Be this as it may, the First Consul did not behold with pleasure the factitious influence of which Fouche had possessed himself. For some time past, to the repugnance which at bottom he had felt towards. Fouche, were added other causes of discontent. In consequence of having been deceived by secret reports and correspondence Bonaparte began to shrug up his shoulders with an expression of regret when he received them, and said, "Would you believe, Bourrienne, that I have been imposed on by these things? All such denunciations are useless—scandalous. All the reports from prefects and the police, all the intercepted letters, are a tissue of absurdities and lies. I desire to have no more of them." He said so, but he still received them. However, Fouche's dismissal was resolved upon. But though Bonaparte wished to get rid of him, still, under the influence of the charm, he dared not proceed against him without the greatest caution. He first resolved upon the suppression of the office of Minister of Police in order to disguise the motive for the removal of the Minister. The First Consul told Fouche that this suppression, which he spoke of as being yet remote, was calculated more than anything else to give strength to the Government, since it would afford a proof of the security and internal tranquillity of France. Overpowered by the arguments with which Bonaparte supported his proposition, Fouche could urge no good reasons in opposition to it, but contented himself with recommending that the execution of the design, which was good in intention, should, however, be postponed for two years. Bonaparte appeared to listen favourably to Fouche's recommendation, who, as avaricious for money as Bonaparte of glory, consoled himself by thinking that for these two years the administration of the gaming tables would still be for him a Pactolus flowing with gold. For Fouche, already the possessor of an immense fortune, always dreamed of increasing it, though he himself did not know how to enjoy it. With him the ambition of enlarging the bounds of his estate of Pont-Carre was not less felt than with the First Consul the ambition of extending the frontier of France.
Not only did the First Consul not like Fouche, but it is perfectly true that at this time the police wearied and annoyed him. Several times he told me he looked on it as dangerous, especially for the possessor of power. In a Government without the liberty of the press he was quite right. The very services which the police had rendered to the First Consul were of a nature to alarm him, for whoever had conspired against the Directory in favour of the Consulate might also conspire against the Consulate in favour of any other Government. It is needless to say that I only allude to the political police, and not to the municipal police, which is indispensable for large towns, and which has the honourable mission of watching over the health and safety of the citizens.
Fouche, as has been stated, had been Minister of Police since the 18th Brumaire. Everybody who was acquainted with, the First Consul's character was unable to explain the ascendency which he had suffered Fouche to acquire over him, and of which Bonaparte himself was really impatient. He saw in Fouche a centre around which all the interests of the Revolution concentrated themselves, and at this he felt indignant; but, subject to a species of magnetism, he could not break the charm which enthralled him. When he spoke of Fouche in his absence his language was warm, bitter, and hostile. When Fouche was present, Bonaparte's tone was softened, unless some public scene was to be acted like that which occurred after the attempt of the 3d Nivose.
The suppression of the Ministry of Police being determined on, Bonaparte did not choose to delay the execution of his design, as he had pretended to think necessary. On the evening of the 12th of September we went to Mortfontaine. We passed the next day, which was Monday, at that place, and it was there, far removed from Fouche, and urged by the combined persuasions of Joseph and Lucien, that the First Consul signed the decree of suppression. The next morning we returned to Paris. Fouche came to Malmaison, where we were, in the regular execution of his duties. The First Consul transacted business with him as usual without daring to tell him of his dismissal, and afterwards sent Cambaceres to inform him of it. After this act, respecting which he had hesitated so long, Bonaparte still endeavoured to modify his rigour. Having appointed Fouche a Senator, he said in the letter which he wrote to the Senate to notify the appointment:
"Fouche, as Minister of Police, in times of difficulty, has by his talent, his activity, and his attachment to the Government done all that circumstances required of him. Placed in the bosom of the Senate, if events should again call for a Minister of Police the Government cannot find one more worthy of its confidence."
From this moment the departments of Justice and Police united were confided to the hands of Regnier.' Bonaparte's aversion for Fouche strangely blinded him with respect to the capabilities of his successor. Besides, how could the administration of justice, which rests on fixed, rigid, and unchangeable bases, proceed hand in hand with another administration placed on the quicksand of instantaneous decisions, and surrounded by stratagems and deceptions? Justice should never have anything to do with secret police, unless it be to condemn it.
—[M. Abrial, Minister of Justice, was called to the Senate at the same time as Fouche. Understanding that the assimilation of the two men was more a disgrace to Abrial than the mere loss of the Ministry, the First Consul said to M. Abrial: "In uniting the Ministry of Police to that of Justice I could not retain you in the Ministry, you are too upright a man to manage the police." Not a flattering speech for Regnier.—Bourrienne.]—
What could be expected from Regnier, charged as he was with incompatible functions? What, under such circumstances, could have been expected even from a man gifted with great talents? Such was the exact history of Fouche's disgrace. No person was more afflicted at it than Madame Bonaparte, who only leaned the news when it was announced to the public. Josephine, on all occasions, defended Fouche against her husband's sallies. She believed that he was the only one of his Ministers who told him the truth. She had such a high opinion of the way in which Fouche managed the police that the first time I was alone with her after our return from Mortfontaine she said to me, "My dear Bourrienne; speak openly to me; will Napoleon know all about the plots from the police of Moncey, Duroc, Junot, and of Davoust? You know better than I do that these are only wretched spies. Has not Savary also eventually got his police? How all this alarms me. They take away all my supports, and surround me only with enemies."—"To justify your regrets we should be sure that Fouche has never been in agreement with Lucien in favour of the divorce."—"Oh, I do not believe that. Bonaparte does not like him, and he would have been certain to tell me of it when I spoke favourably to him of Fouche. You will see that his brothers will end by bringing him into their plan."
I have already spoken of Josephine's troubles, and of the bad conduct of Joseph, but more particularly of Lucien, towards her; I will therefore describe here, as connected with the disgrace of Fouche, whom Madame Bonaparte regretted as a support, some scenes which occurred about this period at Malmaison. Having been the confidant of both parties, and an involuntary actor in those scenes, now that twenty-seven years have passed since they occurred what motive can induce me to disguise the truth in any respect?
Madame Louis Bonaparte was enceinte. Josephine, although she tenderly loved her children, did not seem to behold the approaching event which the situation of her daughter indicated with the interest natural to the heart of a mother. She had long been aware of the calumnious reports circulated respecting the supposed connection between Hortense and the First Consul, and that base accusation cost her many tears. Poor Josephine paid dearly for the splendour of her station! As I knew how devoid of foundation these atrocious reports were, I endeavoured to console her by telling her what was true, that I was exerting all my efforts to demonstrate their infamy and falsehood. Bonaparte, however, dazzled by the affection which was manifested towards him from all quarters, aggravated the sorrow of his wife by a silly vanity. He endeavoured to persuade her that these reports had their origin only in the wish of the public that he should have a child, so that these seeming consolations offered by self-love to Josephine's grief gave force to existing conjugal alarms, and the fear of divorce returned with all its horrors. Under the foolish illusion of his vanity Bonaparte imagined that France was desirous of being governed even by a bastard if supposed to be a child of his,—a singular mode truly of founding a new legitimacy!
Josephine, whose susceptibility appears to me even now excusable, well knew my sentiments on the subject of Bonaparte's founding a dynasty, and she had not forgotten my conduct when two years before the question had been agitated on the occasion of Louis XVIII.'s letters to the First Consul. I remember that one day, after the publication of the parallel of Caesar, Cromwell, and Bonaparte, Josephine having entered our cabinet without being announced, which she sometimes did when from the good humour exhibited at breakfast she reckoned upon its continuance, approached Bonaparte softly, seated herself on his knee, passed her hand gently through his hair and over his face, and thinking the moment favourable, said to him in a burst of tenderness, "I entreat of you, Bonaparte, do not make yourself a King! It is that wretch Lucien who urges you to it. Do not listen to him!" Bonaparte replied, without anger, and even smiling as he pronounced the last words, "You are mad, my poor Josephine. It is your old dowagers of the Faubourg St. Germain, your Rochefoucaulds, who tell you all these fables!...... Come now, you interrupt me—leave me alone."
What Bonaparte said that day good-naturedly to his wife I have often heard him declare seriously. I have been present at five or six altercations on the subject. That there existed, too, an enmity connected with this question between the family of BEAUHARNAIS and the family of Bonaparte cannot be denied.
