldest son of the Duke of Parma, had gone to Madrid in 1798 to contract a marriage with Maria Amelia, the sister of Maria Louisa; but he fell in love with the latter. Godoy favoured the attachment, and employed all his influence to bring about the marriage. The son who, six years later, was born of this union, was named Charles Louis, after the King of Spain. France occupied the Duchy of Parma, which, in fulfilment of the conventions signed by Lucien Bonaparte, was to belong to her after the death of the reigning Duke. On the other hand, France was to cede the Grand Duchy of Tuscany to the son of the Duke of Parma; and Spain paid to France, according to stipulation, a considerable sum of money. Soon after the treaty was communicated to Don Louis and his wife they left Madrid and travelled through France. The prince took the title of Count of Leghorn. All accounts are unanimous as to the attentions which the Prince and Princess received on their journey. Among the, fetes in honour of the illustrious couple that given by M. de Talleyrand at Neuilly was remarkable for magnificence.
When the Count of Leghorn was coming to pay his first visit to Malmaison Bonaparte went into the drawing-room to see that everything was suitably prepared for his reception. In a few minutes he returned to his cabinet and said to me, somewhat out of humour, "Bourrienne, only think of their stupidity; they had not taken down the picture representing me on the summit of the Alps pointing to Lombardy and commanding the conquest of it. I have ordered its removal How mortifying it would have been if the Prince had seen it!"
Another picture in the drawing-room at Malmaison represented the First Consul sleeping on the snow on the summit of the Alps before the battle of Marengo.
The Count of Leghorn's visit to Paris imparted brilliancy to the first years of the reign of Bonaparte, of whom it was at that time said, "He made kings, but would not be one!"
At the representation of AEdipus, the following expression of Philactetes was received with transport:—
"J'ai fait des Souverains, et n'ai pas voulu l'etre."
["Monarchs I've made, but one I would not be."]
The First Consul, on leaving the theatre, did not conceal his satisfaction. He judged, from the applause with which that verse had been received, that his pamphlet was forgotten. The manner, moreover, in which a king, crowned by his hands, had been received by the public, was no indifferent matter to him, as he expected that the people would thus again become familiar with what had been so long proscribed.
This King, who, though well received and well entertained, was in all respects a very ordinary man, departed for Italy. I say very ordinary, not that I had an opportunity of judging of his character myself, but the First Consul told me that his capabilities were extremely limited; that he even felt repugnance to take a pen in his hand; that he never cast a thought on anything but his pleasures: in a word, that he was a fool.
One day, after the First Consul had spent several hours in company with him and his consort, he said to me, "I am quite tired. He is a mere automaton. I put a number of questions to him, but he can answer none. He is obliged to consult his wife, who makes him understand as well as she is able what he ought to say." The First Consul added, "The poor Prince will set off to-morrow, without knowing what he is going to do." I observed that it was a pity to see the happiness of the people of Tuscany entrusted to such a prince. Bonaparte replied, "Policy requires it. Besides, the young man is not worse than the usual run of kings." The Prince fully justified in Tuscany the opinion which the First Consul formed of him.
—[This unfortunate Prince was very ill-calculated to recommend, by his personal character, the institutions to which the nobility clung with so much fondness. Nature had endowed him with an excellent heart, but with very limited talents; and his mind had imbibed the false impress consequent upon his monastic education. He resided at Malmaison nearly the whole time of his visit to Paris. Madame Bonaparte used to lead the Queen to her own apartments; and as the First Consul never left his closet except to sit down to meals, the aides de camp were under the necessity of keeping the King company, and of endeavoring to entertain him, so wholly was he devoid of intellectual resources. It required, indeed, a great share of patience to listen to the frivolities which engrossed his attention. His turn of mind being thus laid open to view, care was taken to supply him with the playthings usually placed in the hands of children; he was, therefore, never at a loss for occupation. His nonentity was a source of regret to us: we lamented to see a tall handsome youth, destined to rule over his fellow-men, trembling at the eight of a horse, and wasting his time in the game of hide-and-seek, or at leap-frog and whose whole information consisted in knowing his prayers, and in saying grace before and after meals. Such, nevertheless, was the man to whom the destinies of a nation were about to be committed! When he left France to repair to his kingdom, "Rome need not be uneasy," said the First Consul to us after the farewell audience, "there is no danger of his crossing the Rubicon" (Memoirs of the Duke of Rovigo, vol. i. p. 363).]—
In order to show still further attention to the King of Etruria, after his three weeks' visit to Paris, the First Consul directed him to be escorted to Italy by a French guard, and selected his brother-in-law Murat for that purpose.
