Part 3 out of 24
folding chair at the feet of the Director Barras, in the Court of
the Petit Luxembourg, and gravely presented to his sovereigns as
ambassador from the Grand Duke of Tuscany, while the French were
eating his master's dinner, from the soup to the cheese. At the
right hand there were fifty musicians and singers of the Opera,
Laine, Lays, Regnault, and the actresses, not all dead of old age,
roaring a patriotic cantata to the music of Mehul. Facing them, on
another elevation, there were two hundred young and beautiful women,
with their arms and bosoms bare, all in ecstasy at the majesty of
our Pentarchy and the happiness of the Republic. They also wore
tight flesh-coloured pantaloons, with rings on their toes. That was
a sight that never will be seen again. A fortnight after this
magnificent fete, thousands of families wept over their banished
fathers, forty-eight departments were deprived of their
representatives, and forty editors of newspapers were forced to go
and drink the waters of the Elbe, the Synamary or the Ohio! It
would be a curious disquisition to seek to discover what really were
at that time the Republic and Liberty."]
He knew that the Clichy party demanded his dismissal and arrest. He was
given to understand that Dumolard was one of the most decided against
him, and that, finally, the royalist party was on the point of
Before deciding for one party or the other Bonaparte first thought of
himself. He did not imagine that he had yet achieved enough to venture
on possessing himself of that power which certainly he might easily have
obtained. He therefore contented himself with joining the party which
was, for the moment, supported by public opinion. I know he was
determined to march upon Paris with 25,000 men had affairs taken a turn
unfavourable to the Republic, which he preferred to royalty. He
cautiously formed his plan. To defend the Directory was, he conceived,
to defend his own future fortune; that is to say, it was protecting a
power which appeared to have no other object than to keep a place for him
until his return.
The parties which rose up in Paris produced a reaction in the army. The
employment of the word 'Monsieur' had occasioned quarrels, and even
bloodshed. General Augereau, in whose division these contests had taken
place, published an order of the day, setting forth that every individual
in his division who should use the word 'Monsieur', either verbally or in
writing, under any pretence whatever, should be deprived of his rank, and
declared incapable of serving in the Republican armies. This order was
read at the head of each company.
Bonaparte viewed the establishment of peace as the close of his military
career. Repose and inactivity were to him unbearable. He sought to take
part in the civil affairs of the Republic, and was desirous of becoming
one of the five Directors, convinced that, if he obtained that object, he
would speedily stand single and alone. The fulfilment of this wish would
have prevented the Egyptian expedition, and placed the imperial crown
much sooner upon his head. Intrigues were carried on in Paris in his
name, with the view of securing to him a legal dispensation on the score
of age. He hoped, though he was but eight-and-twenty, to supersede one
of the two Directors who were to go out of office.
--[The Directors had to be forty years of ago before they could be
His brothers and their friends made great exertions for the success of
the project, which, however, was not officially proposed, because it was
too adverse to the prevailing notions of the day, and seemed too early a
violation of the constitution of the year III., which, nevertheless, was
violated in another way a few months after.
The members of the Directory were by no means anxious to have Bonaparte
for their colleague. They dissembled, and so did he. Both parties were
lavish of their mutual assurances of friendship, while they cordially
hated each other. The Directory, however, appealed for the support of
Bonaparte, which he granted; but his subsequent conduct clearly proves
that the maintenance of the constitution of the year III. was a mere
pretest. He indeed defended it meanwhile, because, by aiding the triumph
of the opposite party, he could not hope to preserve the influence which
he exercised over the Directory. I know well that, in case of the Clichy
party gaining the ascendency, he was determined to cross the Alps with
his army, and to assemble all the friends of the Republic at Lyons,
thence to march upon Paris.
In the Memorial of St. Helena it is stated, in reference to the 18th
Fructidor, "that the triumph of the majority of the councils was his
desire and hope, we are inclined to believe from the following fact,
viz., that at the crisis of the contest between the two factions a secret
resolution was drawn up by three of the members of the Directory, asking
him for three millions to support the attack on the councils, and that
Napoleon, under various pretences, did not send the money, though he
might easily have done so."