Fouche, as I have stated, was in the interest of Josephine, and Lucien was the most bitter of her enemies. One day Raederer inveighed with so much violence against Fouche in the presence of Madame Bonaparte that she replied with extreme warmth, "The real enemies of Bonaparte are those who feed him with notions of hereditary descent, of a dynasty, of divorce, and of marriage!" Josephine could not check this exclamation, as she knew that Roederer encouraged those ideas, which he spread abroad by Lucien's direction. I recollect one day when she had been to see us at our little house at Ruel: as I walked with her along the high road to her carriage, which she had sent forward, I acknowledged too unreservedly my fears on account of the ambition of Bonaparte, and of the perfidious advice of his brothers. "Madame," said I, "if we cannot succeed in dissuading the General from making himself a King, I dread the future for his sake. If ever he re-establishes royalty he will in all probability labour for the Bourbons, and enable them one day to re-ascend the throne which he shall erect. No one, doubtless, without passing for a fool, can pretend to say with certainty what series of chances and events such a proceeding will produce; but common sense alone is sufficient to convince any one that unfavourable chances must long be dreaded. The ancient system being re-established, the occupation of the throne will then be only a family question, and not a question of government between liberty and despotic power. Why should not France, if it ceases to be free, prefer the race of her ancient kings? You surely know it. You had not been married two years when, on returning from Italy, your husband told me that he aspired to royalty. Now he is Consul for life. Would he but resolve to stop there! He already possesses everything but an empty title. No sovereign in Europe has so much power as he has. I am sorry for it, Madame, but I really believe that, in spite of yourself, you will be made Queen or Empress."
Madame Bonaparte had allowed me to speak without interruption, but when I pronounced the words Queen and Empress she exclaimed, "My God! Bourrienne, such ambition is far from my thoughts. That I may always continue the wife of the First Consul is all I desire. Say to him all that you have said to me. Try and prevent him from making himself King."—"Madame," I replied, "times are greatly altered. The wisest men, the strongest minds, have resolutely and courageously opposed his tendency to the hereditary system. But advice is now useless. He would not listen to me. In all discussions on the subject he adheres inflexibly to the view he has taken. If he be seriously opposed his anger knows no bounds; his language is harsh and abrupt, his tone imperious, and his authority bears down all before him."—"Yet, Bourrienne, he has so much confidence in you that of you should try once more!"—"Madame, I assure you he will not listen to me. Besides, what could I add to the remarks I made upon his receiving the letters of Louis XVIII., when I fearlessly represented to him that heing without children he would have no one to whom to bequeath the throne—that, doubtless, from the opinion which he entertained of his brothers, he could not desire to erect it for them?" Here Josephine again interrupted me by exclaiming, "My kind friend, when you spoke of children did he say anything to you? Did he talk of a divorce?"—"Not a word, Madame, I assure you."—"If they do not urge him to it, I do not believe he will resolve to do such a thing. You know how he likes Eugene, and Eugene behaves so well to him. How different is Lucien. It is that wretch Lucien, to whom Bonaparte listens too much, and of whom, however, he always speaks ill to me."—"I do not know, Madame, what Lucien says to his brother except when he chooses to tell me, because Lucien always avoids having a witness of his interviews with your husband, but I can assure you that for two years I have not heard the word 'divorce' from the General's mouth."—"I always reckon on you, my dear Bourrienne; to turn him away from it; as you did at that time."—"I do not believe he is thinking of it, but if it recurs to him, consider, Madame, that it will be now from very different motives: He is now entirely given up to the interests of his policy and his ambition, which dominate every other feeling in him. There will not now be any question of scandal, or of a trial before a court, but of an act of authority which complaisant laws will justify and which the Church perhaps will sanction."—"That's true. You are right. Good God! how unhappy I am."
—[When Bourrienne complains of not knowing what passed between Lucien and Napoleon, we can turn to Lucien's account of Bourrienne, apparently about this very time. "After a stormy interview with Napoleon," says Lucien, "I at once went into the cabinet where Bourrienne was working, and found that unbearable busybody of a secretary, whose star had already paled more than once, which made him more prying than ever, quite upset by the time the First Consul had taken to come out of his bath. He must, or at least might, have heard some noise, for enough had been made. Seeing that he wanted to know the cause from me, I took up a newspaper to avoid being bored by his conversation" (Iung's Lucien, tome ii. p.156)]—
Such was the nature of one of the conversations I had with Madame Bonaparte on a subject to which she often recurred. It may not perhaps be uninteresting to endeavour to compare with this what Napoleon said at St. Helena, speaking of his first wife. According to the Memorial Napoleon there stated that when Josephine was at last constrained to renounce all hope of having a child, she often let fall allusions to a great political fraud, and at length openly proposed it to him. I make no doubt Bonaparte made use of words to this effect, but I do not believe the assertion. I recollect one day that Bonaparte, on entering our cabinet, where I was already seated, exclaimed in a transport of joy impossible for me to describe, "Well, Bourrienne, my wife is at last enceinte!" I sincerely congratulated him, more, I own, out of courtesy than from any hope of seeing him made a father by Josephine, for I well remembered that Corvisart, who had given medicines to Madame Bonaparte, had nevertheless assured me that he expected no result from them. Medicine was really the only political fraud to which Josephine had recourse; and in her situation what other woman would not have done as much? Here, then, the husband and the wife are in contradiction, which is nothing uncommon. But on which side is truth? I have no hesitation in referring it to Josephine. There is indeed an immense difference between the statements of a women—trusting her fears and her hopes to the sole confidant of her family secrets, and the tardy declaration of a man who, after seeing the vast edifice of his ambition leveled with the dust, is only anxious, in his compulsory retreat, to preserve intact and spotless the other great edifice of his glory. Bonaparte should have recollected that Caesar did not like the idea of his wife being even suspected.
Citizen Fesch created Cardinal Fesch—Arts and industry—Exhibition in the Louvre—Aspect of Paris in 1802—The Medicean Venus and the Velletrian Pallas—Signs of general prosperity—Rise of the funds— Irresponsible Ministers—The Bourbons—The military Government— Annoying familiarity of Lannes—Plan laid for his disgrace— Indignation of Lannes—His embassy to Portugal—The delayed despatch—Bonaparte's rage—I resign my situation—Duroc— I breakfast with Bonaparte—Duroc's intercession—Temporary reconciliation.
Citizen Fesch, who, when we were forced to stop at Ajaccio on our return from Egypt, discounted at rather a high rate the General-in-Chief's Egyptian sequins, became again the Abbe Fesch, as soon as Bonaparte by his Consular authority re-erected the altars which the Revolution had overthrown. On the 15th of August 1802 he was consecrated Bishop, and the following year received the Cardinal's hat. Thus Bonaparte took advantage of one of the members of his family being in orders to elevate him to the highest dignities of the Church. He afterwards gave Cardinal Fesch the Archbishopric of Lyons, of which place he was long the titular.
—[Like Cambaceres the Cardinal was a bit of a gourmet, and on one occasion had invited a large party of clerical magnates to dinner. By a coincidence two turbots of singular beauty arrived as presents to his Eminence on the very morning of the feast. To serve both would have appeared ridiculous, but the Cardinal was most anxious to have the credit of both. He imparted his embarrassment to his chef:
"'Be of good faith, your Eminence,' was the reply, 'both shall appear and enjoy the reception so justly their due.' The dinner was served: one of the turbots relieved the soup. Delight was on every face—it was the moment of the 'eprouvette positive'. The 'maitre a'hotel' advances; two attendants raise the turbot and carry him off to cut him up; but one of them loses his equilibrium: the attendants and the turbot roll together on the floor. At this sad sight the assembled Cardinals became as pale as death, and a solemn silence reigned in the 'conclave'—it was the moment of the 'eprouvette negative'; but the 'maitre a'hotel' suddenly turns to one of the attendants, Bring another turbot,' said he, with the most perfect coolness. The second appeared, and the eprouvette positive was gloriously renewed." (Hayward's Art of Dining, P. 65.)]—
The First Consul prided himself a good deal on his triumph, at least in appearance, over the scruples which the persons who surrounded him had manifested against the re-establishment of worship. He read with much self-satisfaction the reports made to him, in which it was stated that the churches were well frequented: Indeed, throughout the year 1802, all his attention wad directed to the reformation of manners, which had become more dissolute under the Directory than even during the Reign of Terror.
In his march of usurpation the First Consul let slip no opportunity of endeavouring to obtain at the same time the admiration of the multitude and the approbation of judicious men. He was very fond of the arts, and was sensible that the promotion of industry ought to be the peculiar care of the head of the Government. It must, however, at the same time be owned that he rendered the influence of his protection null and void by the continual violations he committed on that liberty which is the animating principle of all improvement.