The new King of a new kingdom entered Florence on the 12th of April 1801; but the reception given him by the Tuscans was not at all similar to what he had experienced at Paris. The people received the royal pair as sovereigns imposed on them by France. The ephemeral kingdom of Etruria lasted scarcely six years. The King died in 1803, in the flower of his age, and in 1807 the Queen was expelled from her throne by him who had constructed it for her.
At this period a powerful party urged Bonaparte to break with the Pope, and to establish a Gallican Church, the head of which should reside in France. They thought to flatter his ambition by indicating to him a new source of power which might establish a point of comparison between him and the first Roman emperors. But his ideas did not coincide with theirs on this subject. "I am convinced," said he, "that a part of France would become Protestant, especially if I were to favour that disposition. I am also certain that the much greater portion would remain Catholic, and would oppose, with the greatest zeal and fervour, the schism of a part of their fellow-citizens. I dread the religious quarrels, the family dissensions, and the public distractions, which such a state of things would inevitably occasion. In, reviving a religion which has always prevailed in the country, and which still prevails in the hearts of the people, and in giving the liberty of exercising their worship to the minority, I shall satisfy every one."
The First Consul, taking a superior view of the state of France, considered that the re-establishment of religious worship would prove a powerful support to his Government: and he had been occupied ever since the commencement of 1801 in preparing a Concordat with the Pope. It was signed in the month of July in the same year. It required some time to enable the parties to come to an understanding on the subject.
Cardinal Consalvi arrived, in the month of June 1801, at Paris, to arrange matters on the part of the Pope. Cardinal Caprara and M. de Spina also formed part of the embassy sent by the Holy Father. There were, besides, several able theologians, among whom Doctor C—— was distinguished.
—[The "Doctor C——" was Caselti, later Archbishop of Parma. Bonier was green the Bishopric of Orleans, not Versailles; see Erreurs, tome i, p. 276. The details of the surprise attempted at the last moment by putting before Cardinal Consalvi for his signature an altered copy of the Concordat should be read in his Memoirs (tome i. p. 355), or in Lanfrey (tome ii. p. 267). As for Napoleon's belief that part of the nation might become Protestant, Narbonne probably put the matter truly when he said there was not religion enough in France to stand a division. It should be noted that the Concordat did not so much restore the Catholic Church as destroy the old Gallican Church, with all its liberties, which might annoy either Pope or Emperor. But on this point see The Gallican Church and the Revolution, by Jervis: London, Began Paul, Trench and Co., 1882. The clergy may, it is true, have shown wisdom in acceding to any terms of restoration.]—
He was a member of the Pope's chancery; his knowledge gave him so much influence over his colleagues that affairs advanced only as much as he pleased. However, he was gained over by honours conferred on him, and promises of money. Business then went on a little quicker. The Concordat was signed on the 15th of July 1801, and made a law of the State in the following April. The plenipotentiaries on the part of Bonaparte were Joseph Bonaparte, Cretet, and the Abby Bernier, afterwards Bishop of Versailles.—[Orleans not Versailles. D.W.]
A solemn Te Deum was chanted at the cathedral of Notre Dame on Sunday, the 11th of April. The crowd was immense, and the greater part of those present stood during the ceremony, which was splendid in the extreme; but who would presume to say that the general feeling was in harmony with all this pomp? Was, then, the time for this innovation not yet arrived? Was it too abrupt a transition from the habits of the twelve preceding years? It is unquestionably true that a great number of the persons present at the ceremony expressed, in their countenances and gestures, rather a feeling of impatience and displeasure than of satisfaction or of reverence for the place in which they were. Here and there murmurs arose expressive of discontent. The whispering, which I might more properly call open conversation, often interrupted the divine service, and sometimes observations were made which were far from being moderate. Some would turn their heads aside on purpose to take a bit of chocolate-cake, and biscuits were openly eaten by many who seemed to pay no attention to what was passing.
