During the Consular Government the object of the Royalist committee was to seduce rather than to conspire. It was round Madame Bonaparte in particular that their batteries were raised, and they did not prove ineffectual. The female friends of Josephine filled her mind with ideas of the splendour and distinction she would enjoy if the powerful hand which had chained the Revolution should raise up the subverted throne. I must confess that I was myself, unconsciously, an accomplice of the friends of the throne; for what they wished for the interest of the Bourbons I then ardently wished for the interest of Bonaparte.
While endeavours were thus made to gain over Madame Bonaparte to the interest of the royal family, brilliant offers were held out for the purpose of dazzling the First Consul. It was wished to retemper for him the sword of the constable Duguesclin; and it was hoped that a statue erected to his honour would at once attest to posterity his spotless glory and the gratitude of the Bourbons. But when these offers reached the ears of Bonaparte he treated them with indifference, and placed no faith in their sincerity. Conversing on the subject one day with M. de La Fayette he said, "They offer me a statue, but I must look to the pedestal. They may make it my prison." I did not hear Bonaparte utter these words; but they were reported to me from a source, the authenticity of which may be relied on.
About this time, when so much was said in the Royalist circles and in the Faubourg St. Germain, of which the Hotel de Luynes was the headquarters, about the possible return of the Bourbons, the publication of a popular book contributed not a little to direct the attention of the public to the most brilliant period of the reign of Louis XIV. The book was the historical romance of Madame de la Valloire, by Madame de Genlis, who had recently returned to France. Bonaparte read it, and I have since understood that he was very well pleased with it, but he said nothing to me about it. It was not until some time after that he complained of the effect which was produced in Paris by this publication, and especially by engravings representing scenes in the life of Louis XIV., and which were exhibited in the shop-windows. The police received orders to suppress these prints; and the order was implicitly obeyed; but it was not Fouche's police. Fouche saw the absurdity of interfering with trifles. I recollect that immediately after the creation of the Legion of Honour, it being summer, the young men of Paris indulged in the whim of wearing a carnation in a button-hole, which at a distance had rather a deceptive effect. Bonaparte took this very seriously. He sent for Fouche, and desired him to arrest those who presumed thus to turn the new order into ridicule. Fouche merely replied that he would wait till the autumn; and the First Consul understood that trifles were often rendered matters of importance by being honoured with too much attention.
But though Bonaparte was piqued at the interest excited by the engravings of Madame de Genlis' romance he manifested no displeasure against that celebrated woman, who had been recommended to him by MM. de Fontanes and Fievee and who addressed several letters to him. As this sort of correspondence did not come within the routine of my business I did not see the letters; but I heard from Madame Bonaparte that they contained a prodigious number of proper names, and I have reason to believe that they contributed not a little to magnify, in the eyes of the First Consul, the importance of the Faubourg St. Germain, which, in spite of all his courage, was a scarecrow to him.
Bonaparte regarded the Faubourg St. Germain as representing the whole mass of Royalist opinion; and he saw clearly that the numerous erasures from the emigrant list had necessarily increased dissatisfaction among the Royalists, since the property of the emigrants had not been restored to its old possessors, even in those cases in which it had not been sold. It was the fashion in a certain class to ridicule the unpolished manners of the great men of the Republic compared with the manners of the nobility of the old Court. The wives of certain generals had several times committed themselves by their awkwardness. In many circles there was an affectation of treating with contempt what are called the parvenus; those people who, to use M. de Talleyrand's expression, do not know how to walk upon a carpet. All this gave rise to complaints against the Faubourg St. Germain; while, on the other hand, Bonaparte's brothers spared no endeavours to irritate him against everything that was calculated to revive the recollection of the Bourbons.
Such were Bonaparte's feelings, and such was the state of society during the year 1802. The fear of the Bourbons must indeed have had a powerful influence on the First Consul before he could have been induced to take a step which may justly be regarded as the most inconsiderate of his whole life. After suffering seven months to elapse without answering the first letter of Louis XVIII., after at length answering his second letter in the tone of a King addressing a subject, he went so far as to write to Louis, proposing that he should renounce the throne of his ancestors in his, Bonaparte's, favour, and offering him as a reward for this renunciation a principality in Italy, or a considerable revenue for himself and his family.
—[Napoleon seems to have always known, as with Cromwell and the Stuarts, that if his dynasty failed the Bourbons must succeed him. "I remember," says Metternich, "Napoleon said to me, 'Do you know why Louis XVIII. is not now sitting opposite to you? It is only because it is I who am sitting here. No other person could maintain his position; and if ever I disappear in consequence of a catastrophe no one but a Bourbon could sit here.'" (Metternich, tome i. p. 248). Farther, he said to Metternich, "The King overthrown, the Republic was master of the soil of France. It is that which I have replaced. The old throne of France is buried under its rubbish. I had to found a new one. The Bourbons could not reign over this creation. My strength lies in my fortune. I am new, like the Empire; there is, therefore, a perfect homogeneity between the Empire and myself."—"However," says Metternich, "I have often thought that Napoleon, by talking in this way, merely sought to study the opinion of others, or to confuse it, and the direct advance which he made to Louis XVIII., in 1804 seemed to confirm this suspicion. Speaking to me one day of this advance he said, 'Monsieur's reply was grand; it was full of fine traditions. There is something in legitimate rights which appeals to more than the mere mind. If Monsieur had consulted his mind only he would have arranged with me, and I should have made for him a magnificent future'" (Metternich, tome i, p. 276). According to Iung's Lucien (tome ii. p. 421), the letter written and signed by Napoleon, but never sent, another draft being substituted, is still in the French archives. Metternich speaks of Napoleon making a direct advance to Louis XVIII. in 1804. According to Colonel Iung (Lucien Bonaparte, tome ii. pp. 4211-426) the attempt was made through the King of Prussia in 1802, the final answer of Louis being made on the 28th February 1803, as given in the text, but with a postscript of his nephew in addition, "With the permission of the King, my uncle, I adhere with heart and soul to the contents of this note. "(signed) LOUIS ANTOINE, Due d'Angouleme."
The reader will remark that there is no great interval between this letter and the final break with the Bourbons by the death of the Duc d'Enghien. At this time, according to Savory (tome iii. p. 241), some of the Bourbons were receiving French pensions. The Prince de Conti, the Duchesse de Bourbon, and the Duchesse d'Orleans, when sent out of France by the Directory, were given pensions of from 20,000 to 26,000 francs each. They lived in Catalonia. When the French troops entered Spain in 1808 General Canclaux, a friend of the Prince de Conti, brought to the notice of Napoleon that the tiresome formalities insisted on by the pestilent clerks of all nations were observed towards these regal personages. Gaudin, the Minister of Finance, apparently on his own initiative, drew up a decree increasing the pensions to 80,000 francs, and doing away with the formalities. "The Emperor signed at once, thanking the Minister of Finance." The reader, remembering the position of the French Princes then, should compare this action of Napoleon with the failure of the Bourbons in 1814 to pay the sums promised to Napoleon, notwithstanding the strong remonstrances made at Vienna to Talleyrand by Alexander and Lord Castlereagh. See Talleyrand's Correspondence with Louis XVIII., tome ii. pp. 27, 28; or French edition, pp. 285, 288.]—
The reader will recollect the curious question which the First Consul put to me on the subject of the Bourbons when we were walking in the park of Malmaison. To the reply which I made to him on that occasion I attribute the secrecy he observed towards me respecting the letter just alluded to. I am indeed inclined to regard that letter as the result of one of his private conferences with Lucien; but I know nothing positive on the subject, and merely mention this as a conjecture. However, I had an opportunity of ascertaining the curious circumstances which took place at Mittau, when Bonaparte's letter was delivered to Louis XVIII.