During the supplementary days of the year X., that is to say, about the beginning of the autumn of 1802, there was held at the Louvre an exhibition of the products of industry. The First Consul visited the exhibition, and as even at that period he had begun to attribute every good result to himself, he seemed proud of the high degree of perfection the manufacturing arts had attained in France. He was, above all, delighted with the admiration this exhibition excited among the numerous foreigners who resorted to Paris during the peace.
In fact, throughout the year 1802 the capital presented an interesting and animating-spectacle. The appetite for luxury and pleasure had insinuated itself into manners—which were no longer republican, and the vast number of Russians and English who drove about everywhere with brilliant equipages contributed not a little to this metamorphosis. All Paris flocked to the Carrousel on review days, and regarded with eyes of delight the unusual sight of rich foreign liveries and emblazoned carriages. The parties at the Tuileries were brilliant and numerous, and nothing was wanting but the name of levees. Count Markoff, who succeeded M. de Kalitscheff as Russian ambassador; the Marquis de Lucchesini, the Prussian ambassador; and Lord Whitworth, the Minister from England, made numerous presentations of their countrymen to the First Consul, who was well pleased that the Court he was forming should have examples set by foreign courtiers. Never since the meeting of the States-General had the theatres been so frequented, or fetes so magnificent; and never since that period had Paris presented so cheering an aspect. The First Consul, on his part, spared no exertion to render the capital more and more worthy the admiration of foreigners. The statue of the Venus de Medicis, which had been robbed from the gallery of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, now decorated the gallery of the Louvre, and near it was placed that of the Velletrian Pallas, a more legitimate acquisition, since it was the result of the researches of some French engineers at Velletri. Everywhere an air of prosperity was perceptible, and Bonaparte proudly put in his claim to be regarded as the author of it all. With what heartfelt satisfaction did he likewise cast his eye upon what he called the grand thermometer of opinion, the price of the funds! For if he saw them doubled in value in consequence of the revolution of the 18th Brumaire, rising as they did at that period from seven to sixteen francs, this value was even more than tripled after the vote of Consulship for life and the 'Senates-consulte' of the 4th of August,—when they rose to fifty-two francs.
While Paris presented so satisfactory an aspect the departments were in a state of perfect tranquillity; and foreign affairs had every appearance of security. The Court of the Vatican, which since the Concordat may be said to have become devoted to the First Consul, gave, under all circumstances, examples of submission to the wishes of France. The Vatican was the first Court which recognised the erection of Tuscany into the Kingdom of Etruria, and the formation of the Helvetic, Cisalpine, and Batavian Republics. Prussia soon followed the example of the Pope, which was successively imitated by the other powers of Europe.
The whole of these new states, realms, or republics were under the immediate influence of France. The Isle of Elba, which Napoleon's first abdication afterwards rendered so famous, and Piedmont, divided into six departments, were also united to France, still called it Republic. Everything now seemed to concur in securing his accession to absolute power. We were now at peace with all the world, and every circumstance tended to place in the hands of the First Consul that absolute power which indeed was the only kind of government he was capable of forming any conception of. Indeed, one of the characteristic signs of Napoleon's government, even under the Consular system, left no doubt as to his real intentions. Had he wished to found a free Government it is evident that he world have made the Ministers responsible to the country, whereas he took care that there should be no responsibility but to himself. He viewed them, in fact, in the light of instruments which he might break as he pleased. I found this single index sufficient to disclose all his future designs In order to make the irresponsibility of his Ministers to the public perfectly clear, he had all the acts of his Government signed merely by M. Maret, Secretary of State. Thus the Consulship for life was nothing but an Empire in disguise, the usufruct of which could not long satisfy the First Consul's ambition. His brothers influenced him, and it was resolved to found a new dynasty.
It was not in the interior of France that difficulties were likely first to arise on Bonaparte's carrying his designs into effect, but there was some reason to apprehend that foreign powers, after recognising and treating with the Consular Government, might display a different feeling, and entertain scruples with regard to a Government which had resumed its monarchical form. The question regarding the Bourbons was in some measure kept in the background as long as France remained a Republic, but the re-establishment of the throne naturally called to recollection the family which had occupied it for so many ages. Bonaparte fully felt the delicacy of his position, but he knew how to face obstacles, and had been accustomed to overcome them: he, however, always proceeded cautiously, as when obstacles induced him to defer the period of the Consulship for life.
Bonaparte laboured to establish iii France not only an absolute government, but, what is still worse, a military one. He considered a decree signed by his hand possessed of a magic virtue capable of transforming his generals into able diplomatists, and so he sent them on embassies, as if to show the Sovereigns to whom they were accredited that he soon meant to take their thrones by assault. The appointment of Lannes to the Court of Lisbon originated from causes which probably will be read with some interest, since they serve to place Bonaparte's character in, its true light, and to point out, at the same time, the means he disdained not to resort to, if he wished to banish his most faithful friends when their presence was no longer agreeable to him.
Bonaparte had ceased to address Lannes in the second person singular; but that general continued the familiarity of thee and thou in speaking to Napoleon. It is hardly possible to conceive how much this annoyed the First Consul. Aware of the unceremonious candour of his old comrade, whose daring spirit he knew would prompt him to go as great lengths in civil affairs as on the field of battle, Bonaparte, on the great occasion of the 18th Brumaire, fearing his reproaches, had given him the command of Paris in order to ensure his absence from St. Cloud.
After that time, notwithstanding the continually growing greatness of the First Consul, which, as it increased, daily exacted more and more deference, Lannes still preserved his freedom of speech, and was the only one who dared to treat Bonaparte as a comrade, and tell him the truth without ceremony. This was enough to determine Napoleon to rid himself of the presence of Lannes. But under what pretest was the absence of the conqueror of Montebello to be procured? It was necessary to conjure up an excuse; and in the truly diabolical machination resorted to for that purpose, Bonaparte brought into play that crafty disposition for which he was so remarkable.
Lannes, who never looked forward to the morrow, was as careless of his money as of his blood. Poor officers and soldiers partook largely of his liberality. Thus he had no fortune, but plenty of debts when he wanted money, and this was not seldom, he used to come, as if it were a mere matter of course, to ask it of the First Consul, who, I must confess, never refused him. Bonaparte, though he well knew the general's circumstances, said to him one day, "My friend, you should attend a little more to appearances. You must have your establishment suitable to your rank. There is the Hotel de Noailles—why don't you take it, and furnish it in proper style?" Lannes, whose own candour prevented him from suspecting the artful designs of others, followed the advice of the First Consul The Hotel de Noailles was taken and superbly fitted up. Odiot supplied a service of plate valued at 200,000 francs.
General Lannes having thus conformed to the wishes of Bonaparte came to him and requested 400,000 francs, the amount of the expense incurred, as it were, by his order. "But," said the First Consul, "I have no money."—"You have no money! What the devil am I to do, then?"
"But is there none in the Guard's chest? Take what you require, and we will settle it, hereafter."
Mistrusting nothing, Lannes went to the treasurer of the Guards, who made some objections at first to the advance required, but who soon yielded on learning that the demand was made with the consent of the First Consul.
Within twenty-four hours after Lannes had obtained the 400,000 francs the treasurer received from the head commissary an order to balance his accounts. The receipt for the 400,000 francs advanced to Lannes, was not acknowledged as a voucher. In vain the treasurer alleged the authority of the First Consul for the transaction. Napoleon's memory had suddenly failed him; he had entirely forgotten all about it. In a word, it was incumbent on Lannes to refund the 400,000 francs to the Guards' chest; and, as I have already said, he had no property on earth, but debts in abundance. He repaired to General Lefebre, who loved him as his son, and to him he related all that had passed. "Simpleton," said Lefebvre, "why did you not come to me? Why did you go and get into debt with that ——-? Well, here are the 400,000 francs; take them to him, and let him go to the devil!"
Lannes hastened to the First Consul. "What!"—he exclaimed, "is it possible you can be guilty of such baseness as this? To treat me in such a manner! To lay such a foul snare for me after all that I have done for you; after all the blood I have shed to promote your ambition! Is this the recompense you had in store for me? You forget the 13th Vendemiaire, to the success of which I contributed more than you! You forget Millesimo: I was colonel before you! For whom did I fight at Bassano? You were witness of what I did at Lodi and at Governolo, where I was wounded; and yet you play me such a trick as this! But for me, Paris would have revolted on the 18th Brumaire. But for me, you would have lost the battle of Marengo. I alone, yes, I alone, passed the Po, at Montebello, with my whole division. You gave the credit of that to Berthier, who was not there; and this is my reward—humiliation. This cannot, this shall not be. I will——" Bonaparte, pale with anger, listened without stirring, and Lannes was on the point of challenging him when Junot, who heard the uproar, hastily entered. The unexpected presence of this general somewhat reassured the First Consul, and at the same time calmed, in some degree, the fury of Lannes. "Well," said Bonaparte, "go to Lisbon. You will get money there; and when you return you will not want any one to pay your debts for you." Thus was Bonaparte's object gained. Lannes set out for Lisbon, and never afterwards annoyed the First Consul by his familiarities, for on his return he ceased to address him with thee and thou.