This is not very comprehensible. There was no secret resolution of the
members who applied for the three millions. It was Bonaparte who offered
the money, which, however, he did not send; it was he who despatched
Augereau; and he who wished for the triumph of the Directorial majority.
His memory served him badly at St. Helena, as will be seen from some
correspondence which I shall presently submit to the reader. It is very
certain that he did offer the money to the Directory; that is to say, to
three of its members.
--[Barras, La Revelliere-Lepaux, and Rewbell, the three Directors
who carried out the 'coup d'etat' of the 18th Fructidor against
their colleagues Carnot and Bartholemy. (See Thiers' French
Revolution", vol. v. pp. 114,139, and 163.)]--
Bonaparte had so decidedly formed his resolution that on the 17th of
July, wishing to make Augereau his confidant, he sent to Vicenza for him
by an extraordinary courier.
Bonaparte adds that when Bottot, the confidential agent of Barras, came
to Passeriano, after the 18th Fructidor, he declared to him that as soon
as La Vallette should make him acquainted with the real state of things
the money should be transmitted. The inaccuracy of these statements will
be seen in the correspondence relative to the event. In thus distorting
the truth Napoleon's only object could have been to proclaim his
inclination for the principles he adopted and energetically supported
from the year 1800, but which, previously to that period, he had with no
less energy opposed.
He decidedly resolved to support the majority of the Directory, and to
oppose the royalist faction; the latter, which was beginning to be
important, would have been listened to had it offered power to him.
About the end of July he sent his 'aide de camp' La Vallette to Paris.
La Vallette was a man of good sense and education, pleasing manners,
pliant temper, and moderate opinions. He was decidedly devoted to
Bonaparte. With his instructions he received a private cipher to enable
him to correspond with the General-in-Chief.
Augereau went, after La Vallette, on the 27th of July. Bonaparte
officially wrote to the Directory that Augereau "had solicited leave to
go to Paris on his own private business."
But the truth is, Augereau was sent expressly to second the revolution
which was preparing against the Clichy party and the minority of the
Bonaparte made choice of Augereau because he knew his staunch republican
principles, his boldness, and his deficiency in political talent. He
thought him well calculated to aid a commotion, which his own presence
with the army of Italy prevented him from directing in person; and
besides, Augereau was not an ambitious rival who might turn events to his
own advantage. Napoleon said, at St. Helena, that he sent the addresses
of the army of Italy by Augereau because he was a decided supporter of
the opinions of the day. That was the true reason for choosing him.
Bernadotte was subsequently despatched on the same errand. Bonaparte's
pretence for sending him was, that he wished to transmit to the Directory
four flags, which, out of the twenty-one taken at the battle of Rivoli,
had been left, by mistake, at Peschiera. Bernadotte, however, did not
take any great part in the affair. He was always prudent.
The crisis of the 18th Fructidor, which retarded for three years the
extinction of the pentarchy, presents one of the most remarkable events
of its short existence. It will be seen how the Directors extricated
themselves from this difficulty. I subjoin the correspondence relating
to this remarkable episode of our Revolution, cancelling only such
portions of it as are irrelevant to the subject. It exhibits several
variations from the accounts given by Napoleon at St. Helena to his noble
companions in misfortune.
Augereau thus expressed himself on the 18th Fructidor (4th September
At length, General, my mission is accomplished, and the promises of
the army of Italy are fulfilled. The fear of being anticipated has
caused measures to be hurried.
At midnight I despatched orders to all the troops to march towards
the points specified. Before day all the bridges and principal
places were planted with cannon. At daybreak the halls of the
councils were surrounded, the guards of the councils were amicably
mingled with our troops, and the members, of whom I send you a list,
were arrested and conveyed to the Temple. The greater number have
escaped, and are being pursued. Carnot has disappeared.'
--[In 1824 Louis XVIII. sent letters of nobility to those members
of the two councils who were, as it was termed, 'fructidorized'.
