At that time we were at peace with Naples. In September the Emperor had concluded with Ferdinand IV. a treaty of neutrality. This treaty enabled Carra St. Cyr, who occupied Naples, to evacuate that city and to join Massena in Upper Italy; both reached the Grand Army on the 28th of November. But no sooner had the troops commanded by Carra St. Cyr quitted the Neapolitan territory than the King of Naples, influenced by his Ministers, and above all by Queen Caroline, broke the treaty of neutrality, ordered hostile preparations against France, opened his ports to the enemies of the Emperor, and received into his States 12,000 Russians and 8000 English. It was on the receipt of this news that Bonaparte, in one of his most violent bulletins, styled the Queen of Naples a second Fredegonda. The victory of Austerlitz having given powerful support to his threats, the fall of Naples was decided, and shortly after his brother Joseph was seated on the Neapolitan throne.
At length came the grand day when, to use Napoleon's expression, the Sun of Austerlitz rose. All our forces were concentrated on one point, at about 40 leagues beyond Vienna. There remained nothing but the wreck of the Austrian army, the corps of Prince Charles being by scientific manoeuvres kept at a distance from the line of operations; but the Russians alone were superior to us in numbers, and their army was almost entirely composed of fresh troops. The most extraordinary illusion prevailed in the enemy's camp. The north of Europe has its Gascons as well as the south of France, and the junior portion of the Russian army at this period assumed an absurd braggadocio tone. On the very eve of the battle the Emperor Alexander sent one of his aides de camp, Prince Dolgorouki, as a flag of truce to Napoleon. The Prince could not repress his self-sufficiency even in the presence of the Emperor, and Rapp informed me that on dismissing him the Emperor said, "If you were on 'the heights of Montmartre,' I would answer such impertinence only by cannon-balls." This observation was very remarkable, inasmuch as subsequent events rendered it a prophecy.
As to the battle itself, I can describe it almost as well as if I had witnessed it, for some time after I had the pleasure of seeing my friend Rapp, who was sent an a mission to Prussia. He gave me the following account:
"When we arrived at Austerlitz the Russians were not aware of the scientific plans which the Emperor had laid for drawing them upon the ground he had marked out; and seeing our advanced guards fall back before theirs they already considered themselves conquerors. They supposed that their Guard alone would secure an easy triumph. But the action commenced, and they experienced an energetic resistance on all points. At one o'clock the victory was yet uncertain, for they fought admirably. They wished to make a last effort by directing close masses against our centre. Their Imperial Guard deployed; their artillery, cavalry, and infantry marched upon a bridge which they attacked, and this movement, which was concealed by the rising and falling of the ground, was not observed by Napoleon. I was at that moment near the Emperor, awaiting his orders. We heard a well-maintained firing of musketry. The Russians were repulsing one of our brigades. The Emperor ordered me to take some of the Mamelukes, two squadrons of chasseurs, and one of grenadiers of the Guard, and to go and reconnoitre the state of things. I set off at full gallop, and soon discovered the disaster. The Russian cavalry had penetrated our squares, and was sabring our men. I perceived in the distance some masses of cavalry and infantry; which formed the reserve of the Russians. At that moment the enemy advanced to meet us, bringing with him four pieces of artillery, and ranged himself in order of battle. I had the brave Morland on my left, and General D'Allemagne on my right. 'Forward, my lads!' exclaimed I to my troop. 'See how your brothers and friends are being cut to pieces. Avenge them! avenge our flag! Forward!' These few words roused my men. We advanced as swiftly as our horses could carry us upon the artillery, which was taken. The enemy's cavalry, which awaited us firmly, was repulsed by the same shock, and fled in disorder, galloping as we did over the wrecks of our squares. The Russians rallied but a squadron of horse grenadiers came up to reinforce me, and thus enabled me to hold ground against the reserves of the Russian Guard. We charged again, and this charge was terrible. The brave Morland was killed by my, side. It was downright butchery. We were opposed man to man, and were so mingled together that the infantry of neither one nor the other side could venture to fire for fear of killing its own men. At length the intrepidity of our troops overcame every obstacle, and the Russians fled in disorder, in sight of the two Emperors of Russia and Austria, who had stationed themselves on a height in order to witness the battle. They saw a desperate one," said Rapp, "and I trust they were satisfied. For my part, my dear friend, I never spent so glorious a day. What a reception the Emperor gave me when I returned to inform him that we had won the battle! My sword was broken, and a wound which I received on my head was bleeding copiously, so that I was covered with blood! He made me a General of Division. The Russians did not return to the charge; we had taken all their cannon and baggage, and Prince Repnin was among the prisoners."
Thus it was that Rapp related to me this famous battle of which he was the hero, as Kellerman had been the hero of Marengo. What now remains of Austerlitz? The recollection, the glory, and the magnificent picture of Gerard, the idea of which was suggested to the Emperor by the sight of Rapp with the blood streaming from his wound.
I cannot forbear relating here a few particulars which I learned from Rapp respecting his mission after the cure of his wound; and the marriage of Prince Eugene to the Princess Augusta of Bavaria. The friendship which Rapp cherished for me was of the most sincere kind. During my disgrace he did not even conceal it from Napoleon; and whoever knows anything of the Emperor's Court will acknowledge that that was a greater mark of courage than the carrying of a redoubt or making the most brilliant charge of cavalry. Rapp possessed courage of every kind, an excellent heart, and a downright frankness, which for a time brought him into disgrace with Napoleon. The only thing for which Rapp could be reproached was his extreme prejudice against the nobility, which I am convinced was the sole reason why he was not created a Duke. The Emperor made him a Count because he wished that all his aides de camp should have titles.
"He had been a fortnight at Schoenbrunn," said Rapp to me, "and I had not yet resumed my duties, when the Emperor sent for me. He asked me whether I was able to travel, and on my replying in the affirmative, he said, 'Go then, and give an account of the battle of Austerlitz to Marmont, and vex him for not having been at it.' I set off, and in conformity with the instructions I had received from the Emperor I proceeded to Gratz, where I found Marmont, who was indeed deeply mortified at not having had a share in the great battle. I told him, as the Emperor had directed me, that the negotiations were commenced, but that nothing was yet concluded, and that therefore, at all events, he must hold himself in readiness. I ascertained the situation of his army in Styria, and the amount of the enemy's force before him: The Emperor wished him to send a number of spies into Hungary, and to transmit to him a detailed report from their communications. I next proceeded to Laybach, where I found Massena at the head of the eighth corps, and I informed him that the Emperor wished him to march in all haste upon Vienna, in case he should hear of the rupture of the negotiations. I continued the itinerary marked out for me until I reached Venice, and thence till I met the troops of Carra St. Cyr, who had received orders to march back upon Naples as soon as the Emperor heard of the treachery of the King of Naples and the landing of the English and Russians. Having fulfilled these different missions I proceeded to Klagenfurth, where I saw Marshal Ney, and I afterwards rejoined the Emperor at Munich. There I had the pleasure of finding our friends assembled, and among them Josephine, still as affable and amiable as ever. How delighted I was when, an my arrival, I learned that the Emperor had adopted Eugene. I was present at his marriage with the Princess Augusta of Bavaria. As to me, you know I am not very fond of fetes, and the Emperor might have dispensed with my performing the duties of Chamberlain; Eugene had no idea of what was going on when the Emperor sent to desire his presence at Munich with all possible speed. He, too, remains unchanged; he is still our old comrade. At first he was not much pleased with the idea of a political marriage; but when he saw his bride he was quite enchanted; and no wonder, for I assure you she is a very charming woman."
Depreciation of the Bank paper—Ouvrard—His great discretion— Bonaparte's opinion of the rich—Ouvrard's imprisonment—His partnership with the King of Spain—His connection with Waalenberghe and Desprez—Bonaparte's return to Paris after the campaign of Vienna—Hasty dismissal of M. Barbe Marbois.
At the moment when the Emperor had reason to hope that the news of his extraordinary success would animate public spirit he was informed that considerable disquietude prevailed, and that the Bank of France was assailed by demands for the payment of its paper, which had fallen, more than 5 per cent. I was not ignorant of the cause of this decline. I had been made acquainted, through the commercial correspondence between Hamburg and Paris, with a great financial operation, planned by M. Ouvrard, in consequence of which he was to obtain piastres from Spanish America at a price much below the real value; and I had learned that he was obliged to support this enterprise by the funds which he and his partners previously employed in victualling the forces. A fresh investment of capital was therefore necessary for this service, which, when on a large scale, requires extensive advances, and the tardy payment of the Treasury at that period was well known.
I was well acquainted with M. Ouvrard, and in what I am about to say I do not think there will be found anything offensive or disagreeable to him. I observed the greater number of the facts to which I shall refer in their origin, and the rest I learned from M. Ouvrard himself, who, when he visited Hamburg in 1808, communicated to me a variety of details respecting his immense transaction with the King of Spain. Among other things I recollect he told me that hefore the 18th Brumaire he was possessed of 60,000,000, without owing a franc to any person.