Having described Bonaparte's ill-treatment of Lannes I may here subjoin a statement of the circumstances which led to a rupture between the First Consul and me. So many false stories have been circulated on the subject that I am anxious to relate the facts as they really were.
Nine months had now passed since I had tendered my resignation to the First Consul. The business of my office had become too great for me, and my health was so much endangered by over-application that my physician, M. Corvisart, who had for a long time impressed upon me the necessity of relaxation, now formally warned me that I should not long hold out under the fatigue I underwent. Corvisart had no doubt spoken to the same effect to the First Consul, for the latter said to me one day, in a tone which hetrayed but little feeling, "Why, Corvisart says you have not a year to live." This was certainly no very welcome compliment in the mouth of an old college friend, yet I must confess that the doctor risked little by the prediction.
I had resolved, in fact, to follow the advice of Corvisart; my family were urgent in their entreaties that I would do so, but I always put off the decisive step. I was loath to give up a friendship which had subsisted so long, and which had been only once disturbed: on that occasion when Joseph thought proper to play the spy upon me at the table of Fouche. I remembered also the reception I had met with from the conqueror of Italy; and I experienced, moreover, no slight pain at the thought of quitting one from whom I had received so many proofs of confidence, and to whom I had been attached from early boyhood. These considerations constantly triumphed over the disgust to which I was subjected by a number of circumstances, and by the increasing vexations occasioned by the conflict between my private sentiments and the nature of the duties I had to perform.
I was thus kept in a state of perplexity, from which some unforeseen circumstance alone could extricate me. Such a circumstance at length occurred, and the following is the history of my first rupture with Napoleon:
On the 27th of February 1802, at ten at night, Bonaparte dictated to me a despatch of considerable importance and urgency, for M. de Talleyrand, requesting the Minister for Foreign Affairs to come to the Tuileries next morning at an appointed hour. According to custom, I put the letter into the hands of the office messenger that it might be forwarded to its destination.
This was Saturday. The following day, Sunday, M. de Talleyrand came as if for an audience about mid-day. The First Consul immediately began to confer with him on the subject of the letter sent the previous evening, and was astonished to learn that the Minister had not received it until the morning. He immediately rang for the messenger, and ordered me to be sent for. Being in a very bad humour, he pulled the bell with so much fury that he struck his hand violently against the angle of the chimney-piece. I hurried to his presence. "Why," he said, addressing me hastily, "why was not my letter delivered yesterday evening?"—"I do not know: I put it at once into the hands of the person whose duty it was to see that it was sent."—"Go and find the cause of the delay, and come back quickly." Having rapidly made my inquiries, I returned to the cabinet. "Well?" said the First Consul, whose irritation seemed to have increased. "Well, General, it is not the fault of anybody, M. de Talleyrand was not to be found, either at the office or at his own residence, or at the houses of any of his friends where he was thought likely to be." Not knowing with whom to be angry, restrained by the coolness of M. de Talleyrand, yet at the same time ready to burst with rage, Bonaparte rose from his seat, and proceeding to the hall, called the messenger and questioned him sharply. The man, disconcerted by the anger of the First Consul, hesitated in his replies, and gave confused answers. Bonaparte returned to his cabinet still more irritated than he had left it.
I had followed him to the hall, and on my way back to the cabinet I attempted to soothe him, and I begged him not to be thus discomposed by a circumstance which, after all, was of no great moment. I do not know whether his anger was increased by the sight of the blood which flowed from his hand, and which he was every moment looking at; but however that might be, a transport of furious passion, such as I had never before witnessed, seized him; and as I was about to enter the cabinet after him he threw back the door with so much violence that, had I been two or three inches nearer him, it must infallibly have struck me in the face. He accompanied this action, which was almost convulsive, with an appellation, not to be borne; he exclaimed before M. de Talleyrand, "Leave me alone; you are a fool." At an insult so atrocious I confess that the anger which had already mastered the First Consul suddenly seized on me. I thrust the door forward with as much impetuosity as he had used in throwing it back, and, scarcely knowing what I said, exclaimed, "You are a hundredfold a greater fool than I am!" I then banged the door and went upstairs to my apartment, which was situated over the cabinet.
I was as far from expecting as from wishing such an occasion of separating from the First Consul. But what was done could not be undone; and therefore, without taking time for reflection, and still under the influence of the anger that had got the better of me, I penned the following positive resignation:
GENERAL—The state of my health no longer permits me to continue in your service. I therefore beg you to accept my resignation. BOURRIENNE.
Some moments after this note was written I saw Bonaparte's saddle-horses brought up to the entrance of the Palace. It was Sunday morning, and, contrary to his usual custom on that day, he was going to ride out.
Duroc accompanied him. He was no sooner done than I, went down into his cabinet, and placed my letter on his table. On returning at four o'clock with Duroc Bonaparte read my letter. "Ah! ah!" said he, before opening it, "a letter from Bourrienne." And he almost immediately added, for the note was speedily perused, "He is in the sulks.—Accepted." I had left the Tuileries at the moment he returned, but Duroc sent to me where I was dining the following billet:
The First Consul desires me, my dear Bourrienne, to inform you that he accepts your resignation, and to request that you will give me the necessary information respecting your papers.—Yours, DUROC.
P.S.:—I will call on you presently.
Duroc came to me at eight o'clock the same evening. The First Consul was in his cabinet when we entered it. I immediately commenced giving my intended successor the necessary explanations to enable him to enter upon his new duties. Piqued at finding that I did not speak to him, and at the coolness with which I instructed Duroc, Bonaparte said to me in a harsh tone, "Come, I have had enough of this! Leave me." I stepped down from the ladder on which I had mounted for the purpose of pointing out to Duroc the places in which the various papers were deposited and hastily withdrew. I too had quite enough of it!
I remained two more days at the Tuileries until I had suited myself with lodgings. On Monday I went down into the cabinet of the First Consul to take my leave of him. We conversed together for a long time, and very amicably. He told me he was very sorry I was going to leave him, and that he would do all he could for me. I pointed out several places to him; at last I mentioned the Tribunate. "That will not do for you," he said; "the members are a set of babblers and phrasemongers, whom I mean to get rid of. All the troubles of States proceed from such debatings. I am tired of them." He continued to talk in a strain which left me in no doubt as to his uneasiness about the Tribunate, which, in fact, reckoned among its members many men of great talent and excellent character.
—[In 1802 the First Consul made a reduction of fifty members of the Tribunate, and subsequently the whole body was suppressed. —Bourrienne.]—
The following day, Tuesday, the First Consul asked me to breakfast with him. After breakfast, while he was conversing with some other person, Madame Bonaparte and Hortense pressed me to make advances towards obtaining a re-instalment in my office, appealing to me on the score of the friendship and kindness they had always shown me. They told me that I had been in the wrong, and that I had forgotten myself. I answered that I considered the evil beyond remedy; and that, besides, I had really need of repose. The First Consul then called me to him, and conversed a considerable time with me, renewing his protestations of goodwill towards me.
At five o'clock I was going downstairs to quit the Tuileries for good when I was met by the office messenger, who told me that the First Consul wished to see me. Duroc; who was in the room leading to the cabinet, stopped me as I passed, and said, "He wishes you to remain. I beg of you not to refuse; do me this favour. I have assured him that I am incapable of filling your office. It does not suit my habits; and besides, to tell you the truth, the business is too irksome for me." I proceeded to the cabinet without replying to Duroc. The First Consul came up to me smiling, and pulling me by the ear, as he did when he was in the best of humours, said to me, "Are you still in the sulks?" and leading me to my usual seat he added, "Come, sit down."
Only those who knew Bonaparte can judge of my situation at that moment. He had at times, and when he chose, a charm in his manners which it was quite impossible to resist. I could offer no opposition, and I resumed my usual office and my accustomed labours. Five minutes afterwards it was announced that dinner was on table. "You will dine with me?" he said. "I cannot; I am expected at the place where I was going when Duroc called me back. It is an engagement that I cannot break."—"Well, I have nothing to say, then. But give me your word that you will be here at eight o'clock."—"I promise you." Thus I became again the private secretary of the First Consul, and I believed in the sincerity of our reconciliation.