The Consular Court was in general extremely irreligious; nor could it be expected to be otherwise, being composed chiefly of those who had assisted in the annihilation of all religious worship in France, and of men who, having passed their lives in camps, had oftener entered a church in Italy to carry off a painting than to hear the Mass. Those who, without being imbued with any religious ideas, possessed that good sense which induces men to pay respect to the belief of others, though it be one in which they do not participate, did not blame the First Consul for his conduct, and conducted themselves with some regard to decency. But on the road from the Tuileries to Notre Dame, Lannes and Augereau wanted to alight from the carriage as soon as they saw that they ware being driven to Mass, and it required an order from the First Consul to prevent their doing so. They went therefore to Notre Dame, and the next day Bonaparte asked Augereau what he thought of the ceremony. "Oh! it was all very fine," replied the General; "there was nothing wanting, except the million of men who have perished in the pulling down of what you are setting up." Bonaparte was much displeased at this remark.
—[This remark has been attributed elsewhere to General Delmas.
According to a gentleman who played a part in this empty pageantry, Lannes at one moment did get out of the carriage, and Augerean kept swearing in no low whisper during the whole of the chanted Mass. Most of the military chiefs who sprang out of the Revolution had no religion at all, but there were some who were Protestants, and who were irritated by the restoration of Catholicism as the national faith.—Editor of 1896 edition.]—
During the negotiations with the Holy Father Bonaparte one day said to me, "In every country religion is useful to the Government, and those who govern ought to avail themselves of it to influence mankind. I was a Mahometan in Egypt; I am a Catholic in France. With relation to the police of the religion of a state, it should be entirely in the hands of the sovereign. Many persons have urged me to found a Gallican Church, and make myself its head; but they do not know France. If they did, they would know that the majority of the people would not like a rupture with Rome. Before I can resolve on such a measure the Pope must push matters to an extremity; but I believe he will not do so."—"You are right, General, and you recall to my memory what Cardinal Consalvi said: 'The Pope will do all the First Consul desires.'"—"That is the best course for him. Let him not suppose that he has to do with an idiot. What do you think is the point his negotiations put most forward? The salvation of my soul! But with me immortality is the recollection one leaves in the memory of man. That idea prompts to great actions. It would be better for a man never to have lived than to leave behind him no traces of his existence."
Many endeavours were made to persuade the First Consul to perform in public the duties imposed by the Catholic religion. An influential example, it was urged, was required. He told me once that he had put an end to that request by the following declaration: "Enough of this. Ask me no more. You will not obtain your object. You shall never make a hypocrite of me. Let us remain where we are."
I have read in a work remarkable on many accounts that it was on the occasion of the Concordat of the 15th July 1801 that the First Consul abolished the republican calendar and reestablished the Gregorian. This is an error. He did not make the calendar a religious affair. The 'Senatus-consulte', which restored the use of the Gregorian calendar, to commence in the French Empire from the 11th Nivose, year XIV. (1st January 1806), was adopted on the 22d Fructidor, year XIII. (9th September 1805), more than four years after the Concordat. The re-establishment of the ancient calendar had no other object than to bring us into harmony with the rest of Europe on a point so closely connected with daily transactions, which were much embarrassed by the decadary calendar.
Bonaparte at length, however, consented to hear Mass, and St. Cloud was the place where this ancient usage was first re-established. He directed the ceremony to commence sooner than the hour announced in order that those who would only make a scoff at it might not arrive until the service was ended.
Whenever the First Consul determined to hear Mass publicly on Sundays in the chapel of the Palace a small altar was prepared in a room near his cabinet of business. This room had been Anne of Austria's oratory. A small portable altar, placed on a platform one step high, restored it to its original destination. During the rest of the week this chapel was used as a bathing-room. On Sunday the door of communication was opened, and we heard Mass sitting in our cabinet of business. The number of persons there never exceeded three or four, and the First Consul seldom failed to transact some business during the ceremony, which never lasted longer than twelve minutes. Next day all the papers had the news that the First Consul had heard Mass in his apartments. In the same way Louis XVIII. has often heard it in his!