Paris is tranquil, and every one is astounded at an event which
promised to be awful, but which has passed over like a fete.
The stout patriots of the faubourgs proclaim the safety of the
Republic, and the black collars are put down. It now remains for
the wise energy of the Directory and the patriots of the two
councils to do the rest. The place of sitting is changed, and the
first operations promise well. This event is a great step towards
peace; which it is your task finally to secure to us.
On the 24th Fructidor (10th September 1797) Augereau writes:
My 'aide de camp', de Verine, will acquaint you with the events of
the 18th. He is also to deliver to you some despatches from the
Directory, where much uneasiness is felt at not hearing from you.
No less uneasiness is experienced on seeing in Paris one of your
'aides de camp',--(La Vallette)--whose conduct excites the
dissatisfaction and distrust of the patriots, towards whom he has
behaved very ill.
The news of General Clarke's recall will have reached you by this
time, and I suspect has surprised you. Amongst the thousand and one
motives which have determined the Government to take this step may
be reckoned his correspondence with Carnot, which has been
communicated to me, and in which he treated the generals of the army
of Italy as brigands.
Moreau has sent the Directory a letter which throws a new light on
Pichegru's treason. Such baseness is hardly to be conceived.
The Government perseveres in maintaining the salutary measures which
it has adopted. I hope it will be in vain for the remnant of the
factions to renew their plots. The patriots will continue united.
Fresh troops having been summoned to Paris, and my presence at their
head being considered indispensable by the Government, I shall not
have the satisfaction of seeing you so soon as I hoped. This has
determined me to send for my horses and carriages, which I left at
Bernadotte wrote to Bonaparte on the 24th Fructidor as follows:--
The arrested deputies are removed to Rochefort, where they will be
embarked for the island of Madagascar. Paris is tranquil. The
people at first heard of the arrest of the deputies with
indifference. A feeling of curiosity soon drew them into the
streets; enthusiasm followed, and cries of 'Vive la Republique',
which had not been heard for a long time, now resounded in every
street. The neighbouring departments have expressed their
discontent. That of Allier has, it is said, protested; but it will
cut a fine figure. Eight thousand men are marching to the environs
of Paris. Part is already within the precincts; under the orders of
General Lemoine. The Government has it at present in its power to
elevate public spirit; but everybody feels that it is necessary the
Directory should be surrounded by tried and energetic Republicans.
Unfortunately a host of men, without talent and resources, already
suppose that what has taken place has been done only in order to
advance their interests. Time is necessary to set all to rights.
The armies have regained consistency. The soldiers of the interior
are esteemed, or at least feared. The emigrants fly, and the non-
juring priests conceal themselves. Nothing could have happened more
fortunately to consolidate the Republic.
Bonaparte wrote as follows, to the Directory on the 26th Fructidor:
Herewith you will receive a proclamation to the army, relative to
the events of the 18th. I have despatched the 45th demi-brigade,
commanded by General Bon, to Lyons, together with fifty cavalry;
also General Lannes, with the 20th light infantry and the 9th
regiment of the line, to Marseilles. I have issued the enclosed
proclamation in the southern departments. I am about to prepare a
proclamation for the inhabitants of Lyons, as soon as I obtain some
information of what may have passed there.
If I find there is the least disturbance, I will march there with
the utmost rapidity. Believe that there are here a hundred thousand
men, who are alone sufficient to make the measures you have taken to
place liberty on a solid basis be respected. What avails it that we
gain victories if we are not respected in our country. In speaking
of Paris, one may parody what Cassius said of Rome: "Of what use to
call her queen on the banks of the Seine, when she is the slave of
After the 18th Fructidor Augereau wished to have his reward for his share
in the victory, and for the service which he had rendered. He wished to
be a Director. He got, however, only the length of being a candidate;
honour enough for one who had merely been an instrument on that day.
Bonaparte's joy at the result of the 18th Fructidor.--His letter to
Augerean--His correspondence with the Directory and proposed
resignation--Explanation of the Directory--Bottot--General Clarke--
Letter from Madame Bacciocchi to Bonaparte--Autograph letter of the
Emperor Francis to Bonaparte--Arrival of Count Cobentzel--Autograph
note of Bonaparte on the conditions of peace.