That Prince was already much irritated against Bonaparte by his delay in answering his first letter, and also by the tenor of his tardy reply; but on reading the First Consul's second letter the dethroned King immediately sat down and traced a few lines forcibly expressing his indignation at such a proposition. The note, hastily written by Louis XVIII. in the first impulse of irritation, bore little resemblance to the dignified and elegant letter which Bonaparte received, and which I shall presently lay before the reader. This latter epistle closed very happily with the beautiful device of Francis I., "All is lost but honour." But the first letter was stamped with a more chivalrous tone of indignation. The indignant sovereign wrote it with his hand supported on the hilt of his sword; but the Abbe Andre, in whom Louis XVIII. reposed great confidence, saw the note, and succeeded, not without some difficulty, in soothing the anger of the King, and prevailing on him to write the following letter:
I do not confound M. Bonaparte with those who have preceded him. I esteem his courage and his military talents. I am grateful for some acts of his government; for the benefits which are conferred on my people will always be prized by me.
But he errs in supposing that he can induce me to renounce my rights; so far from that, he would confirm them, if they could possibly be doubtful, by the step he has now taken.
I am ignorant of the designs of Heaven respecting me and my subjects; but I know the obligations which God has imposed upon me. As a Christian, I will fulfil my duties to my last breath—as the son of St. Louis, I would, like him, respect myself even in chains— as the successor of Francis I., I say with him—'Tout est perdu fors l'honneur'.
MITTAU, 1802. LOUIS.
Louis XVIII.'s letter having reached Paris, the Royalist committee assembled, and were not a little embarrassed as to what should be done. The meeting took place at Neuilly. After a long deliberation it was suggested that the delivery of the letter should be entrusted to the Third Consul, with whom the Abby de Montesqiou had kept up acquaintance since the time of the Constituent Assembly. This suggestion was adopted. The recollections of the commencement of his career, under Chancellor Maupeou, had always caused M. Lebrun to be ranked in a distinct class by the Royalists. For my part, I always looked upon him as a very honest man, a warm advocate of equality, and anxious that it should be protected even by despotism, which suited the views of the First Consul very well. The Abbe de Montesquiou accordingly waited upon M. Lebrun, who undertook to deliver the letter. Bonaparte received it with an air of indifference; but whether that indifference were real or affected, I am to this day unable to determine. He said very little to me about the ill success of the negotiation with Louis XVIII. On this subject he dreaded, above all, the interference of his brothers, who created around him a sort of commotion which he knew was not without its influence, and which on several occasions had excited his anger.
The letter of Louis XVIII. is certainly conceived in a tone of dignity which cannot be too highly admired; and it may be said that Bonaparte on this occasion rendered a real service to Louis by affording him the opportunity of presenting to the world one of the finest pages in the history of a dethroned King. This letter, the contents of which were known in some circles of Paris, was the object of general approbation to those who preserved the recollection of the Bourbons, and above all, to the Royalist committee. The members of that committee, proud of the noble spirit evinced by the unfortunate monarch, whose return they were generously labouring to effect, replied to him by a sort of manifesto, to which time has imparted interest, since subsequent events have fulfilled the predictions it contained.
The day after my disgrace—Renewal of my duties—Bonaparte's affected regard for me—Offer of an assistant—M. de Meneval—My second rupture with Bonaparte—The Due de Rovigo's account of it— Letter from M. de Barbe Marbois—Real causes of my separation from the First Consul—Postscript to the letter of M. de Barbe Marbois— The black cabinet—Inspection of letters dining the Consulate— I retire to St. Cloud—Communications from M. de Meneval—A week's conflict between friendship and pride—My formal dismissal—Petty revenge—My request to visit England—Monosyllabic answer—Wrong suspicion—Burial of my papers—Communication from Duroc—My letter to the First Consul—The truth acknowledged.
I shall now return to the circumstances which followed my first disgrace, of which I have already spoken. The day after that on which I had resumed my functions I went as usual to awaken the First Consul at seven in the morning. He treated me just the same as if nothing had happened between us; and on my part I behaved to him just as usual, though I really regretted being obliged to resume labours which I found too oppressive for me. When Bonaparte came down into his cabinet he spoke to me of his plans with his usual confidence, and I saw, from the number of letters lying in the basket, that during the few days my functions had been suspended Bonaparte had not overcome his disinclination to peruse this kind of correspondence. At the period of this first rupture and reconciliation the question of the Consulate for life was yet unsettled. It was not decided until the 2d of August, and the circumstances to which I am about to refer happened at the end of February.
I was now restored to my former footing of intimacy with the First Consul, at least for a time; but I soon perceived that, after the scene which M. de Talleyrand had witnessed, my duties in the Tuileries were merely provisional, and might be shortened or prolonged according to circumstances. I saw at the very first moment that Bonaparte had sacrificed his wounded pride to the necessity (for such I may, without any vanity, call it) of employing my services. The forced preference he granted to me arose from the fact of his being unable to find any one able to supply my place; for Duroc, as I have already said, showed a disinclination to the business. I did not remain long in the dark respecting the new situation in which I stood. I was evidently still under quarantine; but the period of my quitting the port was undetermined.
A short time after our reconciliation the First Consul said to me, in a cajoling tone of which I was not the dupe, "My dear Bourrienne, you cannot do everything. Business increases, and will continue to increase. You know what Corvisart says. You have a family; therefore it is right you should take care of your health. You must not kill yourself with work; therefore some one must be got to assist you. Joseph tells me that he can recommend a secretary, one of whom he speaks very highly. He shall be under your direction; he can make out your copies, and do all that can consistently be required of him. This, I think, will be a great relief to you."—"I ask for nothing better," replied I, "than to have the assistance of some one who, after becoming acquainted with the business, may, some time or other, succeed me." Joseph sent M. de Meneval, a young man who, to a good education, added the recommendations of industry and prudence. I had every reason to be satisfied with him.
It was now that Napoleon employed all those devices and caresses which always succeeded so well with him, and which yet again gained the day, to put an end to the inconvenience caused to him by my retirement, and to retain me. Here I call every one who knew me as witnesses that nothing could equal my grief and despair to find myself obliged to again begin my troublesome work. My health had suffered much from it. Corvisart was a clever counsellor, but it was only during the night that I could carry out his advice. To resume my duties was to renounce all hope of rest, and even of health.
—[There is considerable truth in this statement about the effect on his health. His successor, Meneval, without the same amount of work, broke down and had to receive assistance (Meneval, tome i. p. 149).]—
I soon perceived the First Consul's anxiety to make M. de Meneval acquainted with the routine of business, and accustomed to his manner. Bonaparte had never pardoned me for having presumed to quit him after he had attained so high a degree of power; he was only waiting for an opportunity to punish me, and he seized upon an unfortunate circumstance as an excuse for that separation which I had previously wished to bring about.
I will explain this circumstance, which ought to have obtained for me the consolation and assistance of the First Consul rather than the forfeiture of his favour. My rupture with him has been the subject of various misstatements, all of which I shall not take the trouble to correct; I will merely notice what I have read in the Memoirs of the Duc de Rovigo, in which it is stated that I was accused of peculation. M. de Rovigo thus expresses himself:
Ever since the First Consul was invested with the supreme power his life had been a continued scene of personal exertion. He had for his private secretary M. de Bourrienne, a friend and companion of his youth, whom he now made the sharer of all his labours. He frequently sent for him in the dead of the night, and particularly insisted upon his attending him every morning at seven. Bourrienne was punctual in his attendance with the public papers, which he had previously glanced over. The First Consul almost invariably read their contents himself; he then despatched some business, and sat down to table just as the clock struck nine. His breakfast, which lasted six minutes, was no sooner over than he returned to his cabinet, only left it for dinner, and resumed his close occupation immediately after, until ten at night, which was his usual hour for retiring to rest.
Bourrienne was gifted with a most wonderful memory; he could speak and write many languages, and would make his pen follow as fast as words were uttered. He possessed many other advantages; he was well acquainted with the administrative departments, was versed in the law of nations, and possessed a zeal and activity which rendered his services quite indispensable to the First Consul. I have known the several grounds upon which the unlimited confidence placed in him by his chief rested, but am unable to speak with equal assurance of the errors which occasioned his losing that confidence.
Bourrienne had many enemies; some were owing to his personal character, a greater number to the situation which he held. Others were jealous of the credit he enjoyed with the Head of the Government; others, again, discontented at his not making that credit subservient to their personal advantage. Some even imputed to him the want of success that had attended their claims. It was impossible to bring any charge against him on the score of deficiency of talent or of indiscreet conduct; his personal habits were watched—it was ascertained that he engaged in financial speculations. An imputation could easily be founded on this circumstance. Peculation was accordingly laid to his charge.