On the 19th of July 1801 a papal bull absolved Talleyrand from his vows. He immediately married Madame Grandt, and the affair obtained little notice at the time. This statement sufficiently proves how report has perverted the fact. It has been said that Bonaparte on becoming Emperor wished to restore that decorum which the Revolution had destroyed, and therefore resolved to put an end to the improper intimacy which subsisted between Talleyrand and Madame Grandt. It is alleged that the Minister at first refused to marry the lady, but that he at last found it necessary to obey the peremptory order of his master. This pretended resurrection of morality by Bonaparte is excessively ridiculous. The bull was not registered in the Council of State until the 19th of August 1802.
—[The First Consul had on several occasions urged M. de Talleyrand to return to holy orders. He pointed out to him that that course world be most becoming his age and high birth, and premised that he should be made a cardinal, thus raising him to a par with Richelieu, and giving additional lustre to his administration (Memoirs of the Duke of Rovigo, vol. i. p. 426).
But M. de Talleyrand vindicated his choice, saying, "A clever wife often compromises her husband; a stupid one only compromises herself" (Historical Characters, p.122, Bulwer, Lord Dulling).]—
I will end this chapter by a story somewhat foreign to the preceding transactions, but which personally concerns myself. On the 20th of July 1801 the First Consul, 'ex proprio motu', named me a Councillor of State extraordinary. Madame Bonaparte kindly condescended to have an elegant but somewhat ideal costume made for me. It pleased the First Consul, however, and he had a similar one made for himself. He wore it a short time and then left it off. Never had Bonaparte since his elevation shown himself so amiable as on this occasion.
Last chapter on Egypt—Admiral Gantheaume—Way to please Bonaparte— General Menou's flattery and his reward—Davoust—Bonaparte regrets giving the command to Menou, who is defeated by Abercromby—Otto's negotiation in London—Preliminaries of peace.
For the last time in these Memoirs I shall return to the affairs of Egypt—to that episode which embraces so short a space of time and holds so high a place in the life of Bonaparte. Of all his conquests he set the highest value on Egypt, because it spread the glory of his name throughout the East. Accordingly he left nothing unattempted for the preservation of that colony. In a letter to General Kleber he said, "You are as able as I am to understand how important is the possession of Egypt to France. The Turkish Empire, in which the symptoms of decay are everywhere discernible, is at present falling to pieces, and the evil of the evacuation of Egypt by France would now be the greater, as we should soon see that fine province pass into the possession of some other European power." The selection of Gantheaume, however, to carry assistance to Kleber was not judicious. Gantheaume had brought the First Consul back from Egypt, and though the success of the passage could only be attributed to Bonaparte's own plan, his determined character, and superior judgment, yet he preserved towards Gantheaume that favourable disposition which is naturally felt for one who has shared a great danger with us, and upon whom the responsibility may be said to have been imposed.
This confidence in mediocrity, dictated by an honourable feeling, did not obtain a suitable return. Gantheaume, by his indecision and creeping about in the Mediterranean, had already failed to execute a commission entrusted to him. The First Consul, upon finding he did not leave Brest after he had been ordered to the Mediterranean, repeatedly said to me, "What the devil is Gantheaume about?" With one of the daily reports sent to the First Consul he received the following quatrain, which made him laugh heartily:
"Vaisseaux lestes, tete sans lest, Ainsi part l'Amiral Gantheaume; Il s'en va de Brest a Bertheaume, Et revient de Bertheaume a Brest!"
"With ballast on board, but none in his brain, Away went our gallant Gantheaume, On a voyage from Brest to Bertheaume, And then from Bertheaume—to Brest back again!"
Gantheaume's hesitation, his frequent tergiversations, his arrival at Toulon, his tardy departure, and his return to that port on the 19th of February 1801, only ten days prior to Admiral Keith's appearance with Sir Ralph Abercromby off Alexandria, completely foiled all the plans which Bonaparte had conceived of conveying succour and reinforcements to a colony on the brink of destruction.
Bonaparte was then dreaming that many French families would carry back civilisation, science, and art to that country which was their cradle. But it could not be concealed that his departure from Egypt in 1799 had prepared the way for the loss of that country, which was hastened by Kleber's death and the choice of Menou as his successor.