This celebrated financier has been the object of great public attention. The prodigious variations of fortune which he has experienced, the activity of his life, the immense commercial operations in which he has been engaged; the extent and the boldness of his enterprises, render it necessary, in forming a judgment of M. Ouvrard, to examine his conduct with due care and deliberation. The son of a stationer, who was able merely through his own resources to play so remarkable a part, could be no ordinary man. It may be said of M. Ouvrard what Beaumarchais said of himself, that his life was really a combat. I have known him long, and I saw much of him in his relations with Josephine. He always appeared to me to possess great knowledge of the world, accompanied by honourable principles, and a high degree of generosity, which added greatly to the value of his prudence and discretion. No human power, no consideration, not even the ingratitude of those whom he had obliged, could induce him to disclose any sacrifice which he had made at the time when, under the Directory, the public revenue may be said to have been always at the disposal of the highest bidder, and when no business could be brought to a conclusion except by him who set about it with his hands full of money. To this security, with which M. Ouvrard impressed all official persons who rendered him services, I attribute the facility with which he obtained the direction of the numerous enterprises in which he engaged, and which produced so many changes in his fortune. The discretion of M. Ouvrard was not quite agreeable to the First Consul, who found it impossible to extract from him the information he wanted. He tried every method to obtain from him the names of persons to whom he had given those kind of subsidies which in vulgar language are called sops in the pan, and by ladies pin money. Often have I seen Bonaparte resort to every possible contrivance to gain his object. He would sometimes endeavour to alarm M. Ouvrard by menaces, and at other times to flatter him by promises, but he was in no instance successful.
While we were at the Luxembourg, on, as I recollect, the 25th of January 1800, Bonaparte said to me during breakfast, "Bourrienne, my resolution is taken. I shall have Ouvrard arrested."—"General, have you proofs against him?"—"Proofs, indeed! He is a money-dealer, a monopoliser; we must make him disgorge. All the contractors, the provision agents, are rogues. How have they made their fortunes? At the expense of the country, to be sure. I will not suffer such doings. They possess millions, they roll in an insolent luxury, while my soldiers have neither bread nor shoes! I will have no more of that! I intend to speak on the business to-day in the Council, and we shall see what can be done."
I waited with impatience for his return from the Council to know what had passed. "Well, General?" said I "The order is given." On hearing this I became anxious about the fate of M. Ouvrard, who was thus to be treated more like a subject of the Grand Turk than a citizen of the Republic; but I soon learned that the order had not been executed because he could not be found.
Next day I learned that a person, whom I shall not name, who was present at the Council, and who probably was under obligations to Ouvrard, wrote him a note in pencil to inform him of the vote for his arrest carried by the First Consul. This individual stepped out for a moment and despatched his servant with the note to Ouvrard. Having thus escaped the writ of arrest, Ouvrard, after a few days had passed over, reappeared, and surrendered himself prisoner. Bonaparte was at first furious on learning that he had got out of the way; but on hearing that Ouvrard had surrendered himself he said to me, "The fool! he does not know what is awaiting him! He wishes to make the public believe that he has nothing to fear; that his hands are clean. But he is playing a bad game; he will gain nothing in that way with me. All talking is nonsense. You may be sure, Bourrienne, that when a man has so much money he cannot have got it honestly, and then all those fellows are dangerous with their fortunes. In times of revolution no man ought to have more than 3,000,000 francs, and that is a great deal too much."
Before going to prison Ouvrard took care to secure against all the searches of the police any of his papers which might have committed persons with whom he had dealings; and I believe that there were individuals connected with the police itself who had good reason for not regretting the opportunity which M. Ouvrard had taken for exercising this precaution. Seals, however, were put upon his papers; but on examining them none of the information Bonaparte so much desired to obtain was found. Nevertheless on one point his curiosity was satisfied, for on looking over the documents he found from some of them that Madame Bonaparte had been borrowing money from Ouvrard.
As Ouvrard had a great number of friends they bestirred themselves to get some person of influence to speak to the First Consul in his favour. But this was a commission no one was willing to undertake; because, prejudiced as Bonaparte was, the least hint of the kind would have appeared to him to be dictated by private interest. Berthier was very earnestly urged to interfere, but he replied, "That is impossible. He would say that it was underhand work to get money for Madame Visconti."
I do not recollect to what circumstance Ouvrard was indebted for his liberty, but it is certain that his captivity did not last long. Sometime after he had left his prison Bonaparte asked him for 12,000,000, which M. Ouvrard refused.
On his accession to the Consulate Bonaparte found M. Ouvrard contractor for supplying the Spanish fleet under the command of Admiral Massaredo. This business introduced him to a correspondence with the famous Godoy, Prince of the Peace. The contract lasted three years, and M. Ouvrard gained by it a net profit of 15,000,000. The money was payable in piastres, at the rate of 3 francs and some centimes each, though the piastre was really worth 5 francs 40 centimes. But to recover it at this value it was necessary for M. Ouvrard to go and get the money in Mexico. This he was much inclined to do, but he apprehended some obstacle on the part of the First Consul, and, notwithstanding his habitual shrewdness, he became the victim of his over-precaution. On his application M. de Talleyrand undertook to ask the First Consul for authority to give him a passport. I was in the cabinet at the time, and I think I still hear the dry and decided "No," which was all the answer M. de Talleyrand obtained. When we were alone the First Consul said to me, "Do you not see, Bourrienne, this Ouvrard must have made a good thing of his business with the Prince of the Peace? But the fool! Why did he get Talleyrand to ask me for a passport? That is the very thing that raised my suspicion. Why did he not apply for a passport as every one else does? Have I the giving of them? He is an ass; so much the worse for him."
I was sorry for Ouvrard's disappointment, and I own none the less so because he had intimated his willingness to give me a share in the business he was to transact its Spain; and which was likely to be very profitable. His brother went to Mexico in his stead.
In 1802 a dreadful scarcity afflicted France. M. Ouvrard took upon himself, in concert with Wanlerberghe, the task of importing foreign grain to prevent the troubles which might otherwise have been expected. In payment of the grain the foreign houses who sent it drew upon Ouvrard and Wanlerberghe for 26,000,000 francs in Treasury bills, which, according to the agreement with the Government, were to be paid. But when the bills of the foreign houses became due there was no money in the Treasury, and payment was refused. After six months had elapsed payment was offered, but on condition that the Government should retain half the profit of the commission! This Ouvrard and Wanlerberghe refused, upon which the Treasury thought it most economical to pay nothing, and the debt remained unsettled. Notwithstanding this transaction Ouvrard and Wanlerberghe engaged to victual the navy, which they supplied for six years and three months. After the completion of these different services the debt due to them amounted to 68,000,000.
In consequence of the long delay of, payment by the Treasury the disbursements for supplies of grain amounted at least to more than 40,000,000; and the difficulties which arose had a serious effect on the credit of the principal dealers with those persons who supplied them. The discredit spread and gradually reached the Treasury, the embarrassments of which augmented with the general alarm. Ouvrard, Wanlerberghe, and Seguin were the persons whose capital and credit rendered them most capable of relieving the Treasury, and they agreed to advance for that purpose 102,000,000, in return for which they were allowed bonds of the Receivers-General to the amount of 150,000,000. M. Desprez undertook to be the medium through which the 102,000,000 were to be paid into the Treasury, and the three partners transferred the bands to him.
Spain had concluded a treaty with France, by which she was bound to pay a subsidy of 72,000,000 francs, and 32,000,000 had become due without any payment being made: It was thought advisable that Ouvrard should be sent to Madrid to obtain a settlement, but he was afraid that his business in Paris would suffer during his absence, and especially the transaction in which he was engaged with Desprez. The Treasury satisfied him on this point by agreeing to sanction the bargain with Desprez, and Ouvrard proceeded to Madrid. It was on this occasion he entered into the immense speculation for trading with Spanish America.
Spain wished to pay the 32,000,000 which were due to France as soon as possible, but her coffers were empty, and goodwill does not ensure ability; besides, in addition to the distress of the Government, there was a dreadful famine in Spain. In this state of things Ouvrard proposed to the Spanish Government to pay the debt due to France, to import a supply of corn, and to advance funds for the relief of the Spanish Treasury. For this he required two conditions. (1.) The exclusive right of trading with America. (2.) The right of bringing from America on his own account all the specie belonging to the Crown, with the power of making loans guaranteed and payable by the Spanish Treasuries.