This was touching the most tender ground, for the First Consul held nothing in greater abhorrence than unlawful gains. A solitary voice, however, would have failed in an attempt to defame the character of a man for whom he had so long felt esteem and affection; other voices, therefore, were brought to bear against him. Whether the accusations were well founded or otherwise, it is beyond a doubt that all means were resorted to for bringing them to the knowledge of the First Consul.
The most effectual course that suggested itself was the opening a correspondence either with the accused party direct, or with those with whom it was felt indispensable to bring him into contact; this correspondence was carried on in a mysterious manner, and related to the financial operations that had formed the grounds of a charge against him.—Thus it is that, on more than one occasion, the very channels intended for conveying truth to the knowledge of a sovereign have been made available to the purpose of communicating false intelligence to him. To give an instance.
Under the reign of Louis XV., and even under the Regency, the Post Office was organized into a system of minute inspection, which did not indeed extend to every letter, but was exercised over all such as afforded grounds for suspicion. They were opened, and, when it was not deemed safe to suppress them, copies were taken, and they were returned to their proper channel without the least delay. Any individual denouncing another may, by the help of such an establishment, give great weight to his denunciation. It is sufficient for his purpose that he should throw into the Post Office any letter so worded as to confirm the impression which it is his object to convey. The worthiest man may thus be committed by a letter which he has never read, or the purport of which is wholly unintelligible to him.
I am speaking from personal experience. It once happened that a letter addressed to myself, relating to an alleged fact which had never occurred, was opened. A copy of the letter so opened was also forwarded to me, as it concerned the duties which I had to perform at that time; but I was already in possession of the original, transmitted through the ordinary channel. Summoned to reply to the questions to which such productions had given rise, I took that opportunity of pointing out the danger that would accrue from placing a blind reliance upon intelligence derived from so hazardous a source. Accordingly, little importance was afterwards attached to this means of information; but the system was in operation at the period when M. de Bourrienne was disgraced; his enemies took care to avail themselves of it; they blackened his character with M. de Barbe Marbois, who added to their accusations all the weight of his unblemished character. The opinion entertained by this rigid public functionary, and many other circumstances, induced the First Consul to part with his secretary (tome i. p. 418).
Peculation is the crime of those who make a fraudulent use of the public money. But as it was not in my power to meddle with the public money, no part of which passed through my hands, I am at loss to conceive how I can be charged with peculation! The Due de Rovigo is not the author, but merely the echo, of this calumny; but the accusation to which his Memoirs gave currency afforded M. de Barbe Marbois an opportunity of adding one more to the many proofs he has given of his love of justice.
I had seen nothing of the Memoirs of the Due de Rovigo except their announcement in the journals, when a letter from M. de Barbe Marbois was transmitted to me from my family. It was as follows:
SIR—My attention has been called to the enclosed article in a recent publication. The assertion it contains is not true, and I conceive it to be a duty both to you and myself to declare that I then was, and still am, ignorant of the causes of the separation in question:—I am, etc. (Signed) MARBOIS
I need say no more in my justification. This unsolicited testimony of M. de Marbois is a sufficient contradiction to the charge of peculation which has been raised against me in the absence of correct information respecting the real causes of my rupture with the First Consul.
M. le Due de Rovigo also observes that my enemies were numerous. My concealed adversaries were indeed all those who were interested that the sovereign should not have about him, as his confidential companion, a man devoted to his glory and not to his vanity. In expressing his dissatisfaction with one of his ministers Bonaparte had said, in the presence of several individuals, among whom was M. Maret, "If I could find a second Bourrienne I would get rid of you all." This was sufficient to raise against me the hatred of all who envied the confidence of which I was in possession.
The failure of a firm in Paris in which I had invested a considerable sum of money afforded an opportunity for envy and malignity to irritate the First Consul against me. Bonaparte, who had not yet forgiven me for wishing to leave him, at length determined to sacrifice my services to a new fit of ill-humour.
A mercantile house, then one of the most respectable in Patna, had among its speculations undertaken some army contracts. With the knowledge of Berthier, with whom, indeed, the house had treated, I had invested some money in this business. Unfortunately the principals were, unknown to me, engaged in dangerous speculations in the Funds, which in a short time so involved them as to occasion their failure for a heavy amount. This caused a rumour that a slight fall of the Funds, which took place at that period, was occasioned by the bankruptcy; and the First Consul, who never could understand the nature of the Funds, gave credit to the report. He was made to believe that the business of the Stock Exchange was ruined. It was insinuated that I was accused of taking advantage of my situation to produce variations in the Funds, though I was so unfortunate as to lose not only my investment in the bankrupt house, but also a sum of money for which I had become bound, by way of surety, to assist the house in increasing its business. I incurred the violent displeasure of the First Consul, who declared to me that he no longer required my services. I might, perhaps have cooled his irritation by reminding him that he could not blame me for purchasing an interest in a contract, since he himself had stipulated for a gratuity of 1,500,000 francs for his brother Joseph out of the contract for victualling the navy. But I saw that for some time past M. de Meneval had begun to supersede me, and the First Consul only wanted such an opportunity as this for coming to a rupture with me.
Such is a true statement of the circumstances which led to my separation from Bonaparte. I defy any one to adduce a single fact in support of the charge of peculation, or any transaction of the kind; I fear no investigation of my conduct. When in the service of Bonaparte I caused many appointments to be made, and many names to be erased from the emigrant list before the 'Senatus-consulte' of the 6th Floreal, year X.; but I never counted upon gratitude, experience having taught me that it was an empty word.
The Duc de Rovigo attributed my disgrace to certain intercepted letters which injured me in the eyes of the First Consul. I did not know this at the time, and though I was pretty well aware of the machinations of Bonaparte's adulators, almost all of whom were my enemies, yet I did not contemplate such an act of baseness. But a spontaneous letter from M. de Barbe Marbois at length opened my eyes, and left little doubt on the subject. The following is the postscript to that noble peer's letter:
I recollect that one Wednesday the First Consul, while presiding at a Council of Ministers at St. Cloud, opened a note, and, without informing us what it contained, hastily left the Board, apparently much agitated. In a few minutes he returned and told us that your functions had ceased.
Whether the sudden displeasure of the First Consul was excited by a false representation of my concern in the transaction which proved so unfortunate to me, or whether Bonaparte merely made that a pretence for carrying into execution a resolution which I am convinced had been previously adopted, I shall not stop to determine; but the Due de Rovigo having mentioned the violation of the secrecy of letters in my case, I shall take the opportunity of stating some particulars on that subject.
Before I wrote these Memoirs the existence in the Post Office of the cabinet, which had obtained the epithet of black, had been denounced in the chamber of deputies, and the answer was, that it no longer existed, which of course amounted to an admission that it had existed. I may therefore, without indiscretion, state what I know respecting it.
The "black cabinet" was established in the reign of Louis XV., merely for the purpose of prying into the scandalous gossip of the Court and the capital. The existence of this cabinet soon became generally known to every one. The numerous postmasters who succeeded each other, especially in latter times, the still more numerous Post Office clerks, and that portion of the public who are ever on the watch for what is held up as scandalous, soon banished all the secrecy of the affair, and none but fools were taken in by it. All who did not wish to be committed by their correspondence chose better channels of communication than the Post; but those who wanted to ruin an enemy or benefit a friend long continued to avail themselves of the black cabinet, which, at first intended merely to amuse a monarch's idle hours, soon became a medium of intrigue, dangerous from the abuse that might be made of it.
Every morning, for three years, I used to peruse the portfolio containing the bulletins of the black cabinet, and I frankly confess that I never could discover any real cause for the public indignation against it, except inasmuch as it proved the channel of vile intrigue. Out of 30,000 letters, which daily left Paris to be distributed through France and all parts of the world, ten or twelve, at most, were copied, and often only a few lines of them.
Bonaparte at first proposed to send complete copies of intercepted letters to the ministers whom their contents might concern; but a few observations from me induced him to direct that only the important passages should be extracted and sent. I made these extracts, and transmitted them to their destinations, accompanied by the following words: "The First Consul directs me to inform you that he has just received the following information," etc. Whence the information came was left to be guessed at.