Bonaparte was delighted when he heard of the happy issue of the 18th
Fructidor. Its result was the dissolution of the Legislative Body and
the fall of the Clichyan party, which for some months had disturbed his
tranquillity. The Clichyans had objected to Joseph Bonaparte's right to
sit as deputy for Liamone in the Council of Five Hundred.
--[He was ambassador to Rome, and not a deputy at this time. When
he became a member of the council, after his return from Rome, he
experienced no opposition (Bourrienne et ses Erreurs, tome i.
His brother's victory removed the difficulty; but the General-in-Chief
soon perceived that the ascendant party abused its power, and again
compromised the safety of the Republic, by recommencing the Revolutionary
Government. The Directors were alarmed at his discontent and offended by
his censure. They conceived the singular idea of opposing to Bonaparte,
Augereau, of whose blind zeal they had received many proofs. The
Directory appointed Augereau commander of the army of Germany. Augereau,
whose extreme vanity was notorious, believed himself in a situation to
compete with Bonaparte. What he built his arrogance on was, that, with a
numerous troop, he had arrested some unarmed representatives, and torn
the epaulettes from the shoulders of the commandant of the guard of the
councils. The Directory and he filled the headquarters at Passeriano
with spies and intriguers.
Bonaparte, who was informed of everything that was going on, laughed at
the Directory, and tendered his resignation, in order that he might be
supplicated to continue in command.
The following post-Thermidorian letters will prove that the General's
judgment on this point was correct.
On the 2d Vendemiaire, year VI. (23d September 1797), he wrote to
Augereau, after having announced the arrival of his 'aide de camp' as
The whole army applauds the wisdom and vigour which you have
displayed upon this important occasion, and participates in the
success of the country with the enthusiasm and energy which
characterise our soldiers. It is only to be hoped, however, that
the Government will not be playing at see saw, and thus throw itself
into the opposite party. Wisdom and moderate views alone can
establish the happiness of the country on a sure foundation. As for
myself, this is the most ardent wish of my heart. I beg that you
will sometimes let me know what you are doing in Paris.
On the 4th Vendemiaire Bonaparte wrote a letter to the Directory in the
The day before yesterday an officer arrived at the army from Paris.
He reported that he left Paris on the 25th, when anxiety prevailed
there as to the feelings with which I viewed the events of the 18th
He was the bearer of a sort of circular from General Augereau to all
the generals of division; and he brought a letter of credit from the
Minister of War to the commissary-general, authorising him to draw
as much money as he might require for his journey.
It is evident from these circumstances that the Government is acting
towards me in somewhat the same way in which Pichegru was dealt with
after Vendemiaire (year IV.).
I beg of you to receive my resignation, and appoint another to my
place. No power on earth shall make me continue in the service
after this shocking mark of ingratitude on the part of the
Government, which I was very far from expecting. My health, which
is considerably impaired, imperiously demands repose and
The state of my mind, likewise, requires me to mingle again in the
mass of citizens. Great power has for a longtime been confided to
my hands. I have employed it on all occasions for the advantage of
my country; so much the worse for those who put no faith in virtue,
and may have suspected mine. My recompense is in my own conscience,
and in the opinion of posterity.
Now that the country is tranquil and free from the dangers which
have menaced it, I can, without inconvenience, quit the post in
which I have been placed.
Be sure that if there were a moment of danger, I would be found in
the foremost rank of the defenders of liberty and of the
constitution of the year III.
The Directory, judging from the account which Bottot gave of his mission
that he had not succeeded in entirely removing the suspicions of
Bonaparte, wrote the following letter on the 30th Vendemiaire:
The Directory has itself been troubled about the impression made on
you by the letter to the paymaster-general, of which an 'aide de
camp' was the bearer. The composition of this letter has very much
astonished the Government, which never appointed nor recognised such
an agent: it is at least an error of office. But it should not
alter the opinion you ought otherwise to entertain of the manner in
which the Directory thinks of and esteems you. It appears that the
18th Fructidor was misrepresented in the letters which were sent to
the army of Italy. You did well to intercept them, and it may be
right to transmit the most remarkable to the Minister of Police.