A sure way of paying court to the First Consul and gaining his favour was to eulogise his views about Egypt, and to appear zealous for maintaining the possession of that country. By these means it was that Menou gained his confidence. In the first year of the occupation of that country he laid before him his dreams respecting Africa. He spoke of the negroes of Senegal, Mozambique, Mehedie, Marabout, and other barbarous countries which were all at once to assume a new aspect, and become civilised, in consequence of the French possession of Egypt. To Menou's adulation is to be attributed the favourable reception given him by the First Consul, even after his return from Egypt, of which his foolish conduct had allowed the English to get possession. The First Consul appointed him Governor of Piedmont, and at my request gave my elder brother the situation of Commissary-General of Police in that country; but I am in candour obliged to confess that the First Consul was obliged to retract this mark of his favour in consequence of my brother's making an abuse of it.
It was also by flattering the First Consul on the question of the East that Davoust, on his return from Egypt in 1800 in consequence of the Convention of El-Ariah, insinuated himself into Bonaparte's good graces and, if he did not deserve, obtained his favour. At that time Davoust certainly had no title whatever to the good fortune which he suddenly experienced. He obtained, without first serving in a subordinate rank, the command-in-chief of the grenadiers of the Consular Guard; and from that time commenced the deadly hatred which Davoust bore towards me. Astonished at the great length of time that Bonaparte had been one day conversing with him I said, as soon as he was gone, "How could you talk so long with a man whom you have always called a stupid fellow?"—"Ah! but I did not know him well enough before. He is a better man, I assure you, than he is thought; and you will come over to my opinion."—"I hope so." The First Consul, who was often extremely indiscreet, told Davoust my opinion of him, and his hostility against me ceased but with his life.
The First Consul could not forget his cherished conquest in the East. It was constantly the object of his thoughts. He endeavoured to send reinforcements to his army from Brest and Toulon, but without success. He soon had cause to repent having entrusted to the hands of Menou the command-in-chief, to which he became entitled only by seniority, after the assassination of Kleber by Soleiman Heleby. But Bonaparte's indignation was excited when he became acquainted with Menou's neglect and mismanagement, when he saw him giving reins to his passion for reform, altering and destroying everything, creating nothing good in its stead, and dreaming about forming a land communication with the Hottentots and Congo instead of studying how to preserve the country. His pitiful plans of defence, which were useless from their want of combination, appeared to the First Consul the height of ignorance. Forgetful of all the principles of strategy, of which Bonaparte's conduct afforded so many examples, he opposed to the landing of Abercromby a few isolated corps, which were unable to withstand the enemy's attack, while the English army might have been entirely annihilated had all the disposable troops been sent against it.
The great admiration which Menou expressed at the expedition to Egypt; his excessive fondness for that country, the religion of which he had ridiculously enough embraced under the name of Abdallah; the efforts he made, in his sphere, to preserve the colony; his enthusiasm and blind attachment to Bonaparte; the flattering and encouraging accounts he gave of the situation of the army, at first had the effect of entirely covering Menou's incapacity.
—[For a ludicrous description of Menou see the Memoirs of Marmont:— "Clever and gay, he was an agreeable talker, but a great liar. He was not destitute of some education. His character, one of the oddest in the world, came very near to lunacy: Constantly writing, always in motion in his room, riding for exercise every day, he was never able to start on any necessary of useful journey. . . . When, later, Bonaparte, then First Consul, gave him by special favour the administration of Piedmont, he put off his departure from day to day for six months; and then he only did start because his friend Maret himself put him into his carriage, with post-horses already harnessed to it. . . . When he left this post they found in his cabinet 900 letters which he had not opened. He was an eccentric lunatic, amusing enough sometimes, but a curse to everything which depended on him." (Memoirs of the Duc de Raguse, tome i. p. 410).]—
This alone can account for the First Consul's preference of him. But I am far from concurring in what has been asserted by many persons, that France lost Egypt at the very moment when it seemed most easy of preservation. Egypt was conquered by a genius of vast intelligence, great capacity, and profound military science. Fatuity, stupidity, and incapacity lost it. What was the result of that memorable expedition? The destruction of one of our finest armies; the loss of some of our best generals; the annihilation of our navy; the surrender of Malta; and the sovereignty of England in the Mediterranean. What is the result at present? A scientific work. The gossiping stories and mystifications of Herodotus, and the reveries of the good Rollin, are worth as much, and have not cost so dear.