The First Consul daily received through this channel about a dozen pretended letters, the writers of which described their enemies as opponents of the Government, or their friends as models of obedience and fidelity to the constituted authorities. But the secret purpose of this vile correspondence was soon discovered, and Bonaparte gave orders that no more of it should be copied. I, however, suffered from it at the time of my disgrace, and was well-nigh falling a victim to it at a subsequent period.
The letter mentioned by M. de Marbois, and which was the occasion of this digression on the violation of private correspondence, derived importance from the circumstance that Wednesday, the 20th of October, when Bonaparte received it, was the day on which I left the Consular palace.
I retired to a house which Bonaparte had advised me to purchase at St. Cloud, and for the fitting up and furnishing of which he had promised to pay. We shall see how he kept this promise! I immediately sent to direct Landoire, the messenger of Bonaparte's cabinet, to place all letters sent to me in the First Consul's portfolio, because many intended for him came under cover for me. In consequence of this message I received the following letter from M. de Meneval:
MY DEAR BOURRIENNE—I cannot believe that the First Consul would wish that your letters should be presented to him. I presume you allude only to those which may concern him, and which come addressed under cover to you. The First Consul has written to citizens Lavallette and Mollien directing them to address their packets to him. I cannot allow Landoire to obey the order you sent.
The First Consul yesterday evening evinced great regret. He repeatedly said, "How miserable I am! I have known that man since he was seven years old." I cannot but believe that he will reconsider his unfortunate decision. I have intimated to him that the burden of the business is too much for me, and that he must be extremely at a loss for the services of one to whom he was so much accustomed, and whose situation, I am confident, nobody else can satisfactorily fill. He went to bed very low-spirited. I am, etc. (Signed) MENEVAL.
19 Vendemiaire, an X. (21st October 1802.)
Next day I received another letter from M. Meneval as follows:—
I send you your letters. The First Consul prefers that you should break them open, and send here those which are intended for him. I enclose some German papers, which he begs you to translate.
Madame Bonaparte is much interested in your behalf; and I can assure you that no one more heartily desires than the First Consul himself to see you again at your old post, for which it would be difficult to find a successor equal to you, either as regards fidelity or fitness. I do not relinquish the hope of seeing you here again.
A whole week passed away in conflicts between the First Consul's friendship and pride. The least desire he manifested to recall me was opposed by his flatterers. On the fifth day of our separation he directed me to come to him. He received me with the greatest kindness, and after having good-humouredly told me that I often expressed myself with too much freedom—a fault I was never solicitous to correct—he added: "I regret your absence much. You were very useful to me. You are neither too noble nor too plebeian, neither too aristocratic nor too Jacobinical. You are discreet and laborious. You understand me better than any one else; and, between ourselves be it said, we ought to consider this a sort of Court. Look at Duroc, Bessieres, Maret. However, I am very much inclined to take you back; but by so doing I should confirm the report that I cannot do without you."
Madame Bonaparte informed me that she had heard persons to whom Bonaparte expressed a desire to recall me observe, "What would you do? People will say you cannot do without him. You have got rid of him now; therefore think no more about him: and as for the English newspapers, he gave them more importance than they really deserved: you will no longer be troubled with them." This will bring to mind a scene—which occurred at Malmaison on the receipt of some intelligence in the 'London Gazette'.
I am convinced that if Bonaparte had been left to himself he would have recalled me, and this conviction is warranted by the interval which elapsed between his determination to part with me and the formal announcement of my dismissal. Our rupture took place on the 20th of October, and on the 8th of November following the First Consul sent me the following letter:
CITIZEN BOURRIENNE, MINISTER OF STATE—I am satisfied with the services which you have rendered me during the time you have been with me; but henceforth they are no longer necessary. I wish you to relinquish, from this time, the functions and title of my private secretary. I shall seize an early opportunity of providing for you in a way suited to your activity and talents, and conducive to the public service. (Signed)BONAPARTE.
If any proof of the First Consul's malignity were wanting it would be furnished by the following fact:—A few days after the receipt of the letter which announced my dismissal I received a note from Duroc; but, to afford an idea of the petty revenge of him who caused it to be written, it will be necessary first to relate a few preceding circumstances.
When, with the view of preserving a little freedom, I declined the offer of apartments which Madame Bonaparte had prepared at Malmaison for myself and my family, I purchased a small house at Ruel: the First Consul had given orders for the furnishing of this house, as well as one which I possessed in Paris. From the manner in which the orders were given I had not the slightest doubt but that Bonaparte intended to make me a present of the furniture. However, when I left his service he applied to have it returned. As at first I paid no attention to his demand, as far as it concerned the furniture at Ruel, he directed Duroc to write the following letter to me:
The First Consul, my dear Bourrienne, has just ordered me to send him this evening the keys of your residence in Paris, from which the furniture is not to be removed.
He also directs me to put into a warehouse whatever furniture you may have at Ruel or elsewhere which you have obtained from Government.
I beg of you to send me an answer, so as to assist me in the execution of these orders. You promised me to have everything settled before the First Consul's return. I must excuse myself in the best way I can. (Signed) DUROC.
24 Brumaire, an X. (15th November 1802.)
Believing myself to be master of my own actions, I had formed the design of visiting England, whither I was called by some private business. However, I was fully aware of the peculiarity of my situation, and I was resolved to take no step that should in any way justify a reproach.
On the 11th of January I therefore wrote to Duroc:
My affairs require my presence in England for some time. I beg of you, my dear Duroc, to mention my intended journey to the First Consul, as I do not wish to do anything inconsistent with his views. I would rather sacrifice my own interest than displease him. I rely on your friendship for an early answer to this, for uncertainty would be fatal to me in many respects.
The answer, which speedily arrived, was as follows:—
MY DEAR BOURRIENNE—I have presented to the First Consul the letter I just received from you. He read it, and said, "No!"
That is the only answer I can give you. (Signed) DUROC.
This monosyllable was expressive. It proved to me that Bonaparte was conscious how ill he had treated me; and, suspecting that I was actuated by the desire of vengeance, he was afraid of my going to England, lest I should there take advantage of that liberty of the press which he had so effectually put down in France. He probably imagined that my object was to publish statements which would more effectually have enlightened the public respecting his government and designs than all the scandalous anecdotes, atrocious calumnies, and ridiculous fabrications of Pelletier, the editor of the 'Ambigu'. But Bonaparte was much deceived in this supposition; and if there can remain any doubt on that subject, it will be removed on referring to the date of these Memoirs, and observing the time at which I consented to publish them.
I was not deceived as to the reasons of Bonaparte's unceremonious refusal of my application; and as I well knew his inquisitorial character, I thought it prudent to conceal my notes. I acted differently from Camoens. He contended with the sea to preserve his manuscripts; I made the earth the depository of mine. I carefully enclosed my most valuable notes and papers in a tin box, which I buried under ground. A yellow tinge, the commencement of decay, has in some places almost obliterated the writing.
It will be seen in the sequel that my precaution was not useless, and that I was right in anticipating the persecution of Bonaparte, provoked by the malice of my enemies. On the 20th of April Duroc sent me the following note:
I beg, my dear Bourrienne, that you will come to St. Cloud this morning. I have something to tell you on the part of the First Consul. (Signed) DUROC.
This note caused me much anxiety. I could not doubt but that my enemies had invented some new calumny; but I must say that I did not expect such baseness as I experienced.
As soon as Duroc had made me acquainted with the business which the First Consul had directed him to communicate, I wrote on the spot the subjoined letter to Bonaparte:
At General Duroc's desire I have this moment waited upon him, and he informs me that you have received notice that a deficit of 100,000 francs has been discovered in the Treasury of the Navy, which you require me to refund this day at noon.
Citizen First Consul, I know not what this means! I am utterly ignorant of the matter. I solemnly declare to you that this charge is a most infamous calumny. It is one more to be added to the number of those malicious charges which have been invented for the purpose of destroying any influence I might possess with you.
I am in General Duroc's apartment, where I await your orders.