About the end of July 1805 the embarrassment which sometime before had begun to be felt in the finances of Europe was alarmingly augmented. Under these circumstances it was obviously the interest of Ouvrard to procure payment as soon as possible of the 32,000,000 which he had advanced for Spain to the French Treasury. He therefore redoubled his efforts to bring his negotiation to a favourable issue, and at last succeeded in getting a deed of partnership between himself and Charles IV. which contained the following stipulation:—"Ouvrard and Company are authorised to introduce into the ports of the New World every kind of merchandise and production necessary for the consumption of those countries, and to export from the Spanish Colonies, during the continuance of the war with England; all the productions and all specie derivable from them." This treaty was only to be in force during the war with England, and it was stipulated that the profits arising from the transactions of the Company should be equally divided between Charles IV. and the rest of the Company; that is to say, one-half to the King and the other half to his partners.
The consequences of this extraordinary partnership between a King and a private individual remain to be stated. On the signing of the deed Ouvrard received drafts from the Treasury of Madrid to the extent of 52,500,000 piastres; making 262,500,000 francs; but the piastres were to be brought from America, while the terms of the treaty required that the urgent wants of the Spanish Government should be immediately supplied, and, above all, the progress of the famine checked. To accomplish this object fresh advances to an enormous amount were necessary, for M. Ouvrard had to begin by furnishing 2,000,000 of quintals of grain at the rate of 26 francs the quintal. Besides all this, before he could realise a profit and be reimbursed for the advances he had made to the Treasury of Paris, he had to get the piastres conveyed from America to Europe. After some difficulty the English Government consented to facilitate the execution of the transaction by furnishing four frigates for the conveyance of the piastres.
Ouvrard had scarcely completed the outline of his extraordinary enterprise when the Emperor suddenly broke up his camp at Boulogne to march to Germany. It will readily be conceived that Ouvrard's interests then imperatively required his presence at Madrid; but he was recalled to Paris by the Minister of the Treasury, who wished to adjust his accounts. The Emperor wanted money for the war on which he was entering, and to procure it for the Treasury Ouvrard was sent to Amsterdam to negotiate with the House of Hope. He succeeded, and Mr. David Parish became the Company's agent.
Having concluded this business Ouvrard returned in all haste to Madrid; but in the midst of the most flattering hopes and most gigantic enterprises he suddenly found himself threatened with a dreadful crisis. M. Desprez, as has been stated, had, with the concurrence of the Treasury, been allowed to take upon himself all the risk of executing the treaty, by which 150,000,000 were to be advanced for the year 1804, and 400,000,000 for the year 1805. Under the circumstances which had arisen the Minister of the Treasury considered himself entitled to call upon Ouvrard to place at his disposal 10,000,000 of the piastres which he had received from Spain. The Minister at the same time informed him that he had made arrangements on the faith of this advance, which he thought could not be refused at so urgent a moment.
The embarrassment of the Treasury, and the well-known integrity of the Minister, M. de Barbe Marbois, induced Ouvrard to remit the 10,000,000 piastres. But a few days after he had forwarded the money a Commissioner of the Treasury arrived at Madrid with a ministerial despatch, in which Ouvrard was requested to deliver to the Commissioner all the assets he could command, and to return immediately to Paris.
The Treasury was then in the greatest difficulty, and a general alarm prevailed. This serious financial distress was occasioned by the following circumstances. The Treasury had, by a circular, notified to the Receivers-General that Desprez was the holder of their bonds. They were also authorised to transmit to him all their disposable funds, to be placed to their credit in an account current. Perhaps the giving of this authority was a great error; but, be that as it may, Desprez, encouraged by the complaisance of the Treasury, desired the Receivers-General to transmit to him all the sums they could procure for payment of interest under 8 per cent., promising to allow them a higher rate of interest. As the credit of the house of Desprez stood high, it may be easily conceived that on such conditions the Receivers-General, who were besides secured by the authority of the Treasury, would enter eagerly into the proposed plan. In short, the Receivers-General soon transmitted very considerable sums. Chests of money arrived daily from every point of France. Intoxicated by this success, Desprez engaged in speculations which in his situation were extremely imprudent. He lent more than 50,000,000 to the merchants of Paris, which left him no command of specie. Being obliged to raise money, he deposited with the Bank the bonds of the Receivers-General which had been consigned to him, but which were already discharged by the sums transmitted to their credit in the account current. The Bank, wishing to be reimbursed for the money advanced to Desprez, applied to the Receivers-General whose bonds were held an security. This proceeding had become necessary on the part of the Bank, as Desprez, instead of making his payments in specie, sent in his acceptances. The Directors of the Bank, who conducted that establishment with great integrity and discretion, began to be alarmed, and required Desprez to explain the state of his affairs. The suspicions of the Directors became daily stronger, and were soon shared by the public. At last the Bank was obliged to stop payment, and its notes were soon at a discount of 12 per cent.
The Minister of the Treasury, dismayed, as well may be supposed, at such a state of things during the Emperor's absence, convoked a Council, at which Joseph Bonaparte presided, and to which Desprez and Wanlerberghe were summoned. Ouvrard being informed of this financial convulsion made all possible haste from Madrid, and on his arrival at Paris sought assistance from Amsterdam. Hope's house offered to take 15,000,000 piastres at the rate of 3 francs 75 centimes each. Ouvrard having engaged to pay the Spanish Government only 3 francs, would very willingly have parted with them at that rate, but his hasty departure from Madrid, and the financial events at Paris, affected his relations with the Spanish Treasury, and rendered it impossible for him to afford any support to the Treasury of France; thus the alarm continued, until the news of the battle of Austerlitz and the consequent hope of peace tranquillised the public mind. The bankruptcy of Desprez was dreadful; it was followed by the failure of many houses, the credit of which was previously undoubted.
To temper the exultation which victory was calculated to excite, the news of the desperate situation of the Treasury and the Bank reached the Emperor on the day after the battle of Austerlitz. The alarming accounts which he received hastened his return to France; and on the very evening on which he arrived in Paris he pronounced, while ascending the stairs of the Tuileries, the dismissal of M. de Barbs Marbois. This Minister had made numerous enemies by the strict discharge of his duty, and yet, notwithstanding his rigid probity, he sunk under the accusation of having endangered the safety of the State by weakness of character. At this period even Madame de Stael said, in a party where the firmness of M. Barbs Marbois was the topic of conversation—"What, he inflexible? He is only a reed bronzed!" But whatever may be the opinion entertained of the character of this Minister, it is certain that Napoleon's rage against him was unbounded. Such was the financial catastrophe which occurred during the campaign of Vienna; but all was not over with Ouvrard, and in so great a confusion of affairs it was not to be expected that the Imperial hand, which was not always the hand of justice, should not make itself somewhere felt.
In the course of the month of February 1806 the Emperor issued two decrees, in which he declared Ouvrard, Wanlerberghe, and Michel, contractors for the service of 1804, and Desprez their agent, debtors to the amount of 87,000,000, which they had misapplied in private speculations, and in transactions with Spain "for their personal interests." Who would not suppose from this phrase that Napoleon had taken no part whatever in the great financial operation between Spain and South America? He was, however, intimately acquainted with it, and was himself really and personally interested. But whenever any enterprise was unsuccessful he always wished to deny all connection with it. Possessed of title-deeds made up by himself—that is to say, his own decrees—the Emperor seized all the piastres and other property belonging to the Company, and derived from the transaction great pecuniary advantage,—though such advantage never could be regarded by a sovereign as any compensation for the dreadful state into which the public credit had been brought.
Declaration of Louis XVIII.—Dumouriez watched—News of a spy— Remarkable trait of courage and presence of mind—Necessity of vigilance at Hamburg—The King of Sweden—His bulletins—Doctor Gall —Prussia covets Hamburg—Projects on Holland—Negotiations for peace—Mr. Fox at the head of the British Cabinet—Intended assassination of Napoleon—Propositions made through Lord Yarmouth —Proposed protection of the Hanse towns—Their state— Aggrandisement of the Imperial family—Neither peace nor war— Sebastiani's mission to Constantinople—Lord Lauderdale at Paris, and failure of the negotiations—Austria despoiled—Emigrant pensions—Dumouriez's intrigues—Prince of Mecklenburg-Schwerin— Loizeau.
I have been somewhat diffuse respecting the vast enterprises of M. Ouvrard, and on the disastrous state of the finances during the campaign of Vienna. Now, if I may so express myself, I shall return to the Minister Plenipotentiary's cabinet, where several curious transactions occurred. The facts will not always be given in a connected series, because there was no more relation between the reports which I received on a great variety of subjects than there is in the pleading of the barristers who succeed each other in a court of justice.
On the 2d of January 1806 I learned that many houses in Hamburg had received by post packets, each containing four copies of a declaration of Louis XVIII. Dumouriez had his carriage filled with copies of this declaration when he passed through Brunswick; and in that small town alone more than 3000 were distributed. The size of this declaration rendered its transmission by post very easy, even in France.
All my letters from the Minister recommended that I should keep a strict watch over the motions of Dumouriez; but his name was now as seldom mentioned as if he had ceased to exist. The part he acted seemed to be limited to disseminating pamphlets more or less insignificant.