The Concordat and the Legion of Honour—The Council of State and the Tribunate—Discussion on the word 'subjects'—Chenier—Chabot de l'Allier's proposition to the Tribunate—The marked proof of national gratitude—Bonaparte's duplicity and self-command—Reply to the 'Senatus-consulte'—The people consulted—Consular decree— The most, or the least—M. de Vanblanc's speech—Bonaparte's reply— The address of the Tribunate—Hopes and predictions thwarted.
It may truly be said that history affords no example of an empire founded like that of France, created in all its parts under the cloak of a republic. Without any shock, and in the short space of four years, there arose above the ruins of the short-lived Republic a Government more absolute than ever was Louis XIV.'s. This extraordinary change is to be assigned to many causes; and I had the opportunity of observing the influence which the determined will of one man exercised over his fellow-men.
The great object which Bonaparte had at heart was to legitimate his usurpations by institutions. The Concordat had reconciled him with the Court of Rome; the numerous erasures from the emigrant list gathered round him a large body of the old nobility; and the Legion of Honour, though at first but badly received, soon became a general object of ambition. Peace, too, had lent her aid in consolidating the First Consul's power by affording him leisure to engage in measures of internal prosperity.
The Council of State, of which Bonaparte had made me a member, but which my other occupations did not allow me to attend, was the soul of the Consular Government. Bonaparte felt much interest in the discussions of that body, because it was composed of the most eminent men in the different branches of administration; and though the majority evinced a ready compliance with his wishes, yet that disposition was often far from being unanimous. In the Council of State the projects of the Government were discussed from the first with freedom and sincerity, and when once adopted they were transmitted to the Tribunate, and to the Legislative Body. This latter body might be considered as a supreme Legislative Tribunal, before which the Tribunes pleaded as the advocates of the people, and the Councillors of State, whose business it was to support the law projects, as the advocates of the Government. This will at once explain the cause of the First Consul's animosity towards the Tribunate, and will show to what the Constitution was reduced when that body was dissolved by a sudden and arbitrary decision.
During the Consulate the Council of State was not only a body politic collectively, but each individual member might be invested with special power; as, for example, when the First Consul sent Councillors of State on missions to each of the military divisions where there was a Court of Appeal, the instructions given them by the First Consul were extensive, and might be said to be unlimited. They were directed to examine all the branches of the administration, so that their reports collected and compared together presented a perfect description of the state of France. But this measure, though excellent in itself, proved fatal to the State. The reports never conveyed the truth to the First Consul, or at least if they did, it was in such a disguised form as to be scarcely recognisable; for the Councillors well knew that the best way to pay their court to Bonaparte was not to describe public feeling as it really was, but as he wished it to be. Thus the reports of the councillors of State only furnished fresh arguments in favour of his ambition.
I must, however, observe that in the discussions of the Council of State Bonaparte was not at all averse to the free expression of opinion. He, indeed, often encouraged it; for although fully resolved to do only what he pleased, he wished to gain information; indeed, it is scarcely conceivable how, in the short space of two years, Bonaparte adapted his mind so completely to civil and legislative affairs. But he could not endure in the Tribunate the liberty of opinion which he tolerated in the Council; and for this reason—that the sittings of the Tribunate were public, while those of the Council of State were secret, and publicity was what he dreaded above all things. He was very well pleased when he had to transmit to the Legislative Body or to the Tribunate any proposed law of trifling importance, and he used then to say that he had thrown them a bone to gnaw.
Among the subjects submitted to the consideration of the Council and the Tribunate was one which gave rise to a singular discussion, the ground of which was a particular word, inserted in the third article of the treaty of Russia with France. This word seemed to convey a prophetic allusion to the future condition of the French people, or rather an anticipated designation of what they afterwards became. The treaty spoke of "the subjects of the two Governments." This term applied to those who still considered themselves citizens, and was highly offensive to the Tribunate. Chenier most loudly remonstrated against the introduction of this word into the dictionary of the new Government. He said that the armies of France had shed their blood that the French people might be citizens and not subjects. Chenier's arguments, however, had no effect on the decision of the Tribunate, and only served to irritate the First Consul. The treaty was adopted almost unanimously, there being only fourteen dissentient voices, and the proportion of black balls in the Legislative Body was even less.
Though this discussion passed off almost unnoticed, yet it greatly displeased the First Consul, who expressed his dissatisfaction in the evening. "What is it," said he, "these babblers want? They wish to be citizens—why did they not know how to continue so? My government must treat on an equal footing with Russia. I should appear a mere puppet in the eyes of foreign Courts were I to yield to the stupid demands of the Tribunate.. Those fellows tease me so that I have a great mind to end matters at once with them." I endeavoured to soothe his anger, and observed, that one precipitate act might injure him. "You are right," he continued; "but stay a little, they shall lose nothing by waiting."
The Tribunate pleased Bonaparte better in the great question of the Consulate for life, because he had taken the precaution of removing such members as were most opposed to the encroachments of his ambition. The Tribunate resolved that a marked proof of the national gratitude should be offered to the First Consul, and the resolution was transmitted to the Senate. Not a single voice was raised against this proposition, which emanated from Chabot de l'Allier, the President of the Tribunate. When the First Consul came back to his cabinet after receiving the deputation of the Tribunate he was very cheerful, and said to me, "Bourrienne, it is a blank cheque that the Tribunate has just offered me; I shall know how to fill it up. That is my business."
The Tribunate having adopted the indefinite proposition of offering to the First Consul a marked proof of the national gratitude, it now only remained to determine what that proof should be. Bonaparte knew well what he wanted, but he did not like to name it in any positive way. Though in his fits of impatience, caused by the lingering proceedings of the Legislative Body and the indecision of some of its members, he often talked of mounting on horseback and drawing his sword, yet he so far controlled himself as to confine violence to his conversations with his intimate friends. He wished it to be thought that he himself was yielding to compulsion; that he was far from wishing to usurp permanent power contrary to the Constitution; and that if he deprived France of liberty it was all for her good, and out of mere love for her. Such deep-laid duplicity could never have been conceived and maintained in any common mind; but Bonaparte's was not a mind of the ordinary cast. It must have required extraordinary self-command to have restrained so long as he did that daring spirit which was so natural to him, and which was rather the result of his temperament than his character. For my part, I confess that I always admired him more for what he had the fortitude not to do than for the boldest exploits he ever performed.
In conformity with the usual form, the proposition of the Tribunate was transmitted to the Senate. From that time the Senators on whom Bonaparte most relied were frequent in their visits to the Tuileries. In the preparatory conferences which preceded the regular discussions in the Senate it has been ascertained that the majority was not willing that the marked proof of gratitude should be the Consulate for life; it was therefore agreed that the reporter should limit his demand to a temporary prolongation of the dignity of First Consul in favour of Bonaparte. The reporter, M. de Lacepede, acted accordingly, and limited the prolongation to ten years, commencing from the expiration of the ten years granted by the Constitution. I forget which of the Senators first proposed the Consulate for life; but I well recollect that Cambaceres used all his endeavours to induce those members of the Senate whom he thought he could influence to agree to that proposition. Whether from flattery or conviction I know not, but the Second Consul held out to his colleague, or rather his master, the hope of complete success Bonaparte on hearing him shook his head with an air of doubt, but afterwards said to me, "They will perhaps make some wry faces, but they must come to it at last!"
It was proposed in the Senate that the proposition of the Consulate for life should take the priority of that of the decennial prolongation; but this was not agreed to; and the latter proposition being adopted, the other, of course, could not be discussed.
There was something very curious in the 'Senatus-consulte' published on the occasion. It spoke in the name of the French people, and stated that, "in testimony of their gratitude to the Consuls of the Republic," the Consular reign was prolonged for ten years; but that the prolongation was limited to the First Consul only.
Bonaparte, though much dissatisfied with the decision of the Senate, disguised his displeasure in ambiguous language. When Tronchet, then President of the Senate, read to him, in a solemn audience, at the head of the deputation, the 'Senatus-consulte' determining the prorogation, he said in reply that he could not be certain of the confidence of the people unless his continuance in the Consulship were sanctioned by their suffrages. "The interests of my glory and happiness," added he, "would seem to have marked the close of my public life at the moment when the peace of the world is proclaimed. But the glory and the happiness of the citizen must yield to the interests of the State and wishes of the public. You, Senators, conceive that I owe to the people another sacrifice. I will make it if the voice of the people commands what your suffrage authorises."