Duroc carried my note to the First Consul as soon as it was written. He speedily returned. "All's right!" said he. "He has directed me to say it was entirely a mistake!—that he is now convinced he was deceived! that he is sorry for the business, and hopes no more will be said about it."
The base flatterers who surrounded Bonaparte wished him to renew his Egyptian extortions upon me; but they should have recollected that the fusillade employed in Egypt for the purpose of raising money was no longer the fashion in France, and that the days were gone by when it was the custom to 'grease the wheels of the revolutionary car.'
The First Consul's presentiments respecting the duration of peace— England's uneasiness at the prosperity of France—Bonaparte's real wish for war—Concourse of foreigners in Paris—Bad faith of England—Bonaparte and Lord Whitworth—Relative position of France and England-Bonaparte's journey to the seaboard departments— Breakfast at Compiegne—Father Berton—Irritation excited by the presence of Bouquet—Father Berton's derangement and death—Rapp ordered to send for me—Order countermanded.
The First Consul never anticipated a long peace with England. He wished for peace merely because, knowing it to be ardently desired by the people, after ten years of war he thought it would increase his popularity and afford him the opportunity of laying the foundation of his government. Peace was as necessary to enable him to conquer the throne of France as war was essential to secure it, and to enlarge its base at the expense of the other thrones of Europe. This was the secret of the peace of Amiens, and of the rupture which so suddenly followed, though that rupture certainly took place sooner than the First Consul wished. On the great questions of peace and war Bonaparte entertained elevated ideas; but in discussions on the subject he always declared himself in favour of war. When told of the necessities of the people, of the advantages of peace, its influence on trade, the arts, national industry, and every branch of public prosperity, he did not attempt to deny the argument; indeed, he concurred in it; but he remarked, that all those advantages were only conditional, so long as England was able to throw the weight of her navy into the scale of the world, and to exercise the influence of her gold in all the Cabinets of Europe. Peace must be broken; since it was evident that England was determined to break it. Why not anticipate her? Why allow her to have all the advantages of the first step? We must astonish Europe! We must thwart the policy of the Continent! We must strike a great and unexpected blow. Thus reasoned the First Consul, and every one may judge whether his actions agreed with his sentiments.
The conduct of England too well justified the foresight of Bonaparte's policy; or rather England, by neglecting to execute her treaties, played into Bonaparte's hand, favoured his love for war, and justified the prompt declaration of hostilities in the eyes of the French nation, whom he wished to persuade that if peace were broken it would be against his wishes. England was already at work with the powerful machinery of her subsidies, and the veil beneath which she attempted to conceal her negotiations was still sufficiently transparent for the lynx eye of the First Consul. It was in the midst of peace that all those plots were hatched, while millions who had no knowledge of their existence were securely looking forward to uninterrupted repose.
Since the Revolution Paris had never presented such a spectacle as during the winter of 1802-3. At that time the concourse of foreigners in the French capital was immense. Everything wore the appearance of satisfaction, and the external signs of public prosperity. The visible regeneration in French society exceedingly annoyed the British Ministry. The English who flocked to the Continent discovered France to be very different from what she was described to be by the English papers. This caused serious alarm on the other side of the Channel, and the English Government endeavoured by unjust complaints to divert attention from just dissatisfaction, which its own secret intrigues excited. The King of England sent a message to Parliament, in which he spoke of armaments preparing in the ports of France, and of the necessity of adopting precautions against meditated aggressions. This instance of bad faith highly irritated the First Consul, who one day, in a fit of displeasure, thus addressed Lord Whitworth in the salon, where all the foreign Ambassadors were assembled:
"What is the meaning of this? Are you then tired of peace? Must Europe again be deluged with blood? Preparations for war indeed! Do you think to overawe us by this? You shall see that France may be conquered, perhaps destroyed, but never intimidated—never!"
The English Ambassador was astounded at this unexpected sally, to which he made no reply. He contented himself with writing to his Government an account of an interview in which the First Consul had so far forgotten himself,-whether purposely or not I do not pretend to say.
That England wished for war there could be no doubt. She occupied Malta, it is true, but she had promised to give it up, though she never had any intention of doing so. She was to have evacuated Egypt, yet there she still remained; the Cape of Good Hope was to have been surrendered, but she still retained possession of it. England had signed, at Amiens, a peace which she had no intention of maintaining. She knew the hatred of the Cabinets of Europe towards France, and she was sure, by her intrigues and subsidies, of arming them on her side whenever her plans reached maturity. She saw France powerful and influential in Europe, and she knew the ambitious views of the First Consul, who, indeed, had taken little pains to conceal them.
The First Consul, who had reckoned on a longer duration of the peace of Amiens, found himself at the rupture of the treaty in an embarrassing situation. The numerous grants of furloughs, the deplorable condition of the cavalry, and the temporary absence of artillery, in consequence of a project for refounding all the field-pieces, caused much anxiety to Bonaparte. He had recourse to the conscription to fill up the deficiencies of the army; and the project of refounding the artillery was abandoned. Supplies of money were obtained from the large towns, and Hanover, which was soon after occupied, furnished abundance of good horses for mounting the cavalry.
War had now become inevitable; and as soon as it was declared the First Consul set out to visit Belgium and the seaboard departments to ascertain the best means of resisting the anticipated attacks of the English. In passing through Compiegne he received a visit from Father Berton, formerly principal of the military school of Brienne. He was then rector of the school of arts at Compiegne, a situation in which he had been placed by Bonaparte. I learned the particulars of this visit through Josephine. Father Berton, whose primitive simplicity of manner was unchanged since the time when he held us under the authority of his ferule, came to invite Bonaparte and Josephine to breakfast with him, which invitation was accepted. Father Berton had at that time living with him one of our old comrades of Brienne, named Bouquet; but he expressly forbade him to show himself to Bonaparte or any one of his suite, because Bouquet, who had been a commissary at headquarters in Italy, was in disgrace with the First Consul. Bouquet promised to observe Father Berton's injunctions, but was far from keeping his promise. As soon as he saw Bonaparte's carriage drive up, he ran to the door and gallantly handed out Josephine. Josephine, as she took his hand, said, "Bouquet,—you have ruined yourself!" Bonaparte, indignant at what he considered an unwarrantable familiarity, gave way to one of his uncontrollable fits of passion, and as soon as he entered the room where the breakfast was laid, he seated himself, and then said to his wife in an imperious tone, "Josephine, sit there!" He then commenced breakfast, without telling Father Becton to sit down, although a third plate had been laid for him. Father Becton stood behind his old pupil's chair apparently confounded at his violence. The scene produced such an effect on the old man that he became incapable of discharging his duties at Compiegne. He retired to Rheims, and his intellect soon after became deranged. I do not pretend to say whether this alienation of mind was caused by the occurrence I have just related, and the account of which I received from Josephine. She was deeply afflicted at what had passed. Father Berton died insane. What I heard from Josephine was afterwards confirmed by the brother of Father Becton. The fact is, that in proportion as Bonaparte acquired power he was the more annoyed at the familiarity of old companions; and, indeed, I must confess that their familiarity often appeared very ridiculous.
The First Consul's visit to the northern coast took place towards the end of the year 1803, at which time the English attacked the Dutch settlements of Surinam, Demerara, and Essequibo, and a convention of neutrality was concluded between France, Spain, and Portugal. Rapp accompanied the First Consul, who attentively inspected the preparations making for a descent on England, which it was never his intention to effect, as will be shortly shown.
On the First Consul's return I learned from Rapp that I had been spoken of during the journey, and in the following way:—Bonaparte, being at Boulogne, wanted some information which no one there could give, him. Vexed at receiving no satisfactory answer to his inquiries he called Rapp, and said, "Do you know, Rapp, where Bourrienne is?"—"General, he is in Paris."—"Write to him to come here immediately, and send off one of my couriers with the letter." The rumour of the First Consul's sudden recollection of me spread like lightning, and the time required to write the letter and despatch the courier was more than sufficient for the efforts of those whom my return was calculated to alarm. Artful representations soon checked these spontaneous symptoms of a return to former feelings and habits. When Rapp carried to the First Consul the letter he had been directed to write the order was countermanded. However, Rapp advised me not to leave Paris, or if I did, to mention the place where I might be found, so that Duroc might have it in his power to seize on any favourable circumstance without delay. I was well aware of the friendship of both Rapp and Duroc, and they could as confidently rely on mine.