It is difficult to conceive the great courage and presence of mind sometimes found in men so degraded as are the wretches who fill the office of spies. I had an agent amongst the Swedo-Russians, named Chefneux, whom I had always found extremely clever and correct. Having for a long time received no intelligence from him I became very anxious,—an anxiety which was not without foundation. He had, in fact, been arrested at Lauenburg, and conducted, bound, tied hand and foot, by some Cossacks to Luneburg. There was found on him a bulletin which he was about to transmit to me, and he only escaped certain death by having in his possession a letter of recommendation from a Hamburg merchant well known to M. Alopaeus, the Russian Minister in that city. This precaution, which I had taken before he set out, saved his life. M. Alopaeus replied to the merchant that, in consequence of his recommendation the spy should be sent back safe and sound, but that another time neither the recommended nor the recommender should escape so easily. Notwithstanding this, Chefneux would certainly have paid with his head for the dangerous business in which he was embarked but for the inconceivable coolness he displayed under the most trying circumstances. Though the bulletin which was found upon him was addressed to M. Schramm, merchant, they strongly suspected that it was intended for me. They demanded of the prisoner whether he knew me; to which he boldly replied that he had never seen me. They endeavoured, by every possible means, to extort a confession from him, but without success. His repeated denials, joined to the name of M. Schramm, created doubts in the minds of his interrogators; they hesitated lest they should condemn an innocent man. They, however, resolved to make a last effort to discover the truth, and Chefneux, condemned to be shot, was conducted to the plain of Luneburg. His eyes were bandaged, and he heard the command of preparation given to the platoon, which was to fire upon him; at that moment a man approaching him whispered in his ear, in a tone of friendship and compassion, "They are going to fire; but I am your friend; only acknowledge that you know M. de Bourrienne and you are safe."—"No," replied Chefneux in a firm tone; "if I said so I should tell a falsehood." Immediately the bandage was removed from his eyes, and he was set at liberty. It would be difficult to cite a more extraordinary instance of presence of mind.
Much as I execrate the system of espionage I am nevertheless compelled to admit that the Emperor was under the necessity of maintaining the most unremitting vigilance amidst the intrigues which were going forward in the neighbourhood of Hamburg, especially when the English, Swedes, and Russians were in arms, and there were the strongest grounds for suspecting the sincerity of Prussia.
On the 5th of January 1806 the King of Sweden arrived before the gates of Hamburg. The Senate of that city, surrounded on all sides by English, Swedish, and Russian troops, determined to send a deputation to congratulate the Swedish monarch, who, however, hesitated so long about receiving this homage that fears were entertained lest his refusal should be followed by some act of aggression. At length, however, the deputies were admitted, and they returned sufficiently well satisfied with their reception.
The King of Sweden then officially declared, "That all the arrangements entered into with relation to Hanover had no reference to hint, as the Swedish army was under the immediate command of its august sovereign."
The King, with his 6000 men, seemed inclined to play the part of the restorer of Germany, and to make himself the Don Quixote of the treaty of Westphalia. He threatened the Senate of Hamburg with the whole weight of his anger, because on my application the colours which used to be suspended over the door of the house for receiving Austrian recruits had been removed. The poor Senate of Hamburg was kept in constant alarm by so dangerous a neighbour.
The King of Sweden had his headquarters at Boetzenburg, on the northern bank of the Elbe. In order to amuse himself he sent for Dr. Gall, who was at Hamburg, where he delivered lectures on his system of phrenology, which was rejected in the beginning by false science and prejudice, and afterwards adopted in consequence of arguments, in my opinion, unanswerable. I had the pleasure of living some time with Dr. Gall, and I owe to the intimacy which subsisted between us the honour he conferred on me by the dedication of one of his works. I said to him, when he departed for the headquarters of the King of Sweden, "My dear doctor, you will certainly discover the bump of vanity." The truth is, that had the doctor at that period been permitted to examine the heads of the sovereigns of Europe they would have afforded very curious craniological studies.
It was not the King of Sweden alone who gave uneasiness to Hamburg; the King of Prussia threatened to seize upon that city, and his Minister publicly declared that it would very soon belong to his master. The Hamburgers were deeply afflicted at this threat; in fact, next to the loss of their independence, their greatest misfortune would have been to fall under the dominion of Prussia, as the niggardly fiscal system of the Prussian Government at that time would have proved extremely detrimental to a commercial city. Hanover, being evacuated by the French troops, had become a kind of recruiting mart for the British army, where every man who presented himself was enrolled, to complete the Hanoverian legion which was then about to be embodied. The English scattered gold by handfuls. One hundred and fifty carriages, each with six horses, were employed in this service, which confirmed me in the belief I had previously entertained, that the English were to join with the Russians in an expedition against Holland. The aim of the Anglo-Russians was to make a diversion which might disconcert the movements of the French armies in Germany, the allies being at that time unacquainted with the peace concluded at Presburg. Not a moment was therefore to be lost in uniting the whole of our disposable force for the defence of Holland; but it is not of this expedition that I mean to speak at present. I only mention it to afford some idea of our situation at Hamburg, surrounded, as we then were, by Swedish, English, and Russian troops. At this period the Russian Minister at Hamburg, M. Forshmann, became completely insane; his conduct had been more injurious than advantageous to his Government. He was replaced by M. Alopcous, the Russian Minister at Berlin; and they could not have exchanged a fool for a more judicious and able diplomatist.
I often received from the Minister of Marine letters said packets to transmit to the Isle of France,(Mauritius) of which the Emperor was extremely anxious to retain possession; and I had much trouble in finding any vessels prepared for that colony by which I could forward the Minister's communications. The death of Pitt and the appointment of Fox as his successor had created a hope of peace. It was universally known that Mr. Fox, in succeeding to his office, did not inherit the furious hatred of the deceased Minister against France and her Emperor. There moreover existed between Napoleon and Mr. Fox a reciprocal esteem, and the latter had shown himself really disposed to treat. The possibility of concluding a peace had always been maintained by that statesman when he was in opposition to Mr. Pitt; and Bonaparte himself might have been induced, from the high esteem he felt for Mr. Fox, to make concessions from which he would before have recoiled. But there were two obstacles, I may say almost insurmountable ones. The first was the conviction on the part of England that any peace which might be made would only be a truce, and that Bonaparte would never seriously relinquish his desire of universal dominion. On the other side, it was believed that Napoleon had formed the design of invading England. Had he been able to do so it would have been less with the view of striking a blow at her commerce and destroying her maritime power, than of annihilating the liberty of the press, which he had extinguished in his own dominions. The spectacle of a free people, separated only by six leagues of sea, was, according to him, a seductive example to the French, especially to those among them who bent unwillingly under his yoke.
At an early period of Mr. Fox's ministry a Frenchman made the proposition to him of assassinating the Emperor, of which information was immediately transmitted to M. de Talleyrand. In this despatch the Minister said that, though the laws of England did not authorise the permanent detention of any individual not convicted of a crime, he had on this occasion taken it on himself to secure the miscreant till such time as the French Government could be put on its guard against his attempts. Mr. Fox said in his letter that he had at first done this individual "the honour to take him for a spy," a phrase which sufficiently indicated the disgust with which the British Minister viewed him.
This information was the key which opened the door to new negotiations. M. de Talleyrand was ordered to express, in reply to the communication of Mr. Fox, that the Emperor was sensibly affected at the index it afforded of the principles by which the British Cabinet was actuated. Napoleon did not limit himself to this diplomatic courtesy; he deemed it a favourable occasion to create a belief that he was actuated by a sincere love of peace. He summoned to Paris Lord Yarmouth, one of the most distinguished amongst the English who had been so unjustly detained prisoners at Verdun on the rupture of the peace of Amiens. He gave his lordship instructions to propose to the British Government a new form of negotiations, offering to guarantee to England the Cape of Good Hope and Malta. Some have been inclined from this concession to praise the moderation of Bonaparte; others to blame him for offering to resign these two places, as if the Cape and Malta could be put in competition with the title of Emperor, the foundation of the Kingdom of Italy, the acquisition of Genoa and of all the Venetian States, the dethronement of the King of Naples and the gift of his kingdom to Joseph, and finally, the new partition of Germany. These transactions, of which Bonaparte said not a word, and from which he certainly had no intention of departing, were all long after the treaty of Amiens.
Every day brought with it fresh proofs of insatiable ambition. In fact, Napoleon longed to obtain possession of the Hanse Towns. I was, however, in the first place, merely charged to make overtures to the Senates of each of these towns, and to point out the advantages they would derive from the protection of Napoleon in exchange for the small sacrifice of 6,000,000 francs in his favour. I had on this subject numerous conferences with the magistrates: they thought the sum too great, representing, to me that the city was not so rich as formerly, because their commerce had been much curtailed by the war; in short, the Senate declared that, with the utmost goodwill, their circumstances would not permit them to accept the "generous proposal" of the Emperor.