--(What an ignoble task to propose to the conqueror of Italy.)
In your observations on the too strong tendency of opinion towards
military government, the Directory recognises an equally enlightened
and ardent friend of the Republic.
Nothing is wiser than the maxim, 'cedant arma togae', for the
maintenance of republics. To show so much anxiety on so important a
point is not one of the least glorious features in the life of a
general placed at the head of a triumphant army.
The Directory had sent General Clarke
--[H. J. G. Clarke, afterwards Minister of War under Napoleon,
1807-1814, acid under the Bourbons in 1816, when he was made a
Marshal of France. He was created Due de Feltre in 1819.]--
to treat for peace, as second plenipotentiary. Bonaparte has often told
me he had no doubt from the time of his arrival that General Clarke was
charged with a secret mission to act as a spy upon him, and even to
arrest him if an opportunity offered for so doing without danger. That
he had a suspicion of this kind is certain; but I must own that I was
never by any means able to discover its grounds; for in all my
intercourse since with Clarke he never put a single question to me, nor
did I ever hear a word drop from his mouth, which savoured of such a
character. If the fact be that he was a spy, he certainly played his
part well. In all the parts of his correspondence which were intercepted
there never was found the least confirmation of this suspicion. Be this
as it may, Bonaparte could not endure him; he did not make him acquainted
with what was going on, and his influence rendered this mission a mere
nullity. The General-in-Chief concentrated all the business of the
negotiation in his own closet; and, as to what was going on, Clarke
continued a mere cipher until the 18th Fructidor, when he was recalled.
Bonaparte made but little count of Clarke's talents. It is but justice,
however, to say that he bore him no grudge for the conduct of which he
suspected he was guilty in Italy. "I pardon him because I alone have the
right to be offended."
He even had the generosity to make interest for an official situation for
him. These amiable traits were not uncommon with Bonaparte.
Bonaparte had to encounter so many disagreeable contrarieties, both in
the negotiators for peace and the events at Paris, that he often
displayed a good deal of irritation and disgust. This state of mind was
increased by the recollection of the vexation his sister's marriage had
caused him, and which was unfortunately revived by a letter he received
from her at this juncture. His excitement was such that he threw it down
with an expression of anger. It has been erroneously reported in several
publications that "Bacciocchi espoused Marie-Anne-Eliza Bonaparte on the
5th of May 1797. The brother of the bride was at the time negotiating
the preliminaries of peace with Austria."
In fact, the preliminaries were signed in the month of April, and it was
for the definitive peace we were negotiating in May. But the reader will
find by the subjoined letter that Christine applied to her brother to
stand godfather to her third child. Three children in three months would
be rather quick work.
AJACCIO, 14th, Thermidor, year V. (1st August 1797).
GENERAL--Suffer me to write to you and call you by the name of
brother. My first child was born at a time when you were much
incensed against us. I trust she may soon caress you, and so make
you forget the pain my marriage has occasioned you. My second child
was still-born. Obliged to quit Paris by your order,
--[Napoleon had written in August 1796 to Carnot, to request that
Lucien might be ordered to quit Paris; see Iung, tome iii.
I miscarried in Germany. In a month's time I hope to present you
with a nephew. A favourable time, and other circumstances, incline
me to hope my next will be a boy, and I promise you I will make a
soldier of him; but I wish him to bear your name, and that you
should be his godfather. I trust you will not refuse your sister's
Will you send, for this purpose, your power of attorney to
Baciocchi, or to whomsoever you think fit? I shall expect with
impatience your assent. Because we are poor let not that cause you
to despise us; for, after all, you are our brother, mine are the
only children that call you uncle, and we all love you more than we
do the favours of fortune. Perhaps I may one day succeed in
convincing you of the love I bear you.--Your affectionate sister,
--[Madame Bacciocchi went by the name of Marianne at St. Cyr, of
Christine while on her travels, and of Eliza under the Consulate.--
P.S.--Do not fail to remember me to your wife, whom I strongly
desire to be acquainted with. They told me at Paris I was very like
her. If you recollect my features you can judge. C. B.