The First Consul had long been apprehensive that the evacuation of Egypt was unavoidable. The last news he had received from that country was not very encouraging, and created a presentiment of the approach of the dreaded catastrophe. He, however, published the contrary; but it was then of great importance that, an account of the evacuation should not reach England until the preliminaries of peace were signed, for which purpose M. Otto was exerting all his industry and talent. We made a great merit of abandoning our conquests in Egypt; but the sacrifice would not have been considered great if the events which took place at the end of August had been known in London before the signing of the preliminaries on the 1st of October. The First Consul himself answered M. Otto's last despatch, containing a copy of the preliminaries ready to be adopted by the English Ministry. Neither this despatch nor the answer was communicated to M. de Talleyrand, then Minister for Foreign Affairs. The First Consul, who highly appreciated the great talents and knowledge of that Minister, never closed any diplomatic arrangement without first consulting him; and he was right in so doing. On this occasion, however, I told him that as M. de Talleyrand was, for his health, taking the waters of Bourbon-l'Archambault, four days must elapse before his reply could be received, and that the delay might cause the face of affairs to change. I reminded him that Egypt was on the point of yielding. He took my advice, and it was well for him that he did, for the news of the compulsory evacuation of Egypt arrived in London the day after the signing of the preliminaries. M. Otto informed the First Consul by letter that Lord Hawkesbury, ill communicating to him the news of the evacuation, told him he was very glad everything was settled, for it would have been impossible for him to have treated on the same basis after the arrival of such news. In reality we consented at Paris to the voluntary evacuation of Egypt, and that was something for England, while Egypt was at that very time evacuated by a convention made on the spot. The definitive evacuation of Egypt took place on the 30th of August 1801; and thus the conquest of that country, which had cost so dear, was rendered useless, or rather injurious.
The most glorious epoch for France—The First Consul's desire of peace—Malta ceded and kept—Bonaparte and the English journals— Mr. Addington's letter to the First Consul—Bonaparte prosecutes Peltier—Leclerc's expedition to St. Domingo—Toussaint Louverture— Death of Leclerc—Rochambeau, his successor, abandons St. Domingo— First symptoms of Bonaparte's malady—Josephine's intrigues for the marriage of Hortense—Falsehood contradicted.
The epoch of the peace of Amiens must be considered as the most glorious in the history of France, not excepting the splendid period of Louis XIV.'s victories and the more brilliant era of the Empire. The Consular glory was then pure, and the opening prospect was full of flattering hope; whereas those who were but little accustomed to look closely into things could discern mighty disasters lurking under the laurels of the Empire.
The proposals which the First Consul made in order to obtain peace sufficiently prove his sincere desire for it. He felt that if in the commencement of his administration he could couple his name with so hoped for an act he should ever experience the affection and gratitude of the French. I want no other proof of his sentiments than the offer he made to give up Egypt to the Grand Seignior, and to restore all the ports of the Gulf of Venice and of the Mediterranean to the States to which they had previously belonged; to surrender Malta to the order of the Knights of St. John, and even to raze its fortifications if England should think such a measure necessary for her interests. In the Indies, Ceylon was to be left to him,
—[Ceylon belonged to Holland, but was retained by England under the treaty of Amiens.]—
and he required the surrender of the Cape of Good Hope and all the places taken by the English in the West Indies.
England had firmly resolved to keep Malta, the Gibraltar of the Mediterranean, and the Cape of Good Hope, the caravanserai of the Indies. She was therefore unwilling to close with the proposition respecting Malta; and she said that an arrangement might be made by which it would be rendered independent both of Great Britain and France. We clearly saw that this was only a lure, and that, whatever arrangements might be entered into, England would keep Malta, because it was not to be expected that the maritime power would willingly surrender an island which commands the Mediterranean. I do not notice the discussions respecting the American islands, for they were, in my opinion, of little consequence to us.
—[It is strange that Bourrienne does not allude to one of the first arbitrary acts of Napoleon, the discussions on which formed part of those conversations between Napoleon and his brother Lucien of which Bourrienne complained to Josephine he knew nothing. In 1763 France had ceded to England the part of Louisiana on the east of the Mississippi, and the part on the west of that river, with New Orleans, to Spain. By the treaty negotiated with Spain by Lucien Bonaparte in 1800 her share was given back to France. On the 80th April 1803 Napoleon sold the whole to the United States for 80,000,000 francs (L 3,260,000), to the intense anger of his brothers Joseph and Lucien. Lucien was especially proud of having obtained the cession for which Napoleon was, at that time, very anxious; but both brothers were horrified when Napoleon disclosed how little he cared for constitutional forms by telling them that if the Legislature, as his brothers threatened, would not ratify the treaty, he would do without the ratification; see Iung's Letter, tome ii. p. 128.