The true meaning of these words was not understood by everybody, and was only manifest to those who were initiated in the secret of Bonaparte's designs. He did not accept the offer of the Senate, because he wished for something more. The question was to be renewed and to be decided by the people only; and since the people had the right to refuse what the Senate offered, they possessed, for the same reason, the right to give what the Senate did not offer.
The moment now arrived for consulting the Council of State as to the mode to be adopted for invoking and collecting the suffrages of the people. For this purpose au extraordinary meeting of the Council of State was summoned on the 10th of May. Bonaparte wished to keep himself aloof from all ostensible influence; but his two colleagues laboured for him more zealously than he could have worked for himself, and they were warmly supported by several members of the Council. A strong majority were of opinion that Bonaparte should not only be invested with the Consulship for life, but that he should be empowered to nominate his successor. But he, still faithful to his plan, affected to venerate the sovereignty of the people, which he held in horror, and he promulgated the following decree, which was the first explanation of his reply to the Senate.
The Consuls of the Republic, considering that the resolution of the First Consul is an homage rendered to the sovereignty of the People, and that the People, when consulted on their dearest interests, will not go beyond the limits of those interests, decree as follows:— First, that the French people shall be consulted on the question whether Napoleon Bonaparte is to be made Consul for life, etc.
The other articles merely regulated the mode of collecting the votes.
This decree shows the policy of the First Consul in a new point of view, and displays his art in its fullest extent. He had just refused the less for the sake of getting the greater; and now he had contrived to get the offer of the greater to show off his moderation by accepting only the less. The Council of State sanctioned the proposition for conferring on the First Consul the right of nominating his successor, and, of his own accord, the First Consul declined this. Accordingly the Second Consul, when he, the next day, presented the decree to the Council of State, did not fail to eulogise this extreme moderation, which banished even the shadow of suspicion of any ambitious after-thought. Thus the Senate found itself out-manoeuvred, and the decree of the Consuls was transmitted at once to the Legislative Body and to the Tribunate.
In the Legislative Body, M. de Vaublanc was distinguished among all the deputies who applauded the conduct of the Government; and it was he who delivered the apologetic harangue of the deputation of the Legislative Body to the First Consul. After having addressed the Government collectively he ended by addressing the First Consul individually—a sort of compliment which had not hitherto been put in practice, and which was far from displeasing him who was its object. As M. de Vaublanc's speech had been communicated beforehand to the First Consul, the latter prepared a reply to it which sufficiently showed how much it had gratified him. Besides the flattering distinction which separated him from the Government, the plenitude of praise was not tempered by anything like advice or comment. It was not so with the address of the Tribunate. After the compliments which the occasion demanded, a series of hopes were expressed for the future, which formed a curious contrast with the events which actually ensued. The Tribunate, said the address, required no guarantee, because Bonaparte's elevated and generous sentiments would never permit him to depart from those principles which brought about the Revolution and founded the Republic;—he loved real glory too well ever to stain that which he had acquired by the abuse of power;—the nation which he was called to govern was free and generous he would respect and consolidate her liberty; he would distinguish his real friends, who spoke truth to him, from flatterers who might seek to deceive him. In short, Bonaparte would surround himself with the men who, having made the Revolution, were interested in supporting it.
To these and many other fine things the Consul replied, "This testimony of the affection of the Tribunate is gratifying to the Government. The union of all bodies of the State is a guarantee of the stability and happiness of the nation. The efforts of the Government will be constantly directed to the interests of the people, from whom all power is derived, and whose welfare all good men have at heart."
So much for the artifice of governments and the credulity of subjects! It is certain that, from the moment Bonaparte gained his point in submitting the question of the Consulate for life to the decision of the people, there was no longer a doubt of the result being in his favour. This was evident, not only on account of the influential means which a government always has at its command, and of which its agents extend the ramifications from the centre to the extremities, but because the proposition was in accordance with the wishes of the majority. The Republicans were rather shy in avowing principles with which people were now disenchanted;—the partisans of a monarchy without distinction of family saw their hopes almost realised in the Consulate for life; the recollection of the Bourbons still lived in some hearts faithful to misfortune but the great mass were for the First Consul, and his external acts in the new step he had taken towards the throne had been so cautiously disguised as to induce a belief in his sincerity. If I and a few others were witness to his accomplished artifice and secret ambition, France beheld only his glory, and gratefully enjoyed the blessings of peace which he had obtained for her. The suffrages of the people speedily realised the hopes of the First Consul, and thus was founded the CONSULATE FOR LIFE.
Departure for Malmaison—Unexpected question relative to the Bourbons—Distinction between two opposition parties—New intrigues of Lucien—Camille Jordan's pamphlet seized—Vituperation against the liberty of the press—Revisal of the Constitution—New 'Senatus-consulte—Deputation from the Senate—Audience of the Diplomatic Body—Josephine's melancholy—The discontented—Secret meetings—Fouche and the police agents—The Code Napoleon— Bonaparte's regular attendance at the Council of State—His knowledge of mankind, and the science of government—Napoleon's first sovereign act—His visit to the Senate—The Consular procession—Polite etiquette—The Senate and the Council of State— Complaints against Lucien—The deaf and dumb assembly—Creation of senatorships.
When nothing was wanting to secure the Consulate for life but the votes of the people, which there was no doubt of obtaining, the First Consul set off to spend a few days at Malmaison.
On the day of our arrival, as soon as dinner was ended, Bonaparte said to me, "Bourrienne, let us go and take a walk." It was the middle of May, so that the evenings were long. We went into the park: he was very grave, and we walked for several minutes without his uttering a syllable. Wishing to break silence in a way that would be agreeable to him, I alluded to the facility with which he had nullified the last 'Senatus-consulte'. He scarcely seemed to hear me, so completely was his mind absorbed in the subject on which he was meditating. At length, suddenly recovering from his abstraction, he said, "Bourrienne, do you think that the pretender to the crown of France would renounce his claims if I were to offer him a good indemnity, or even a province in Italy?" Surprised at this abrupt question on a subject which I was far from thinking of, I replied that I did not think the pretender would relinquish his claims; that it was very unlikely the Bourbons would return to France as long as he, Bonaparte, should continue at the head of the Government, though they would look forward to their ultimate return as probable. "How so?" inquired he. "For a very simple reason, General. Do you not see every day that your agents conceal the truth from you, and flatter you in your wishes, for the purpose of ingratiating themselves in your favour? are you not angry when at length the truth reaches your ear?"—"And what then?"—"why, General, it must be just the same with the agents of Louis XVIII. in France. It is in the course of things, in the nature of man, that they should feed the Bourbons with hopes of a possible return, were it only to induce a belief in their own talent and utility."—"That is very true! You are quite right; but I am not afraid. However, something might perhaps be done—we shall see." Here the subject dropped, and our conversation turned on the Consulate for life, and Bonaparte spoke in unusually mild terms of the persons who had opposed the proposition. I was a little surprised at this, and could not help reminding him of the different way in which he had spoken of those who opposed his accession to the Consulate. "There is nothing extraordinary in that," said he. "Worthy men may be attached to the Republic as I have made it. It is a mere question of form. I have nothing to say against that; but at the time of my accession to the Consulate it was very different. Then, none but Jacobins, terrorists, and rogues resisted my endeavours to rescue France from the infamy into which the Directory had plunged her. But now I cherish no ill-will against those who have opposed me."
During the intervals between the acts of the different bodies of the State, and the collection of the votes, Lucien renewed his intrigues, or rather prosecuted them with renewed activity, for the purpose of getting the question of hereditary succession included in the votes. Many prefects transmitted to M. Chaptal anonymous circulars which had been sent to them: all stated the ill effect produced by these circulars, which had been addressed to the principal individuals of their departments. Lucien was the originator of all this, though I cannot positively say whether his brother connived with him, as in the case of the pamphlet to which I have already alluded. I believe, however, that Bonaparte was not entirely a stranger to the business; for the circulars were written by Raederer at the instigation of Lucien, and Raederer was at that time in favour at the Tuileries. I recollect Bonaparte speaking to me one day very angrily about a pamphlet which had just, been published by Camille Jordan on the subject of the national vote on the Consulate for life. Camille Jordan did not withhold his vote, but gave it in favour of the First Consul; and instead of requiring preliminary conditions, he contented himself, like the Tribunate, with enumerating all the guarantees which he expected the honour of the First Consul would grant. Among these guarantees were the cessation of arbitrary imprisonments, the responsibility of the agents of Government, and the independence of the judges. But all these demands were mere peccadilloes in comparison with Camille Jordan's great crime of demanding the liberty of the press.