I was myself, indeed, at a loss to conceive how the absurdity of employing me to make such a proposition was overlooked, for I had, really no advantage to offer in return to the Hanse Towns. Against whom did Bonaparte propose to protect them? The truth is, Napoleon then wished to seize these towns by direct aggression, which, however, he was not able to accomplish until four years afterwards.
During five years I witnessed the commercial importance of these cities, and especially of Hamburg. Its geographical situation, on a great river navigable by large vessels to the city, thirty leagues from the mouth of the Elbe; the complete independence it enjoyed; its municipal regulations and paternal government, were a few amongst the many causes which had raised Hamburg to its enviable height of prosperity. What, in fact, was the population of these remnants of the grand Hanseatic League of the Middle Ages? The population of Hamburg when I was there amounted to 90,000, and that of its small surrounding territory to 25,000. Bremen had 36,000 inhabitants, and 9000 in its territory; the city of Lubeck, which is smaller and its territory a little more extensive than that of Bremen, contained a population of 24,000 souls within and 16,000 without the walls. Thus the total population of the Hanse Towns amounted to only 200,000 individuals; and yet this handful of men carried on an extensive commerce, and their ships ploughed every sea, from the shores of India to the frozen regions of Greenland.
The Emperor arrived at Paris towards the end of January 1806. Having created kings in Germany he deemed the moment favourable for surrounding his throne with new princes. It was at this period that he created Murat, Grand Duke of Cleves and Berg; Bernadotte, Prince of Ponte-Corvo; M. de Talleyrand, Duke of Benevento; and his two former colleagues, Cambaceres and Lebrun, Dukes of Parma and Piacenza. He also gave to his sister Pauline, a short time after her second marriage with the Prince Borghese, the title of Duchess of Guastalla. Strange events! who could then have foreseen that the duchy of Cambaceres would become the refuge of a Princess of Austria, the widowed wife of Napoleon Bonaparte? In the midst of the prosperity of the Imperial family, when the eldest of the Emperor's brothers had ascended the throne of Naples, when Holland was on the eve of being offered to Louis, and Jerome had exchanged his legitimate wife for the illegitimate throne of Westphalia, the Imperial pillow was still far from being free from anxiety. Hostilities did not actually exist with the Continental powers; but this momentary state of repose lacked the tranquillity of peace. France was at war with Russia and England, and the aspect of the Continent presented great uncertainty, while the treaty of Vienna had only been executed in part. In the meantime Napoleon turned his eyes towards the East. General Sebastiani was sent to Constantinople. The measures be pursued and his judicious conduct justified the choice of the Emperor. He was adroit and conciliating, and peace with Turkey was the result of his mission. The negotiations with England did not terminate so happily, although, after the first overtures made to Lord Yarmouth, the Earl of Lauderdale had been sent to Paris by Mr. Fox. In fact, these negotiations wholly failed. The Emperor had drawn enormous sums from Austria, without counting the vases, statues, and pictures. With which he decorated the Louvre, and the bronze with which he clothed the column of the Place Vendome,—in my opinion the finest monument of his reign and the most beautiful one in Paris. As Austria was exhausted all the contributions imposed on her could not be paid in cash, and they gave the Emperor bills in payment. I received one for about 7,000,000 on Hamburg on account of the stipulations of the treaty of Presburg.
The affairs of the Bourbon Princes became more and more unfavourable, and their finances, as well as their chances of success, were so much diminished that about this period it was notified to the emigrants in Brunswick that the pretender (Louis XVIII.) had no longer the means of continuing their pensions. This produced great consternation amongst those emigrants, many of whom had no other means of existence; and notwithstanding their devotion to the cause of royalty they found a pension very useful in strengthening their zeal.
—[When Louis XVIII. returned to France, and Fouche was his Minister of Police, the King asked Fouche whether during his (the King's) exile, had not set spies over him, and who they were. Fouche hesitated to reply, but the King insisting he said: "If your Majesty presses for an answer, it was the Due de Blacas to whom this matter was confided."—"And how much did you pay him?" said the King. "Deux cents mille livres de rents, Sire."—"Ah, so!" said the King, "then he has played fair; we went halves."—Henry Greville's Diary, p. 430.]—
Amongst those emigrants was one whose name will occupy a certain place in history; I mean Dumouriez, of whom I have already spoken, and who had for some time employed himself in distributing pamphlets. He was then at Stralsund; and it was believed that the King of Sweden would give him a command. The vagrant life of this general, who ran everywhere hegging employment from the enemies of his country without being able to obtain it, subjected him to general ridicule; in fact, he was everywhere despised.
To determine the difficulties which had arisen with regard to Holland, which Dumouriez dreamed of conquering with an imaginary army, and being discontented besides with the Dutch for not rigorously excluding English vessels from their ports, the Emperor constituted the Batavian territory a kingdom under his brother Louis. When I notified to the States of the circle of Lower Saxony the accession of Louis Bonaparte to the throne of Holland, and the nomination of Cardinal Fesch as coadjutor and successor of the Arch-chancellor of the Germanic Empire, along with their official communications, the Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin was the only member of the circle who forebore to reply, and I understood he had applied to the Court of Russia to know "whether" and "how" he should reply. At the same time he made known to the Emperor the marriage of his daughter, the Princess Charlotte Frederica, with Prince Christian Frederick of Denmark.
At this period it would have been difficult to foresee the way in which this union would terminate. The Prince was young and handsome, and of an amiable disposition, which seemed to indicate that he would prove a good husband. As for the Princess, she was as beautiful as love; but she was heedless and giddy; in fact, she was a spoiled child. She adored her husband, and during several years their union proved happy. I had the honour of knowing them at the period when the Duke of Mecklenburg, with his family, sought refuge at Altona. Before leaving that town the Duchess of Mecklenburg, a Princess of Saxony, paid a visit to Madame de Bourrienne and loaded her with civilities. This Princess was perfectly amiable, and was therefore generally regretted when, two years afterwards, death snatched her from her family. Before leaving Altona the Duke of Mecklenburg gave some parties by way of bidding adieu to Holstein, where he had been so kindly received; and I can never forget the distinguished reception and many kindnesses Madame de Bourrienne and myself received from that illustrious family.
It consisted of the hereditary Prince, so distinguished by his talents and acquirements (he was at that time the widower of a Grand Duchess of Russia, a sister of the Emperor Alexander), of Prince Gustavus, so amiable and graceful, and of Princess Charlotte and her husband, the Prince Royal of Denmark.
This happy couple were far from foreseeing that in two years they would be separated for ever. The Princess was at this period in all the splendour of her beauty; several fetes were given on her account on the banks of the Elbe, at which the Prince always opened the ball with Madame de Bourrienne. Notwithstanding her amiability the Princess Charlotte was no favourite at the Danish Court. Intrigues were formed against her. I know not whether any foundation existed for the calumnies spread to her disadvantage, but the Court dames accused her of great levity of conduct, which, true or false, obliged her husband to separate from her; and at the commencement of 1809 he sent her to Altona, attended by a chamberlain and a maid of honour. On her arrival she was in despair; hers was not a silent grief, for she related her story to every one. This unfortunate woman really attracted pity, as she shed tears for her son, three years of age, whom she was doomed never again to behold. But her natural levity returned; she did not always maintain the reserve suitable to her rank, and some months afterwards was sent into Jutland, where I believe she still lives.
The enemies of the French Government did not confine themselves to writing and publishing invectives against it. More than one wretch was ready to employ daggers against the Emperor. Among this number was a man named Louis Loizeau, recently arrived from London. He repaired to Altona, there to enjoy the singular privilege which that city afforded of sheltering all the ruffians, thieves, and bankrupts who fled from the justice of their own Governments. On the 17th of July Loizeau presented himself to Comte de Gimel, who resided at Altona, as the agent of the Comte de Lille. He offered to repair to Paris and assassinate the Emperor. Comte de Gimel rejected the proposal with indignation; and replied, that if he had no other means of serving the Bourbons than cowardly assassination he might go elsewhere and find confederates. This fact, which was communicated to me by a friend of M. de Gimel, determined me to arrest Loizeau. Not being warranted, however, to take this step at Altona, I employed a trusty agent to keep watch, and draw him into a quarrel the moment he should appear on the Hamburg side of a public walk which divides that city from Altona, and deliver him up to the nearest Hamburg guard-house. Loizeau fell into the snare; but finding that he was about to be conducted from the guardhouse to the prison of Hamburg, and that it was at my request he had been arrested, he hastily unloosed his cravat, and tore with his teeth the papers it contained, part of which he swallowed. He also endeavoured to tear some other papers which were concealed under his arm, but was prevented by the guard. Furious at this disappointment, he violently resisted the five soldiers who had him in custody, and was not secured until he had been slightly wounded. His first exclamation on entering prison was, "I am undone!" Loizeau was removed to Paris, and, though I am ignorant of the ultimate fate of this wretch, I am pretty certain that Fouche would take effectual means to prevent him from doing any further mischief.