Napoleon's most obvious motives were want of money and the certainty of the seizure of the province by England, as the rupture with her was now certain. But there was perhaps another cause. The States had already been on the point of seizing the province from Spain, which had interfered with their trade (Hinton's United States, p. 435, and Thiers tome iv, p. 320).
Of the sum to be paid, 20,000,000 were to go to the States, to cover the illegal seizures of American ships by the French navy, a matter which was not settled for many years later. The remaining 80,000,000 were employed in the preparations for the invasion of England; see Thiers, tome iv. pp. 320 and 326, and Lanfrey, tome iii. p. 48. The transaction is a remarkable one, as forming the final withdrawal of France from North America (with the exception of some islands on the Newfoundland coast), where she had once held such a proud position. It also eventually made an addition to the number of slave States.]—
They cost more than they produce; and they will escape from us, some time or other, as all colonies ultimately do from the parent country. Our whole colonial system is absurd; it forces us to pay for colonial produce at a rate nearly double that for which it may be purchased from our neighbours.
When Lord Hawkesbury consented to evacuate Malta, on condition that it should be independent of France and Great Britain, he must have been aware that such a condition would never be fulfilled. He cared little for the order of St. John, and he should have put, by way of postscript, at the bottom of his note, "We will keep Malta in spite of you." I always told the First Consul that if he were in the situation of the English he would act the same part; and it did not require much sagacity to foretell that Malta would be the principal cause of the rupture of peace. He was of my opinion; but at that moment he thought everything depended on concluding the negotiations, and I entirely agreed with him. It happened, as was foreseen, that Malta caused the renewal of war. The English, on being called upon to surrender the island, eluded the demand, shifted about, and at last ended by demanding that Malta should be placed under the protection of the King of Naples,—that is to say, under the protection of a power entirely at their command, and to which they might dictate what they pleased. This was really too cool a piece of irony!
I will here notice the quarrel between the First Consul and the English newspapers, and give a new proof of his views concerning the freedom of the press. However, liberty of the press did once contribute to give him infinite gratification, namely, when all the London journals mentioned the transports of joy manifested in London on the arrival of General Lauriston, the bearer of the ratification of the preliminaries of peace.
The First Consul was at all times the declared enemy of the liberty of the press, and therefore he ruled the journals with a hand of iron.
—[An incident, illustrative of the great irritation which Bonaparte felt at the plain speaking of the English press, also shows the important character of Coleridge's writings in the 'Morning Post'. In the course of a debate in the House of Commons Fox asserted that the rupture of the trace of Amiens had its origin in certain essays which had appeared in the Morning POST, and which were known to have proceeded from the pen of Coleridge. But Fox added an ungenerous and malicious hint that the writer was at Rome, within the reach of Bonaparte. The information reached the ears for which it was uttered, and an order was sent from Paris to compass the arrest of Coleridge. It was in the year 1806, when the poet was making a tour in Italy. The news reached him at Naples, through a brother of the illustrious Humboldt, as Mr. Gillman says—or in a friendly warning from Prince Jerome Bonaparte, as we have it on the authority of Mr. Cottle—and the Pope appears to have been reluctant to have a hand in the business, and, in fact, to have furnished him with a passport, if not with a carriage for flight, Coleridge eventually got to Leghorn, where he got a passage by an American ship bound for England; but his escape coming to the ears of Bonaparte, a look-out was kept for the ship, and she was chased by a French cruiser, which threw the captain into such a state of terror that he made Coleridge throw all his journals and papers overboard (Andrews' History of Journalism, vol. ii. p. 28).]—
I have often heard him say, "Were I to slacken the reins, I should not continue three months in power." He unfortunately held the same opinion respecting every other prerogative of public freedom. The silence he had imposed in France he wished, if he could, to impose in England. He was irritated by the calumnies and libels so liberally cast upon him by the English journals, and especially by one written in French, called 'L'Ambigu', conducted by Peltier, who had been the editor of the 'Actes des Apotres' in Paris. The 'Ambigu' was constantly teeming with the most violent attacks on the First Consul and the French nation. Bonaparte could never, like the English, bring himself to despise newspaper libels, and he revenged himself by violent articles which he caused to be inserted in the 'Moniteur'. He directed M. Otto to remonstrate, in an official note, against a system of calumny which he believed to be authorised by the English Government. Besides this official proceeding he applied personally to Mr. Addington, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, requesting him to procure the adoption of legislative measures against the licentious writings complained of; and, to take the earliest opportunity of satisfying his hatred against the liberty of the press, the First Consul seized the moment of signing the preliminaries to make this request.