Vast works undertaken—The French and the Roman soldiers—Itinerary of Bonaparte's journeys to the coast—Twelve hours on horseback— Discussions in Council—Opposition of Truguet—Bonaparte'a opinion on the point under discussion—Two divisions of the world—Europe a province—Bonaparte's jealousy of the dignity of France—The Englishman in the dockyard of Brest—Public audience at the Tuilleries—The First Consul's remarks upon England—His wish to enjoy the good opinion of the English people—Ball at Malmaison— Lines on Hortense's dancing—Singular motive for giving the ball.
At the time of the rupture with England Bonaparte was, as I have mentioned, quite unprepared in most branches of the service; yet everything was created as if by magic, and he seemed to impart to others a share of his own incredible activity. It is inconceivable how many things had been undertaken and executed since the rupture of the peace. The north coast of France presented the appearance of one vast arsenal; for Bonaparte on this occasion employed his troops like Roman soldiers, and made the tools of the artisan succeed to the arms of the warrior.
On his frequent journeys to the coast Bonaparte usually set off at night, and on the following morning arrived at the post office of Chantilly, where he breakfasted. Rapp, whom I often saw when he was in Paris, talked incessantly of these journeys, for he almost always accompanied the First Consul, and it would have been well had he always been surrounded by such men. In the evening the First Consul supped at Abbeville, and arrived early next day at the bridge of Brique. "It would require constitutions of iron to go through what we do," said Rapp. "We no sooner alight from the carriage than we mount on horseback, and sometimes remain in our saddles for ten or twelve hours successively. The First Consul inspects and examines everything, often talks with the soldiers. How he is beloved by them! When shall we pay a visit to London with those brave fellows?"
Notwithstanding these continual journeys the First Consul never neglected any of the business of government, and was frequently present at the deliberations of the Council. I was still with him when the question as to the manner in which the treaties of peace should be concluded came under the consideration of the Council. Some members, among whom Truguet was conspicuous, were of opinion that, conformably with an article of the Constitution, the treaties should be proposed by the Head of the Government, submitted to the Legislative Body, and after being agreed to promulgated as part of the laws. Bonaparte thought differently. I was entirely of his opinion, and he said to me, "It is for the mere pleasure of opposition that they appeal to the Constitution, for if the Constitution says so it is absurd. There are some things which cannot become the subject of discussion in a public assembly; for instance, if I treat with Austria, and my Ambassador agrees to certain conditions, can those conditions be rejected by the Legislative Body? It is a monstrous absurdity! Things would be brought to a fine pass in this way! Lucchesini and Markow would give dinners every day like Cambaceres; scatter their money about, buy men who are to be sold, and thus cause our propositions to be rejected. This would be a fine way to manage matters!"
When Bonaparte, according to his custom, talked to me in the evening of what had passed in the Council, his language was always composed of a singular mixture of quotations from antiquity, historical references, and his own ideas. He talked about the Romans, and I remember when Mr. Fox was at Paris that he tried to distinguish himself before that Foreign Minister, whom he greatly esteemed. In his enlarged way of viewing the world Bonaparte divided it into two large states, the East and the West: "What matters," he would often say, "that two countries are separated by rivers or mountains, that they speak different languages? With very slight shades of variety France, Spain, England, Italy, and Germany, have the same manners and customs, the same religion, and the same dress. In them a man can only marry one wife; slavery is not allowed; and these are the great distinctions which divide the civilised inhabitants of the globe. With the exception of Turkey, Europe is merely a province of the world, and our warfare is but civil strife. There is also another way of dividing nations, namely, by land and water." Then he would touch on all the European interests, speak of Russia, whose alliance he wished for, and of England, the mistress of the seas. He usually ended by alluding to what was then his favourite scheme—an expedition to India.
When from these general topics Bonaparte descended to the particular interests of France, he still spoke like a sovereign; and I may truly say that he showed himself more jealous than any sovereign ever was of the dignity of France, of which he already considered himself the sole representative. Having learned that a captain of the English navy had visited the dockyard of Brest passing himself off as a merchant, whose passport he had borrowed, he flew into a rage because no one had ventured to arrest him.—[see James' Naval History for an account of Sir Sidney Smith's daring exploit.]—Nothing was lost on Bonaparte, and he made use of this fact to prove to the Council of State the necessity of increasing the number of commissary-generals of police. At a meeting of the Council he said, "If there had been a commissary of police at Brest he would have arrested the English captain and sent him at once to Paris. As he was acting the part of a spy I would have had him shot as such. No Englishman, not even a nobleman, or the English Ambassador, should be admitted into our dockyards. I will soon regulate all this." He afterwards said to me, "There are plenty of wretches who are selling me every day to the English without my being subjected to English spying."
—[During the short and hollow peace of Amiens Bonaparte sent over to England as consuls and vice-consuls, a number of engineers and military men, who were instructed to make plans of all the harbours and coasts of the United Kingdom. They worked in secrecy, yet not so secretly but that they were soon suspected: the facts were proved, and they were sent out of the country without ceremony.— Editor of 1836 edition.]—
He had on one occasion said before an assemblage of generals, senators, and high officers of State, who were at an audience of the Diplomatic Body, "The English think that I am afraid of war, but I am not." And here the truth escaped him, in spite of himself. "My power will lose nothing by war. In a very short time I can have 2,000,000 of men at my disposal. What has been the result of the first war? The union of Belgium and Piedmont to France. This is greatly to our advantage; it will consolidate our system. France shall not be restrained by foreign fetters. England has manifestly violated the treaties! It would be better to render homage to the King of England, and crown him King of France at Paris, than to submit to the insolent caprices of the English Government. If, for the sake of preserving peace, at most for only two months longer, I should yield on a single point, the English would become the more treacherous and insolent, and would enact the more in proportion as we yield. But they little know me! Were we to yield to England now, she would next prohibit our navigation in certain parts of the world. She would insist on the surrender of par ships. I know not what she would not demand; but I am not the man to brook such indignities. Since England wishes for war she shall have it, and that speedily!"
On the same day Bonaparte said a great deal more about the treachery of England. The gross calumnies to which he was exposed in the London newspapers powerfully contributed to increase his natural hatred of the liberty of the press; and he was much astonished that such attacks could be made upon him by English subjects when he was at peace with the English Government.
I had one day a singular proof of the importance which Bonaparte attached to the opinion of the English people respecting any misconduct that was attributed to him. What I am about to state will afford another example of Bonaparte's disposition to employ petty and roundabout means to gain his ends. He gave a ball at Malmaison when Hortense was in the seventh month of her pregnancy.
—[This refers to the first son of Louis and of Hortense, Napoleon Charles, the intended successor of Napoleon, who was born 1802, died 1807, elder brother of Napoleon III.]—
I have already mentioned that he disliked to see women in that situation, and above all could not endure to see them dance. Yet, in spite of this antipathy, he himself asked Hortense to dance at the ball at Malmaison. She at first declined, but Bonaparte was exceedingly importunate, and said to her in a tone of good-humoured persuasion, "Do, I beg of you; I particularly wish to see you dance. Come, stand up, to oblige me." Hortense at last consented. The motive for this extraordinary request I will now explain.
On the day after the ball one of the newspapers contained some verses on Hortense's dancing. She was exceedingly annoyed at this, and when the paper arrived at Malmaison she expressed, displeasure at it. Even allowing for all the facility of our newspaper wits, she was nevertheless at a loss to understand how the lines could have been written and printed respecting a circumstance which only occurred the night before. Bonaparte smiled, and gave her no distinct answer. When Hortense knew that I was alone in the cabinet she came in and asked me to explain the matter; and seeing no reason to conceal the truth, I told her that the lines had been written by Bonaparte's direction before the ball took place. I added, what indeed was the fact, that the ball had been prepared for the verses, and that it was only for the appropriateness of their application that the First Consul had pressed her to dance. He adopted this strange contrivance for contradicting an article which appeared in an English journal announcing that Hortense was delivered. Bonaparte was highly indignant at that premature announcement, which he clearly saw was made for the sole purpose of giving credit to the scandalous rumours of his imputed connection with Hortense. Such were the petty machinations which not unfrequently found their place in a mind in which the grandest schemes were revolving.