Menaces of Prussia—Offer for restoring Hanover to England—Insolent ultimatum—Commencement of hostilities between France and Prussia— Battle of Auerstadt—Death of the Duke of Brunswick—Bernadotte in Hamburg—Davonet and Bernadotte—The Swedes at Lubeck—Major Amiel— Service rendered to the English Minister at Hamburg—My appointment of Minister for the King of Naples—New regulation of the German post-office—The Confederation of the North—Devices of the Hanse Towns—Occupation of Hamburg in the name of the Emperor—Decree of Berlin—The military governors of Hamburg—Brune, Michaud, and Bernadotte.
The moment now approached when war was about to be renewed in Germany, and in proportion as the hopes of peace diminished Prussia redoubled her threats, which were inspired by the recollection of the deeds of the great Frederick. The idea of peace was hateful to Prussia. Her measures, which till now had been sufficiently moderate, suddenly assumed a menacing aspect on learning that the Minister of the King of England had declared in Parliament that France had consented to the restitution of Hanover. The French Ministry intimated to the Prussian Government that this was a preliminary step towards a general peace, and that a large indemnity would be granted in return. But the King of Prussia, who was well informed, and convinced that the House of Hanover clung to this ancient domain, which gave to England a certain preponderance in Germany, considered himself trifled with, and determined on war.
Under these circumstances Lord Lauderdale was recalled from Paris by his Government. War continued with England, and was about to commence with Prussia. The Cabinet of Berlin sent an ultimatum which could scarcely be regarded in any other light than a defiance, and from the well-known character of Napoleon we may judge of his irritation at this ultimatum.
—[The severity with which Bonaparte treated the press may be inferred from the case of Palm the publisher. In 1808 Johann Phillip Palm, of Nuremberg, was shot by Napoleon's order for issuing a pamphlet against the rule of the French in Germany.]—
The Emperor, after his stay of eight months in Paris passed in abortive negotiations for peace, set out on the 25th of September for the Rhine.
Hostilities commenced on the 10th of October 1806 between France and Prussia, and I demanded of the Senate that a stop should be put to the Prussians recruiting. The news of a great victory gained by the Emperor over the Prussians on the 14th of October reached Hamburg on the 19th, brought by some fugitives, who gave such exaggerated accounts of the loss of the French army that it was not until the arrival of the official despatches on the 28th of October that we knew whether to mourn or to rejoice at the victory of Jena.
The Duke of Brunswick, who was dangerously wounded at the battle of Auerstadt, arrived on the 29th of October at Altona.—[This Prince was in the seventy-second year of his age, and extremely infirm.]—His entrance into that city afforded a striking example of the vicissitudes of fortune. That Prince entered Altona on a wretched litter, borne by ten men, without officers, without domestics, followed by a troop of vagabonds and children, who were drawn together by curiosity. He was lodged in a wretched inn, and so much worn out by fatigue and the pain of his eyes that on the day after his arrival a report of his death very generally prevailed. Doctor Unzer was immediately sent for to attend the unfortunate Duke, who, during the few days that he survived his wounds, saw no one else except his wife, who arrived on the 1st of November. He expired on the 10th of the same month.
—[For the mistimed but rather pathetic belief of the old dying Duke in the courtesy with which he and his States would be treated by the French, see Beugnot, tome 1. p. 80: "I feel sure that there is a courier of the Emperor's on the road to know how I am."]—
At this juncture Bernadotte returned to Hamburg. I asked him how I was to account for his conduct while he was with Davoust, who had left Nuremberg to attack the Prussian army; and whether it was true that he had refused to march with that general, and afterwards to aid him when he attacked the Prussians on the Weimar road. "The letters I received," observed I, "state that you took no part in the battle of Auerstadt; that I did not believe, but I suppose you saw the bulletin which I received a little after the battle, and which stated that Bonaparte said at Nuremberg, in the presence of several officers, 'Were I to bring him before a court-martial he would be shot. I shall say nothing to him about it, but I will take care he shall know what I think of his behaviour. He has too keen a sense of honour not to be aware that he acted disgracefully."—"I think him very likely," rejoined Bernadotte, "to have made these observations. He hates me because he knows I do not like him; but let him speak to me and he shall have his answer. If I am a Gascon, he is a greater one. I might have felt piqued at receiving something like orders from Davoust, but I did my duty."
—[The complaints of Bernadotte's conduct on the 14th of October 1806. when he gave no assistance to Davoust in repulsing the main body of the Prussians at Aneratadt, are well known. Jomini says that Davoust proposed to Bernadotte to march with him, and even offered him the command of the two corps. Bernadotte refused, and marched away to Dornburg, where he was of no use, "his obstinacy, difficult to explain, nearly compromised both Davoust and the success of the battle;" See also Thiers (tome vii. p. 172), who attributes Bernadotte's conduct to a profound aversion for Davoust conceived on the most frivolous grounds. Bernadotte had frequently given cause of complaint to Napoleon in the two campaigns of 1806 and 1806. In the movement on Vienna Napoleon considered he showed want of activity and of zeal. These complaints seem to have been made in good faith, for in a letter to Bernadotte's brother-in-law, Joseph, Napoleon suggests that health may have been the causes (Du Cases, tome i. p. 322). Bernadotte was equally unfortunate in putting in his appearance too late at Eylan (see Due de Rovigo's Memoirs, tome ii. p. 48), and also incurred the displeasure of Napoleon at Wagram (see later on).]—
In the beginning of November the Swedes entered Lubeck; but on the 8th of that month the town was taken by assault, and the Swedes, as well as the rest of the corps which had escaped from Jena, were made prisoners.
A troop of Prussians had advanced within four leagues of Hamburg, and that town had already prepared for a vigorous resistance, in case they should attempt an entrance, when Major Amiel attacked them at Zollenspieker and made some prisoners. Hamburg was, however, threatened with another danger, for Major Amiel expressed his intention of entering with all his prisoners, notwithstanding the acknowledged neutrality of the town. Amiel was a partisan leader in the true sense of the word; he fought rather on his own account than with the intention of contributing to the success of the operations of the army. His troop did not consist of more than forty men, but that was more than sufficient to spread terror and devastation in the surrounding villages. He was a bold fellow, and when, with his handful of men, he threw himself upon Hamburg, the worthy inhabitants thought he had 20,000 troops with him. He had pillaged every place through which he passed, and brought with him 300 prisoners, and a great many horses he had taken on his road. It was night when he presented himself at the gates of the city, which he entered alone, having left his men and booty at the last village. He proceeded to the French Embassy. I was not there at the time, but I was sent for, and about seven o'clock in the evening I had my first interview with the Major. He was the very, beau ideal of a bandit, and would have been an admirable model for a painter. I was not at all surprised to hear that on his arrival his wild appearance and huge mustachios had excited some degree of terror among those who were in the salon. He described his exploits on the march, and did not disguise his intention of bringing his troops into Hamburg next day. He talked of the Bank and of pillage. I tried for some time to divert him from this idea, but without effect, and at length said to him, "Sir, you know that this is not the way the Emperor wishes to be served. During the seven years that I have been about him, I have invariably heard him express his indignation against those who aggravate the misery which war naturally brings in her train. It is the express wish of the Emperor that no damage, no violence whatever, shall be committed on the city or territory of Hamburg." These few words produced a stronger effect than any entreaties I could have used, for the mere name of the Emperor made even the boldest tremble, and Major Amiel next thought of selling his booty. The Senate were so frightened at the prospect of having Amiel quartered upon them that to get rid of him they determined to purchase his booty at once, and even furnished him with guards for his prisoners. I did not learn till some time afterwards that among the horses Major Amiel had seized upon the road were those of the Countess Walmoden. Had I known this fact at the time I should certainly have taken care to have had them restored to her. Madame Walmoden was then a refugee at Hamburg, and between her and my family a close intimacy existed. On the very day, I believe, of the Major's departure the Senate wrote me a letter of thanks for the protection I afforded the town.
Before the commencement of the Prussian campaign, while anxiety was entertained respecting the designs of the Cabinet of Berlin, my task was not an easy one. I exerted all my efforts to acquaint the French Government with what was passing on the Spree. I announced the first intelligence of an unexpected movement which had taken place among the Prussian troops cantoned in the neighbourhood of Hamburg. They suddenly evacuated Lauenburg, Platzburg, Haarburg, Stade, Twisenfelth, and Cuxhaven. This extraordinary movement gave rise to a multitude of surmises. I was not wrong when I informed the French Government that, according to every probability, Prussia was about to declare hostilities against France, and to enter into an alliance with England.
I much regretted that my situation did not allow me more frequent opportunities of meeting Mr. Thornton, the English Minister to the circle of Lower Saxony. However; I saw him sometimes, and had on two different occasions the opportunity of rendering him some service. Mr. Thornton had requested me to execute a little private business for him, the success of which depended on the Emperor. I made the necessary communication to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, adding in my letter that Mr. Thornton's conduct towards the French who had come in any way in contact with him had ever been just and liberal, and that I should receive great pleasure in being able to announce to him the success of his application. His request was granted.