Mr. Addington wrote a long answer to the First Consul, which I translated for him. The English Minister refuted, with great force, all the arguments which Bonaparte had employed against the press. He also informed the First Consul that, though a foreigner, it was competent in him to institute a complaint in the courts of law; but that in such case he must be content to see all the scandalous statements of which he complained republished in the report of the trial. He advised him to treat the libels with profound contempt, and do as he and others did, who attached not the slightest importance to them. I congratulate myself on having in some degree prevented a trial taking place at that time.
Things remained in this state for the moment; but after the peace of Amiens the First Consul prosecuted Pettier, whose journal was always full of violence and bitterness against him. Pettier was defended by the celebrated Mackintosh, who, according to the accounts of the time, displayed great eloquence on this occasion, yet, in spite of the ability of his counsel, he was convicted. The verdict, which public opinion considered in the light of a triumph for the defendant, was not followed up by any judgment, in consequence of the rupture of the peace occurring soon after. It is melancholy to reflect that this nervous susceptibility to the libels of the English papers contributed certainly as much as, and perhaps more than, the consideration of great political interests to the renewal of hostilities. The public would be astonished at a great many things if they could only look under the cards.
I have anticipated the rupture of the treaty of Amiens that I might not interrupt what I had to mention respecting Bonaparte's hatred of the liberty of the press. I now return to the end of the year 1801, the period of the expedition against St. Domingo.
The First Consul, after dictating to me during nearly: the whole of one night instructions for that expedition, sent for General Leclerc, and said to him in my presence, "Here, take your instructions; you have a fine opportunity for filling your purse. Go, and no longer tease me with your eternal requests for money." The friendship which Bonaparte felt for his sister Pauline had a good deal of influence in inducing him to take this liberal way of enriching her husband.
The expedition left the ports of France on the 14th of December 1801, and arrived off Cape St. Domingo on the 1st of February 1802. The fatal result of the enterprise is well known, but we are never to be cured of the folly of such absurd expeditions. In the instructions given to Leclerc everything was foreseen; but it was painful to know that the choice of one of the youngest and least capable of all the generals of the army left no hope of a successful result. The expedition to St. Domingo was one of Bonaparte's great errors. Almost every person whom he consulted endeavoured to dissuade him from it. He attempted a justification through the medium of his historians of St. Helena; but does he succeed when he says, "that he was obliged to yield to the advice of his Council of State?" He, truly, was a likely man to submit a question of war to the discussion of the Council of State, or to be guided in such an affair by any Council! We must believe that no other motive influenced the First Consul but the wish, by giving him the means of enriching himself, to get rid of a brother-in-law who had the gift of specially annoying him. The First Consul, who did not really much like this expedition, should have perhaps reflected longer on the difficulties of attempting to subdue the colony by force. He was shaken by this argument, which I often repeated to him, and he agreed with it, but the inconceivable influence which the members of his family exercised on him always overcame him.
Bonaparte dictated to me a letter for Toussaint, full of sounding words and fine promises, informing him that his two children, who had been educated in Paris, were sent back to him, offering him the title of vice-governor, and stating that he ought readily to assist in an arrangement which would contribute to reconnect the colony with the mother-country. Toussaint, who had at first shown a disposition to close with the bargain, yet feeling afraid of being deceived by the French, and probably induced by ambitious motives, resolved on war. He displayed a great deal of talent; but, being attacked before the climate had thinned the French ranks, he was unable to oppose a fresh army, numerous and inured to war. He capitulated, and retired to a plantation, which he was not to leave without Leclerc's permission. A feigned conspiracy on the part of the blacks formed a pretence for accusing Toussaint, and he was seized and sent to France.