The First Consul had looked through the fatal pamphlet, and lavished invectives upon its author. "How!" exclaimed he, "am I never to have done with these fire brands?—These babblers, who think that politics may be shown on a printed page like the world on a map? Truly, I know not what things will come to if I let this go on. Camille Jordan, whom I received so well at Lyons, to think that he should—ask for the liberty of the press! Were I to accede to this I might as well pack up at once and go and live on a farm a hundred leagues from Paris." Bonaparte's first act in favour of the liberty of the press was to order the seizure of the pamphlet in which Camille Jordan had extolled the advantages of that measure. Publicity, either by words or writing, was Bonaparte's horror. Hence his aversion to public speakers and writers.
Camille Jordan was not the only person who made unavailing efforts to arrest Bonaparte in the first steps of his ambition. There were yet in France many men who, though they had hailed with enthusiasm the dawn of the French Revolution, had subsequently been disgusted by its crimes, and who still dreamed of the possibility of founding a truly Constitutional Government in France. Even in the Senate there were some men indignant at the usual compliance of that body, and who spoke of the necessity of subjecting the Constitution to a revisal, in order to render it conformable to the Consulate for life.
The project of revising the Constitution was by no means unsatisfactory to Bonaparte. It afforded him an opportunity of holding out fresh glimmerings of liberty to those who were too shortsighted to see into the future. He was pretty certain that there could be no change but to his advantage. Had any one talked to him of the wishes of the nation he would have replied, "3,577,259 citizens have voted. Of these how many were for me? 3,368,185. Compare the difference! There is but one vote in forty-five against me. I must obey the will of the people!" To this he would not have failed to add, "Whose are the votes opposed to me? Those of ideologists, Jacobins, and peculators under the Directory." To such arguments what could have been answered? It must not be supposed that I am putting these words into Bonaparte's mouth. They fell from him oftener than once.
As soon as the state of the votes was ascertained the Senate conceived itself under the necessity of repairing the only fault it had committed in the eyes of the First Consul, and solemnly presented him with a new 'Senatus-consulte', and a decree couched in the following terms:
ARTICLE I. The French people nominate and the Senate proclaim Napoleon Bonaparte Consul for life.
ARTICLE II. A statue representing Peace, holding in one hand the laurel of victory, and in the other the decree of the senate, shall commemorate to posterity the gratitude of the Nation.
ARTICLE III. The Senate will convey to the First Consul the expression of the confidence, the love, and the admiration of the French people.
Bonaparte replied to the deputation from the Senate, in the presence of the Diplomatic Body, whose audience had been appointed for that day in order that the ambassadors might be enabled to make known to their respective Courts that Europe reckoned one King more. In his reply he did not fail to introduce the high-sounding words "liberty and equality." He commenced thus: "A citizen's life belongs to his country. The French people wish that mine should be entirely devoted to their service. I obey."
On the day this ceremony took place, besides the audience of the Diplomatic Body there was an extraordinary assemblage of general officers and public functionaries. The principal apartments of the Tuileries's presented the appearance of a fete. This gaiety formed a striking contrast with the melancholy of Josephine, who felt that every step of the First Consul towards the throne removed him farther from her.
She had to receive a party that evening, and though greatly depressed in spirits she did the honours with her usual grace.
Let a Government be what it may, it can never satisfy everyone. At the establishment of the Consulate for life, those who were averse to that change formed but a feeble minority. But still they met, debated, corresponded, and dreamed of the possibility of overthrowing the Consular Government.
During the first six months of the year 1802 there were meetings of the discontented, which Fouche, who was then Minister of the Police, knew and would not condescend to notice; but, on the contrary, all the inferior agents of the police contended for a prey which was easily seized, and, with the view of magnifying their services, represented these secret meetings as the effect of a vast plot against the Government. Bonaparte, whenever he spoke to me on the subject, expressed himself weary of the efforts which were made to give importance to trifles; and yet he received the reports of the police agents as if he thought them of consequence. This was because he thought Fouche badly informed, and he was glad to find him at fault; but when he sent for the Minister of Police the latter told him that all the reports he had received were not worth a moment's attention. He told the First Consul all, and even a great deal more than had been revealed to him, mentioning at the same time how and from whom Bonaparte had received his information.
But these petty police details did not divert the First Consul's attention from the great object he had in view. Since March 1802 he had attended the sittings of the Council of State with remarkable regularity. Even while we were at the Luxembourg he busied himself in drawing up a new code of laws to supersede the incomplete collection of revolutionary laws, and to substitute order for the sort of anarchy which prevailed in the legislation. The man who were most distinguished for legal knowledge had cooperated in this laborious task, the result of which was the code first distinguished by the name of the Civil Code, and afterwards called the Code Napoleon. The labours of this important undertaking being completed, a committee was appointed for the presentation of the code. This committee, of which Cambaceres was the president, was composed of MM. Portalis, Merlin de Douai, and Tronchet. During all the time the discussions were pending, instead of assembling as usual three times a week, the Council of State assembled every day, and the sittings, which on ordinary occasions only lasted two or three hours, were often prolonged to five or six. The First Consul took such interest in these discussions that, to have an opportunity of conversing upon them in the evening, he frequently invited several members of the Council to dine with him. It was during these conversations that I most admired the inconceivable versatility of Bonaparte's genius, or rather, that superior instinct which enabled him to comprehend at a glance, and in their proper point of view, legislative questions to which he might have been supposed a stranger. Possessing as he did, in a supreme degree, the knowledge of mankind, ideas important to the science of government flashed upon his mind like sudden inspirations.
Some time after his nomination to the Consulate for life, anxious to perform a sovereign act, he went for the first time to preside at the Senate. Availing myself that day of a few leisure moments I went out to see the Consular procession. It was truly royal. The First Consul had given orders that the military should-be ranged in the streets through which he had to pass. On his first arrival at the Tuileries, Napoleon had the soldiers of the Guard ranged in a single line in the interior of the court, but he now ordered that the line should be doubled, and should extend from the gate of the Tuileries to that of the Luxembourg. Assuming a privilege which old etiquette had confined exclusively to the Kings of France, Bonaparte now for the first time rode in a carriage drawn by eight horses. A considerable number of carriages followed that of the First Consul, which was surrounded by generals and aides de camp on horseback. Louis XIV. going to hold a bed of justice at the Parliament of Paris never displayed greater pomp than did Bonaparte in this visit to the Senate. He appeared in all the parade of royalty; and ten Senators came to meet him at the foot of the staircase of the Luxembourg.
The object of the First Consul's visit to the Senate was the presentation of five plans of 'Senatus-consultes'. The other two Consuls were present at the ceremony, which took place about the middle of August.
Bonaparte returned in the same style in which he went, accompanied by M. Lebrun, Cambaceres remaining at the Senate, of which he was President. The five 'Senatus-consultes' were adopted, but a restriction was made in that which concerned the forms of the Senate. It was proposed that when the Consuls visited the Senate they should be received by a deputation of ten members at the foot of the staircase, as the First Consul had that day been received; but Bonaparte's brothers Joseph and Lucien opposed this, and prevented the proposition from being adopted, observing that the Second and Third Consuls being members of the Senate could not be received with such honours by their colleagues. This little scene of political courtesy, which was got up beforehand, was very well acted.
Bonaparte's visit to the Senate gave rise to a change of rank in the hierarchy of the different authorities composing the Government. Hitherto the Council of State had ranked higher in public opinion; but the Senate, on the occasion of its late deputation to the Tuileries, had for the first time, received the honour of precedency. This had greatly displeased some of the Councillors of State, but Bonaparte did not care for that. He instinctively saw that the Senate would do what he wished more readily than the other constituted bodies, and he determined to augment its rights and prerogatives even at the expense of the rights of the Legislative Body. These encroachments of one power upon another, authorised by the First Consul, gave rise to reports of changes in ministerial arrangements. It was rumoured in Paris that the number of the ministers was to be reduced to three, and that Lucien, Joseph, and M. de Talleyrand were to divide among them the different portfolios. Lucien helped to circulate these reports, and this increased the First Consul's dissatisfaction at his conduct. The letters from Madrid, which were filled with complaints against him, together with some scandalous adventures, known in Paris, such as his running away with the wife of a 'limonadier', exceedingly annoyed Bonaparte, who found his own family more difficult to govern than France.