On another occasion Mr. Thornton applied to me for my services, and I had once more the pleasure of rendering them. He wished to procure some information respecting an Englishman named Baker, who had gone to Terracina, in the Campagna di Roma, for the benefit of sea-bathing. He was there arrested, without any cause assigned, by order of the commandant of the French troops in Terracina. The family of Mr. Baker, not having heard from him for some months, became very uneasy respecting him, for they had not the least idea of his arrest. His relations applied to Mr. Thornton, and that gentleman, notwithstanding the circumstances which, as I have stated, prevented our frequent intercourse, hesitated not a moment in requesting me to furnish him with some information respecting his countryman. I lost no time in writing to M. Alquier, our Ambassador at Rome, and soon enabled Mr. Thornton to ease the apprehension of Mr. Baker's friends.
I had every opportunity of knowing what was passing in Italy, for I had just been invested with a new dignity. As the new King of Naples, Joseph, had no Minister in Lower Saxony, he wished that I should discharge the function of Minister Plenipotentiary for Naples. His Ministers accordingly received orders to correspond with me upon all business connected with his government and his subjects. The relations between Hamburg and Naples were nearly nil, and my new office made no great addition to my labours.
I experienced, however, a little more difficulty in combining all the post-offices of Hamburg in the office of the Grand Duchy of Berg, thus detaching them from the offices of Latour and Taxis, so named after the German family who for a length of time had had the possession of them, and who were devoted to Austria.
After some days of negotiation I obtained the suppression of these offices, and their union with the postoffice of the Grand Due de Berg (Murat), who thus received letters from Italy, Hungary, Germany, Poland, part of Russia, and the letters from England for these countries.
The affair of the post-offices gained for me the approbation of Napoleon. He expressed his satisfaction through the medium of a letter I received from Duroc, who at the same time recommended me to continue informing the Emperor of all that was doing in Germany with relation to the plans of the Confederation of the North. I therefore despatched to the Minister for Foreign Affairs a detailed letter, announcing that Baron Grote, the Prussian Minister at Hamburg, had set off on a visit to Bremen and Lubeck. Among those who accompanied him on this excursion was a person wholly devoted to me; and I knew that Baron Grote's object was to offer to these towns verbal propositions for their union with the Confederation of the North, which the King of Prussia wished to form as a counterpoise to the Confederation of the Rhine, just created by Napoleon. Baron Grote observed the strictest secrecy in all his movements. He showed, in confidence, to those to whom he addressed himself, a letter from M. Haugwitz, the Minister of the King of Prussia,
—[In July 1806, after Austerlitz, Napoleon had formed the "Confederation du Rhin." to include the smaller States of Germany, who threw off all connection with the German Empire, and formed a Confederation furnishing a considerable army. ]—
—[The Emperor of Germany, Francis IL, had already in 1804, on Napoleon taking the title of Emperor, declared himself Hereditary Emperor of Austria. After the formation of the Rhenish Confederation and Napoleon's refusal to acknowledge the German Empire any longer, he released the States of the Holy Roman Empire from their allegiance, declared the Empire dissolved, and contented himself with the title of Emperor of Austria, as Francis I.]—
who endeavoured to point out to the Hanse Towns how much the Confederation of the North would turn to their advantage, it being the only means of preserving their liberty, by establishing a formidable power. However, to the first communication only an evasive answer was returned. M. Van Sienen, the Syndic of Hamburg, was commissioned by the Senate to inform the Prussian Minister that the affair required the concurrence of the burghers, and that hefore he could submit it to them it would be necessary to know its basis and conditions. Meanwhile the Syndic Doormann proceeded to Lubeck, where there was also a deputy from Bremen. The project of the Confederation, however, never came to anything.
I scrupulously discharged the duties of my functions, but I confess I often found it difficult to execute the orders I received, and more than once I took it upon myself to modify their severity. I loved the frank and generous character of the Hamburgers, and I could not help pity the fate of the Hanse Towns, heretofore so happy, and from which Bonaparte had exacted such immense sacrifices.
On the principal gate of the Hanse Towns is inscribed the following motto, well expressing the pacific spirit of the people: 'Da nobis pacem, Domine, in diebus nostris'. The paternal and elected government, which did everything to secure the happiness of these towns, was led to believe that the sacrifices imposed on them would be recompensed by the preservation of their neutrality. No distrust was entertained, and hope was kept alive by the assurances given by Napoleon. He published in the Moniteur that the Hanse Towns could not be included in any particular Confederation. He thus strangled in its birth the Confederation of the North, to which those feeble States would otherwise have been obliged to consent. When in 1806 Napoleon marched against Prussia, he detached Marshal Mortier from the Grand Army when it had passed the Rhine, and directed him to invade the Electorate of Hesse, and march on Hamburg. On the 19th of November the latter town was occupied by the French army in the name of the Emperor, amidst the utmost order and tranquillity.
I must acknowledge that I was under much apprehension as to this event. At the intelligence of the approach of the French army consternation was great and universal in Hamburg, which was anxious to maintain its neutrality unimpaired. At the urgent request of the magistrates of the city I assumed functions more than diplomatic, and became, in some respects, the first magistrate of the town. I went to meet Marshal Mortier to endeavour to dissuade him from entering. I thought I should by this means better serve the interests of France than by favouring the occupation of a neutral town by our troops. But all my remonstrances were useless. Marshal Mortier had received formal orders from the Emperor.
No preparations having been made at Hamburg for the reception of Marshal Mortier, he quartered himself and his whole staff upon me. The few troops he had with him were disposed of in my courtyard, so that the residence of a Minister of peace was all at once converted into headquarters. This state of things continued until a house was got ready for the Marshal.
Marshal Mortier had to make very rigorous exactions, but my representations suspended for a while Napoleon's orders for taking possession of the Bank of Hamburg. I am here bound to bear testimony to the Marshal's honourable principles and integrity of character. The representations which I had sent to Marshal Mortier were transmitted by the latter to the Emperor at Berlin; and Mortier stated that he had suspended the execution of the orders until he should receive others. The Emperor approved of this. It was, indeed, a happy event for France and for Europe, even more so than for Hamburg. Those who suggested to the Emperor the idea of pillaging that fine establishment must have been profoundly ignorant of its importance. They thought only of the 90,000,000 of marks banco deposited in its cellars.
By the famous decree of Berlin, dated 21st November 1806, Mortier was compelled to order the seizure of all English merchandise in the Hanse Towns, but he enforced the decree only so far as to preserve the appearance of having obeyed his orders.
Mortier, on leaving Hamburg for Mecklenburg, was succeeded by General Michaud, who in his turn was succeeded by Marshal Brune in the beginning of 1807. I am very glad to take the present opportunity of correcting the misconceptions which arose through the execution of certain acts of Imperial tyranny. The truth is, Marshal Brune, during his government, constantly endeavoured to moderate, as far as he could, the severity of the orders he received. Bernadotte became Governor of Hamburg when the battle of Jena rendered Napoleon master of Prussia and the north of Germany.
The Prince of Ponte-Corvo lightened, as far as possible, the unjust burdens and vexations to which that unfortunate town was subject. He never refused his assistance to any measures which I adopted to oppose a system of ruin and persecution. He often protected Hamburg against exorbitant exactions, The Hanse Towns revived a little under his government, which continued longer than that of Mortier, Michaud, and Brune. The memory of Bernadotte will always be dear to the Hamburgers; and his name will never be pronounced without gratitude. His attention was especially directed to moderate the rigour of the custom-houses; and perhaps the effect which his conduct produced on public opinion may be considered as having, in some measure, led to the decision which, four years after, made him Hereditary Prince of Sweden.
Ukase of the Emperor of Russia—Duroc's mission to Weimar— Napoleon's views defeated—Triumphs of the French armies—Letters from Murat—False report respecting Murat—Resemblance between Moreau and M. Billand—Generous conduct of Napoleon—His interview with Madame Hatzfeld at Berlin—Letter from Bonaparte to Josephine— Blucher my prisoner—His character—His confidence in the future fate of Germany—Prince Paul of Wurtemberg taken prisoner—His wish to enter the French service—Distinguished emigrants at Altona— Deputation of the Senate to the Emperor at Berlin—The German Princes at Altona—Fauche-Boiel and the Comte de Gimel.
In September 1806 it became very manifest that, as soon as war should break out between France and Prussia, Russia would not be slow in forming an alliance with the latter power. Peace had, however, been reestablished between Napoleon and Alexander by virtue of a treaty just signed at Paris. By that treaty Russia was to evacuate the Bouches du Cattaro,—[The Bouches do Cattaro, on the eastern coast of the Adriatic, had formed part of the Dalmatian possessions of Venice.]—a condition with which she was in no hurry to comply. I received a number of the Court Gazette of St. Petersburg, containing a ukase of the Emperor of Russia, in which Alexander pointed out the danger which again menaced Europe, showed the necessity of adopting precautions for general tranquillity and the security of his own Empire, and declared his determination of not only completing but augmenting his army. He therefore ordered a levy of four men out of every 500 inhabitants.