Mr. Pitt—Motive of his going out of office—Error of the English Government—Pretended regard for the Bourbons—Violation of the treaty of Amiens—Reciprocal accusations—Malta—Lord Whitworth's departure—Rome and Carthage—Secret satisfaction of Bonaparte— Message to the Senate, the Legislative Body, and the Tribunate— The King of England's renunciation of the title of King of France— Complaints of the English Government—French agents in British ports —Views of France upon Turkey—Observation made by Bonaparte to the Legislative Body—Its false interpretation—Conquest of Hanover— The Duke of Cambridge caricatured—The King of England and the Elector of Hanover—First address to the clergy—Use of the word "Monsieur"—The Republican weeks and months.
One of the circumstances which foretold the brief duration of the peace of Amiens was, that Mr. Pitt was out of office at the time of its conclusion. I mentioned this to Bonaparte, and I immediately perceived by his hasty "What do you say?" that my observation had been heard—but not liked. It did not, however, require any extraordinary shrewdness to see the true motive of Mr. Pitt's retirement. That distinguished statesman conceived that a truce under the name of a peace was indispensable for England; but, intending to resume the war with France more fiercely than ever, he for a while retired from office, and left to others the task of arranging the peace; but his intention was to mark his return to the ministry by the renewal of the implacable hatred he had vowed against France. Still, I have always thought that the conclusion of peace, however necessary to England, was an error of the Cabinet of London. England alone had never before acknowledged any of the governments which had risen up in France since the Revolution; and as the past could not be blotted out, a future war, however successful to England, could not take from Bonaparte's Government the immense weight it had acquired by an interval of peace. Besides, by the mere fact of the conclusion of the treaty England proved to all Europe that the restoration of the Bourbons was merely a pretext, and she defaced that page of her history which might have shown that she was actuated by nobler and more generous sentiments than mere hatred of France. It is very certain that the condescension of England in treating with the First Consul had the effect of rallying round him a great many partisans of the Bourbons, whose hopes entirely depended on the continuance of war between Great Britain and France. This opened the eyes of the greater number, namely, those who could not see below the surface, and were not previously aware that the demonstrations of friendship so liberally made to the Bourbons by the European Cabinets, and especially by England, were merely false pretences, assumed for the purpose of disguising, beneath the semblance of honourable motives, their wish to injure France, and to oppose her rapidly increasing power.
When the misunderstanding took place, France and England might have mutually reproached each other, but justice was apparently on the side of France. It was evident that England, by refusing to evacuate Malta, was guilty of a palpable infraction of the treaty of Amiens, while England could only institute against France what in the French law language is called a suit or process of tendency. But it must be confessed that this tendency on the part of France to augment her territory was very evident, for the Consular decrees made conquests more promptly than the sword. The union of Piedmont with France had changed the state of Europe. This union, it is true, was effected previously to the treaty of Amiens; but it was not so with the states of Parma and Piacenza, Bonaparte having by his sole authority constituted himself the heir of the Grand Duke, recently deceased. It may therefore be easily imagined how great was England's uneasiness at the internal prosperity of France and the insatiable ambition of her ruler; but it is no less certain that, with respect to Malta, England acted with decidedly bad faith; and this bad faith appeared in its worst light from the following circumstance:—It had been stipulated that England should withdraw her troops from Malta three months after the signing of the treaty, yet more than a year had elapsed, and the troops were still there. The order of Malta was to be restored as it formerly was; that is to say, it was to be a sovereign and independent order, under the protection of the Holy See. The three Cabinets of Vienna, Berlin, and St. Petersburg were to guarantee the execution of the treaty of Amiens. The English Ambassador, to excuse the evasions of his Government, pretended that the Russian Cabinet concurred with England in the delayed fulfilment of the conditions of the treaty; but at the very moment he was making that excuse a courier arrived from the Cabinet of St. Petersburg bearing despatches completely, at variance with the assertion of Lord Whitworth. His lordship left Paris on the night of the 12th May 1803, and the English Government, unsolicited, sent passports to the French embassy in London. The news of this sudden rupture made the English console fall four per cent., but did not immediately produce such a retrograde effect on the French funds, which were then quoted at fifty-five francs;—a very high point, when it is recollected that they were at seven or eight francs on the eve of the 18th Brumaire.
In this state of things France proposed to the English Government to admit of the mediation of Russia; but as England had declared war in order to repair the error she committed in concluding peace, the proposition was of course rejected. Thus the public gave the First Consul credit for great moderation and a sincere wish for peace. Thus arose between England and France a contest resembling those furious wars which marked the reigns of King John and Charles VII. Our beaux esprits drew splendid comparisons between the existing state of things and the ancient rivalry of Carthage and Rome, and sapiently concluded that, as Carthage fell, England must do so likewise.
Bonaparte was at St. Cloud when Lord Whitworth left Paris. A fortnight was spent in useless attempts to renew negotiations. War, therefore, was the only alternative. Before he made his final preparations the First Consul addressed a message to the Senate, the Legislative Body, and the Tribunate. In this message he mentioned the recall of the English Ambassador, the breaking out of hostilities, the unexpected message of the King of England to his Parliament, and the armaments which immediately ensued in the British ports. "In vain," he said, "had France tried every means to induce England to abide by the treaty. She had repelled every overture, and increased the insolence of her demands. France," he added, "will not submit to menaces, but will combat for the faith of treaties, and the honour of the French name, confidently trusting that the result of the contest will be such as she has a right to expect from the justice of her cause and the courage of her people."
This message was dignified, and free from that vein of boasting in which Bonaparte so frequently indulged. The reply of the Senate was accompanied by a vote of a ship of the line, to be paid for out of the Senatorial salaries. With his usual address Bonaparte, in acting for himself, spoke in the name of the people, just as he did in the question of the Consulate for life. But what he then did for his own interests turned to the future interests of the Bourbons. The very treaty which had just been broken off gave rise to a curious observation. Bonaparte, though not yet a sovereign, peremptorily required the King of England to renounce the empty title of King of France, which was kept up as if to imply that old pretensions were not yet renounced. The proposition was acceded to, and to this circumstance was owing the disappearance of the title of King of France from among the titles of the King of England, when the treaty of Paris was concluded on the return of the Bourbons.
The first grievance complained of by England was the prohibition of English merchandise, which had been more rigid since the peace than during the war. The avowal of Great Britain on this point might well have enabled her to dispense with any other subject of complaint; for the truth is, she was alarmed at the aspect of our internal prosperity, and at the impulse given to our manufactures. The English Government had hoped to obtain from the First Consul such a commercial treaty as would have proved a death-blow to our rising trade; but Bonaparte opposed this, and from the very circumstance of his refusal he might easily have foreseen the rupture at which he affected to be surprised. What I state I felt at the time, when I read with great interest all the documents relative to this great dispute between the two rival nations, which eleven years afterwards was decided before the walls of Paris.
It was evidently disappointment in regard to a commercial treaty which created the animosity of the English Government, as that circumstance was alluded to, by way of reproach, in the King of England's declaration. In that document it was complained that France had sent a number of persona into the ports of Great Britain and Ireland in the character of commercial agents, which character, and the privileges belonging to it, they could only have acquired by a commercial treaty. Such was, in my opinion, the real cause of the complaints of England; but as it would have seemed too absurd to make it the ground of a declaration of war, she enumerated other grievances, viz., the union of Piedmont and of the states of Parma and Piacenza with France, and the continuance of the French troops in Holland. A great deal was said about the views and projects of France with respect to Turkey, and this complaint originated in General Sebastiani's mission to Egypt. On that point I can take upon me to say that the English Government was not misinformed. Bonaparte too frequently spoke to are of his ideas respecting the East, and his project of attacking the English power in India, to leave any doubt of his ever having renounced them. The result of all the reproaches which the two Governments addressed to each other was, that neither acted with good faith.