France, indeed, yielded with admirable facility to the yoke which, the First Consul wished to impose on her. How artfully did he undo all that the Revolution had done, never neglecting any means of attaining his object! He loved to compare the opinions of those whom he called the Jacobins with the opinions of the men of 1789; and even them he found too liberal. He felt the ridicule which was attached to the mute character of the Legislative Body, which he called his deaf and dumb assembly. But as that ridicule was favourable to him he took care to preserve the assembly as it was, and to turn it into ridicule whenever he spoke of it. In general, Bonaparte's judgment must not be confounded with his actions. His accurate mind enabled him to appreciate all that was good; but the necessity of his situation enabled him to judge with equal shrewdness what was useful to himself.
What I have just said of the Senate affords me an opportunity of correcting an error which has frequently been circulated in the chit-chat of Paris. It has erroneously been said of some persons that they refused to become members of the Senate, and among the number have been mentioned M. Ducis, M. de La Fayette, and the Marechal de Rochambeau. The truth is, that no such refusals were ever made. The following fact, however, may have contributed to raise these reports and give them credibility. Bonaparte used frequently to say to persons in his salon and in his cabinet; "You should be a Senator—a man like you should be a Senator." But these complimentary words did not amount to a nomination. To enter the Senate certain legal forms were to be observed. It was necessary to be presented by the Senate, and after that presentation no one ever refused to become a member of the body, to which Bonaparte gave additional importance by the creation of "Senatoreries."—[Districts presided over by a Senator.]—This creation took place in the beginning of 1803.
The intoxication of great men—Unlucky zeal—MM. Maret, Champagny, and Savary—M. de Talleyrand's real services—Postponement of the execution of orders—Fouche and the Revolution—The Royalist committee—The charter first planned during the Consulate—Mission to Coblentz—Influence of the Royalists upon Josephine—The statue and the pedestal—Madame de Genlis' romance of Madame de la Valliere—The Legion of Honour and the carnations—Influence of the Faubourg St. Germain—Inconsiderate step taken by Bonaparte—Louis XVIII's indignation—Prudent advice of the Abbe Andre—Letter from Louis XVIII. to Bonaparte—Council held at Neuilly—The letter delivered—Indifference of Bonaparte, and satisfaction of the Royalists.
Perhaps one of the happiest ideas that ever were expressed was that of the Athenian who said, "I appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober." The drunkenness here alluded to is not of that kind which degrades a man to the level of a brute, but that intoxication which is occasioned by success, and which produces in the heads of the ambitious a sort of cerebral congestion. Ordinary men are not subject to this excitement, and can scarcely form an idea of it. But it is nevertheless true that the fumes of glory and ambition occasionally derange the strongest heads; and Bonaparte, in all the vigour of his genius, was often subject to aberrations of judgment; for though his imagination never failed him, his judgment was frequently at fault.
This fact may serve to explain, and perhaps even to excuse the faults with which the First Consul has been most seriously reproached. The activity of his mind seldom admitted of an interval between the conception and the execution of a design; but when he reflected coolly on the first impulses of his imperious will, his judgment discarded what was erroneous. Thus the blind obedience, which, like an epidemic disease, infected almost all who surrounded Bonaparte, was productive of the most fatal effects. The best way to serve the First Consul was never to listen to the suggestions of his first ideas, except on the field of battle, where his conceptions were as happy as they were rapid. Thus, for example, MM. Maret, de Champagny, and Savary evinced a ready obedience to Bonaparte's wishes, which often proved very unfortunate, though doubtless dictated by the best intentions on their part. To this fatal zeal may be attributed a great portion of the mischief which Bonaparte committed. When the mischief was done, and past remedy, Bonaparte deeply regretted it. How often have I heard him say that Maret was animated by an unlucky zeal! This was the expression he made use of.
M. de Talleyrand was almost the only one among the ministers who did not flatter Bonaparte, and who really served both the First Consul and the Emperor. When Bonaparte said to M. de Talleyrand, "Write so and so, and send it off by a special courier," that minister was never in a hurry to obey the order, because he knew the character of the First Consul well enough to distinguish between what his passion dictated and what his reason would approve: in short, he appealed from Philip drunk to Philip sober. When it happened that M. de Talleyrand suspended the execution of an order, Bonaparte never evinced the least displeasure. When, the day after he had received any hasty and angry order, M. de Talleyrand presented himself to the First Consul, the latter would say, "Well, did you send off the courier?"—"No," the minister would reply, "I took care not to do so before I showed you my letter." Then the First Consul would usually add, "Upon second thoughts I think it would be best not to send it." This was the way to deal with Bonaparte. When M. de Talleyrand postponed sending off despatches, or when I myself have delayed the execution of an order which I knew had been dictated by anger, and had emanated neither from his heart nor his understanding, I have heard him say a hundred times, "It was right, quite right. You understand me: Talleyrand understands me also. This is the way to serve me: the others do not leave me time for reflection: they are too precipitate." Fouche also was one of those who did not on all occasions blindly obey Bonaparte's commands. His other ministers, on the other hand, when told to send off a courier the next morning, would have more probably sent him off the same evening. This was from zeal, but was not the First Consul right in saying that such zeal was unfortunate?
Of Talleyrand and Fouche, in their connections with the First Consul, it might be said that the one represented the Constituent Assembly, with a slight perfume of the old regime, and the other the Convention in all its brutality. Bonaparte regarded Fouche as a complete personification of the Revolution. With him, therefore, Fouche's influence was merely the influence of the Revolution. That great event was one of those which had made the most forcible impression on Bonaparte's ardent mind, and he imagined he still beheld it in a visible form as long as Fouche continued at the head of his police. I am now of opinion that Bonaparte was in some degree misled as to the value of Fouche's services as a minister. No doubt the circumstance of Fouche being in office conciliated those of the Revolutionary party who were his friends. But Fouche cherished an undue partiality for them, because he knew that it was through them he held his place. He was like one of the old Condottieri, who were made friends of lest they should become enemies, and who owed all their power to the soldiers enrolled under their banners.
Such was Fouche, and Bonaparte perfectly understood his situation. He kept the chief in his service until he could find an opportunity of disbanding his undisciplined followers. But there was one circumstance which confirmed his reliance on Fouche. He who had voted the death of the King of France, and had influenced the minds of those who had voted with him, offered Bonaparte the best guarantee against the attempts of the Royalists for raising up in favour of the Bourbons the throne which the First Consul himself had determined to ascend. Thus, for different reasons, Bonaparte and Fouche had common interests against the House of Bourbon, and the master's ambition derived encouragement from the supposed terror of the servant.
The First Consul was aware of the existence in Paris of a Royalist committee, formed for the purpose of corresponding with Louis XVIII. This committee consisted of men who must not be confounded with those wretched intriguers who were of no service to their employers, and were not unfrequently in the pay of both Bonaparte and the Bourbons. The Royalist committee, properly so called, was a very different thing. It consisted of men professing rational principles of liberty, such as the Marquis de Clermont Gallerande, the Abbe de Montesqiou, M. Becquet, and M. Royer Collard. This committee had been of long standing; the respectable individuals whose names I have just quoted acted upon a system hostile to the despotism of Bonaparte, and favourable to what they conceived to be the interests of France. Knowing the superior wisdom of Louis XVIII., and the opinions which he had avowed and maintained in the Assembly of the Notables, they wished to separate that Prince from the emigrants, and to point him out to the nation as a suitable head of a reasonable Constitutional Government. Bonaparte, whom I have often heard speak on the subject, dreaded nothing so much as these ideas of liberty, in conjunction with a monarchy. He regarded them as reveries, called the members of the committee idle dreamers, but nevertheless feared the triumph of their ideas. He confessed to me that it was to counteract the possible influence of the Royalist committee that he showed himself so indulgent to those of the emigrants whose monarchical prejudices he knew were incompatible with liberal opinions. By the presence of emigrants who acknowledged nothing short of absolute power, he thought he might paralyse the influence of the Royalists of the interior; he therefore granted all such emigrants permission to return.
About this time I recollect having read a document, which had been signed, purporting to be a declaration of the principles of Louis XVIII. It was signed by M. d'Andre, who bore evidence to its authenticity. The principles contained in the declaration were in almost all points conformable to the principles which formed the basis of the charter. Even so early as 1792, and consequently previous to the fatal 21st of January, Louis XVI., who knew the opinions of M. de Clermont Gallerande, sent him on a mission to Coblentz to inform the Princes from him, and the Queen, that they would be ruined by their emigration. I am accurately informed, and I state this fact with the utmost confidence. I can also add with equal certainty that the circumstance was mentioned by M. de Clermont Gallerande in his Memoirs, and that the passage relative to his mission to Coblentz was cancelled before the manuscript was sent to press.