Before the commencement of hostilities Duroc was sent to the King of Prussia with the view of discovering whether there was any possibility of renewing negotiations; but affairs were already too much embarrassed. All Duroc's endeavours were in vain, and perhaps it was no longer in the power of the King of Prussia to avoid war with France. Besides, he had just grounds of offence against the Emperor. Although the latter had given him Hanover in exchange for the two Margravates, he had, nevertheless, offered to England the restoration of that province as one of the terms of the negotiations commenced with Mr. Fox. This underhand work was not unknown to the Berlin Cabinet, and Napoleon's duplicity rendered Duroc's mission useless. At this time the King of Prussia was at Weimar.
Victory everywhere favoured the French arms. Prince Hohenlohe, who commanded a corps of the Prussian army, was forced to capitulate at Prentzlau. After this capitulation General Blucher took the command of the remains of the corps, to which he joined the troops whose absence from Prentzlau exempted them from the capitulation. These corps, added to those which Blucher had at Auerstadt, were then almost the only ramparts of the Prussian monarchy. Soult and Bernadotte received orders from Murat to pursue Blucher, who was using all his efforts to draw from Berlin the forces of those two generals. Blucher marched in the direction of Lubeck.
General Murat pursued the wreck of the Prussian army which had escaped from Saxony by Magdeburg. Blucher was driven upon Lubeck. It was very important to the army at Berlin that this numerous corps should be destroyed, commanded as it was by a skillful and brave general, who drew from the centre of the military operations numerous troops, with which he might throw himself into Hanover, or Hesse, or even Holland, and by joining the English troops harass the rear of the Grand Army. The Grand Duke of Berg explained to me his plans and expectations, and soon after announced their fulfilment in several letters which contained, among other things, the particulars of the taking of Lubeck.
In two of these letters Murat, who was probably deceived by his agents, or by some intriguer, informed me that General Moreau had passed through Paris on the 12th of October, and had arrived in Hamburg on the 28th of October. The proof which Murat possessed of this circumstance was a letter of Fauche-Borel, which he had intercepted. I recollect a curious circumstance which serves to show the necessity of mistrusting the vague intelligence furnished to persons in authority. A fortnight before I received Murat's first letter a person informed me that General Moreau was in Hamburg. I gave no credit to this intelligence, yet I endeavoured to ascertain whether it had any foundation, but without effect. Two days later I was assured that an individual had met General Moreau, that he had spoken to him, that he knew him well from having served under him—together with various other circumstances, the truth of which there appeared no reason to doubt. I immediately sent for the individual in question, who told me that he knew Moreau, that he had met him, that the General had inquired of him the way to the Jungfersteige (a promenade at Hamburg), that he had pointed it out to him, and then said, "Have I not the honour to speak to General Moreau?" upon which the General answered, "Yes, but say nothing about having seen me; I am here incognito." All this appeared to me so absurd that, pretending not to know Moreau, I asked the person to describe him to me. He described a person bearing little resemblance to Moreau, and added that he wore a braided French coat and the national cockade in his hat. I instantly perceived the whole was a mere scheme for getting a little money. I sent the fellow about his business. In a quarter of an hour after I had got rid of him M. la Chevardiere called on me, and introduced M. Billaud, the French Consul at Stettin. This gentleman wore a braided coat and the national cockade in his hat. He was the hero of the story I had heard from the informer. A slight personal resemblance between the Consul and the General had caused several persons to mistake them for each other.
During the Prussian campaign nothing was talked of throughout Germany but Napoleon's generous conduct with respect to Prince Hatzfeld. I was fortunate enough to obtain a copy of a letter which the Emperor wrote to Josephine on the subject, and which I shall presently lay before the reader. In conformity with the inquisitorial system which too frequently characterised the Emperor's government, and which he extended to every country of which he had military possession, the first thing done on entering a town was to take possession of the post-office, and then, Heaven knows how little respect was shown to the privacy of correspondence. Among the letters thus seized at Berlin and delivered to Napoleon was one addressed to the King of Prussia by Prince Hatzfeld, who had imprudently remained in the Prussian capital. In this letter the Prince gave his Sovereign an account of all that had occurred in Berlin since he had been compelled to quit at; and at the same time he informed him of the force and situation of the corps of the French army. The Emperor, after reading this letter, ordered that the Prince should be arrested, and tried by a court-martial on the charge of being a spy.
The Court was summoned, and little doubt could be entertained as to its decision when Madame Hatzfeld repaired to Duroc, who on such occasions was always happy when he could facilitate communication with the Emperor. On that day Napoleon had been at a review. Duroc knew Madame Hatzfeld, whom he had several times seen on his visits to Berlin. When Napoleon returned from the review he was astonished to see Duroc at the palace at that hour, and inquired whether he had brought any news. Duroc answered in the affirmative, and followed the Emperor into his Cabinet, where he soon introduced Madame Hatzfeld. The remainder of the scene is described in Napoleon's letter. It may easily be perceived that this letter is an answer to one from Josephine reproaching him for the manner in which he spoke of women, and very probably of the beautiful and unfortunate Queen of Prussia, respecting whom he had expressed himself with too little respect in one of his bulletins. The following is Napoleon's letter:—
I have received your letter, in which you seem to reproach me for speaking ill of women. It is true that I dislike female intriguers above all things. I am used to kind, gentle, and conciliatory women. I love them, and if they have spoiled me it is not my fault, but yours. However, you will see that I have done an act of kindness to one deserving woman. I allude to Madame de Hatzfeld. When I showed her her husband's letter she stood weeping, and in a tone of mingled grief and ingenuousness said, "It is indeed his writing!" This went to my heart, and I said, "Well, madame, throw the letter into the fire, and then I shall have no proof against your husband." She burned the letter, and was restored to happiness. Her husband now is safe: two hours later, and he would have been lost. You see, therefore, that I like women who are simple, gentle, and amiable; because they alone resemble you.
November 6, 1806, 9 o'clock P.M.
When Marshal Bernadotte had driven Blucher into Lubeck and made him prisoner, he sent to inform me of the circumstance; but I was far from, expecting that the prisoner would be confided to my charge. Such, however, was the case. After his capitulation he was sent to Hamburg, where he had the whole city for his prison.
I was curious to become acquainted with this celebrated man, and I saw him very frequently. I found that he was an enthusiastic Prussian patriot—a brave man, enterprising even to rashness, of limited education, and almost to an incredible degree devoted to pleasure, of which he took an ample share while he remained in Hamburg. He sat an enormous time at table, and, notwithstanding his exclusive patriotism, he rendered full justice to the wines of France. His passion for women was unbounded, and one of his most favourite sources of amusement was the gaming-table, at which he spent a considerable portion of his time. Blucher was of an extremely gay disposition; and considered merely as a companion he was very agreeable. The original style of his conversation pleased me much. His confidence in the deliverance of Germany remained unshaken in spite of the disasters of the Prussian army. He often said to me, "I place great reliance on the public spirit of Germany—on the enthusiasm which prevails in our universities. The events of war are daily changing, and even defeats con tribute to nourish in a people sentiments of honour and national glory. You may depend upon it that when a whole nation is determined to shake off a humiliating yoke it will succeed. There is no doubt but we shall end by having a landwehr very different from any militia to which the subdued spirit of the French people could give birth. England will always lend us the support of her navy and her subsidies, and we will renew alliances with Russia and Austria. I can pledge myself to the truth of a fact of which I have certain knowledge, and you may rely upon it; namely, that none of the allied powers engaged in the present war entertain views of territorial aggrandisement. All they unanimously desire is to put an end to the system of aggrandisement which your Emperor has established and acts upon with such alarming rapidity. In our first war against France, at the commencement of your Revolution, we fought for questions respecting the rights of sovereigns, for which, I assure you, I care very little; but now the case is altered, the whole population of Prussia makes common cause with its Government. The people fight in defence of their homes, and reverses destroy our armies without changing the spirit of the nation. I rely confidently on the future because I foresee that fortune will not always favour your Emperor. It is impossible; but the time will come when all Europe, humbled by his exactions, and impatient of his depredations, will rise up against him. The more he enslaves nations, the more terrible will be the reaction when they break their chains. It cannot be denied that he is tormented with an insatiable desire of acquiring new territories. To the war of 1805 against Austria and Russia the present war has almost immediately succeeded. We have fallen. Prussia is occupied; but Russia still remains undefeated. I cannot foresee what will be the termination of the war; but, admitting that the issue should be favourable to you, it will end only to break out again speedily. If we continue firm, France, exhausted by her conquests, must in the end fall. You may be certain of it. You wish for peace. Recommend it! By so doing You will give strong proofs of love for your country."