The First Consul, in a communication to the Legislative Body on the state of France and on her foreign relations; had said, "England, single-handed, cannot cope with France." This sufficed to irritate the susceptibility of English pride, and the British Cabinet affected to regard it as a threat. However, it was no such thing. When Bonaparte threatened, his words were infinitely more energetic. The passage above cited was merely au assurance to France; and if we only look at the past efforts and sacrifices made by England to stir up enemies to France on the Continent, we may be justified in supposing that her anger at Bonaparte's declaration arose from a conviction of its truth. Singly opposed to France, England could doubtless have done her much harm, especially by assailing the scattered remnants of her navy; but she could have done nothing against France on the Continent. The two powers, unaided by allies, might have continued long at war without any considerable acts of hostility.
The first effect of the declaration of war by England was the invasion of Hanover by the French troops under General Mortier. The telegraphic despatch by which this news was communicated to Paris was as laconic as correct, and contained, in a few words, the complete history of the expedition. It ran as follows: "The French are masters of the Electorate of Hanover, and the enemy's army are made prisoners of war." A day or two after the shop windows of the print-sellers were filled with caricatures on the English, and particularly on the Duke of Cambridge. I recollect seeing one in which the Duke was represented reviewing his troops mounted on a crab. I mention these trifles because, as I was then living entirely at leisure, in the Rue Hauteville, I used frequently to take a stroll on the Boulevards, where I was sometimes much amused with these prints; and I could not help remarking, that in large cities such triffles have more influence on the public mind than is usually supposed.
The First Consul thought the taking of the prisoners in Hanover a good opportunity to exchange them for those taken from us by the English navy. A proposition to this effect was accordingly made; but the English Cabinet was of opinion that, though the King of England was also Elector of Hanover, yet there was no identity between the two Governments, of both which George III. was the head. In consequence of this subtle distinction the proposition for the exchange of prisoners fell to the ground. At this period nothing could exceed the animosity of the two Governments towards each other, and Bonaparte, on the declaration of war, marked his indignation by an act which no consideration can justify; I allude to the order for the arrest of all the English in France—a truly barbarious measure; for; can anything be more cruel and unjust than to visit individuals with the vengeance due to the Government whose subjects they may happen to be? But Bonaparte, when under the influence of anger, was never troubled by scruples.
I must here notice the fulfilment of a remark Bonaparte often made, use of to me during the Consulate. "You shall see, Bourrienne," he would say, "what use I will make of the priests."
War being declared, the First Consul, in imitation of the most Christian kings of olden times, recommended the success of his arms to the prayers of the faithful through the medium of the clergy. To this end he addressed a circular letter, written in royal style, to the Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops of France.
It was as follows:
MONSIEUR—The motives of the present war are known throughout Europe. The bad faith of the King of England, who has violated his treaties by refusing to restore Malta to the order of St. John of Jerusalem, and attacked our merchant vessels without a previous declaration of war, together with the necessity of a just defence, forced us to have recourse to arms. I therefore wish you to order prayers to be offered up, in order to obtain the benediction of Heaven on our enterprises. The proofs I have received of your zeal for the public service give me an assurance of your readiness to conform with my wishes.
Given at St. Cloud, 18 Prairial, an XI. (7th June 1803).
This letter was remarkable in more than one respect. It astonished most of his old brothers-in-arms, who turned it into ridicule; observing that Bonaparte needed no praying to enable him to conquer Italy twice over. The First Consul, however, let them laugh on, and steadily followed the line he had traced out. His letter was admirably calculated to please the Court of Rome, which he wished should consider him in the light of another elder son of the Church. The letter was, moreover, remarkable for the use of the word "Monsieur," which the First Consul now employed for the first time in an act destined for publicity. This circumstance would seem to indicate that he considered Republican designations incompatible with the forms due to the clergy: the clergy were especially interested in the restoration of monarchy. It may, perhaps, be thought that I dwell too much on trifles; but I lived long enough in Bonaparte's confidence to know the importance he attached to trifles. The First Consul restored the old names of the days of the week, while he allowed the names of the months, as set down in the Republican calendar, to remain. He commenced by ordering the Moniteur to be dated "Saturday," such a day of "Messidor." "See," said he one day, "was there ever such an inconsistency? We shall be laughed at! But I will do away with the Messidor. I will efface all the inventions of the Jacobins."
The clergy did not disappoint the expectations of the First Consul. They owed him much already, and hoped for still more from him. The letter to the Bishops, etc., was the signal for a number of circulars full of eulogies on Bonaparte.
These compliments were far from displeasing to the First Consul, who had no objection to flattery though he despised those who meanly made themselves the medium of conveying it to him. Duroc once told me that they had all great difficulty in preserving their gravity when the cure of a parish in Abbeville addressed Bonaparte one day while he was on his journey to the coast. "Religion," said the worthy cure, with pompous solemnity, "owes to you all that it is, we owe to you all that we are; and I, too, owe to you all that I am."
—[Not so fulsome as some of the terms used a year later when Napoleon was made Emperor. "I am what I am," was placed over a seat prepared for the Emperor. One phrase, "God made Napoleon and then rested," drew from Narbonne the sneer that it would have been better if the Deity had rested sooner. "Bonaparte," says Joseph de Maistre, "has had himself described in his papers as the 'Messenger of God.' Nothing more true. Bonaparte comes straight from heaven, like a thunderbolt." (Saints-Benve, Caureries, tome iv. p. 203.)]
Presentation of Prince Borghese to Bonaparte—Departure for Belgium Revival of a royal custom—The swans of Amiens—Change of formula in the acts of Government—Company of performers in Bonaparte's suite—Revival of old customs—Division of the institute into four classes—Science and literature—Bonaparte's hatred of literary men —Ducis—Bernardin de Saint-Pierre—Chenier and Lemercier— Explanation of Bonaparte's aversion to literature—Lalande and his dictionary—Education in the hands of Government—M. de Roquelaure, Archbishop of Malines.
In the month of April 1803 Prince Borghese, who was destined one day to become Bonaparte's brother-in-law by marrying the widow of Leclerc, was introduced to the First Consul by Cardinal Caprara.
About the end of June Bonaparte proceeded, with Josephine, on his journey to Belgium and the seaboard departments. Many curious circumstances were connected with this journey, of which I was informed by Duroc after the First Consul's return. Bonaparte left Paris on the 24th of June, and although it was not for upwards of a year afterwards that his brow was encircled with the imperial-diadem, everything connected with the journey had an imperial air. It was formerly the custom, when the Kings of France entered the ancient capital of Picardy, for the town of Amiens to offer them in homage some beautiful swans. Care was taken to revive this custom, which pleased Bonaparte greatly, because it was treating him like a King. The swans were accepted, and sent to Paris to be placed in the basin of the Tuileries, in order to show the Parisians the royal homage which the First Consul received when absent from the capital.
It was also during this journey that Bonaparte began to date his decrees from the places through which he passed. He had hitherto left a great number of signatures in Paris, in order that he might be present, as it were, even during his absence, by the acts of his Government. Hitherto public acts had been signed in the name of the Consuls of the Republic. Instead of this formula, he substituted the name of the Government of the Republic. By means of this variation, unimportant as it might appear, the Government was always in the place where the First Consul happened to be. The two other Consuls were now mere nullities, even in appearance. The decrees of the Government, which Cambaceres signed during the campaign of Marengo, were now issued from all the towns of France and Belgium which the First Consul visited during his six weeks' journey. Having thus centred the sole authority of the Republic in himself, the performers of the theatre of the Republic became, by a natural consequence, his; and it was quite natural that they should travel in his suite, to entertain the inhabitants of the towns in which he stopped by their performances. But this was not all. He encouraged the renewal of a host of ancient customs. He sanctioned the revival of the festival of Joan of Arc at Orleans, and he divided the Institute into four classes, with the intention of recalling the recollection of the old academies, the names of which, however, he rejected, in spite of the wishes and intrigues of Suard and the Abby Morellet, who had gained over Lucien upon this point.
However, the First Consul did not give to the classes of the Institute the rank which they formerly possessed as academies. He placed the class of sciences in the first rank, and the old French Academy in the second rank. It must be acknowledged that, considering the state of literature and science at that period, the First Consul did not make a wrong estimate of their importance.