This letter is in the handwriting of Lucien Bonaparte.'
--[Joseph Bonaparte in his Notes says, "It is false that Madame
Bonaparte ever called herself Christine; it is false that she ever
wrote the letter of which M. de Bourrienne here gives a copy." It
will be observed that Bourrienne says it was written by her brother
Lucien. This is an error. The letter is obviously from Christine
Boyer, the wife of Lucien Bonaparte, whose marriage had given such
displeasure to Napoleon. (See Erreurs, tome i. p. 240, and Iung's
Lucien, tome i p. 161).]--
General Bonaparte had been near a month at Passeriano when he received
the following autograph letter from the Emperor of Austria:
TO MONSIEUR LE GENERAL BONAPARTE, GENERAL-IN-CHIEF
OF THE ARMY OF ITALY.
MONSIEUR LE GENERAL BONAPARTE--When I thought I had given my
plenipotentiaries full powers to terminate the important negotiation
with which they were charged, I learn, with as much pain as
surprise, that in consequence of swerving continually from the
stipulations of the preliminaries, the restoration of tranquillity,
with the tidings of which I desire to gladden the hearts of my
subjects, and which the half of Europe devoutly prays for, becomes
day after day more uncertain.
Faithful to the performance of my engagements, I am ready to execute
what was agreed to at Leoben, and require from you but the
reciprocal performance of so sacred a duty. This is what has
already been declared in my name, and what I do not now hesitate
myself to declare. If, perhaps, the execution of some of the
preliminary articles be now impossible, in consequence of the events
which have since occurred, and in which I had no part, it may be
necessary to substitute others in their stead equally adapted to the
interests and equally conformable to the dignity of the two nations.
To such alone will I put my hand. A frank and sincere explanation,
dictated by the same feelings which govern me, is the only way to
lead to so salutary a result. In order to accelerate this result as
far as in me lies, and to put an end at once to the state of
uncertainty we remain in, and which has already lasted too long, I
have determined to despatch to the place of the present negotiations
Comte de Cobentzel, a man who possesses my most unlimited
confidence, and who is instructed as to my intentions and furnished
with my most ample powers. I have authorised him to receive and
accept every proposition tending to the reconciliation of the two
parties which may be in conformity with the principles of equity and
reciprocal fitness, and to conclude accordingly.
After this fresh assurance of the spirit of conciliation which
animates me, I doubt not you will perceive that peace lies in your
own hands, and that on your determination will depend the happiness
or misery of many thousand men. If I mistake as to the means I
think best adapted to terminate the calamities which for along time
have desolated Europe, I shall at least have the consolation of
reflecting that I have done all that depended on me. With the
consequences which may result I can never be reproached.
I have been particularly determined to the course I now take by the
opinion I entertain of your upright character, and by the personal
esteem I have conceived towards you, of which I am very happy, M. le
General Bonaparte, to give you here an assurance.
In fact, it was only on the arrival of the Comte de Cobentzel that the
negotiations were seriously set on foot. Bonaparte had all along clearly
perceived that Gallo and Meerweldt were not furnished with adequate
powers. He saw also clearly enough that if the month of September were,
to be trifled away in unsatisfactory negotiations, as the month which
preceded it had been, it would be difficult in October to strike a blow
at the house of Austria on the side of Carinthia. The Austrian Cabinet
perceived with satisfaction the approach of the bad weather, and insisted
more strongly on its ultimatum, which was the Adige, with Venice.
Before the 18th Fructidor the Emperor of Austria hoped that the movement
which was preparing in Paris would operate badly for France and
favourably to the European cause. The Austrian plenipotentiaries, in
consequence, raised their pretensions, and sent notes and an ultimatum
which gave the proceedings more an air of trifling than of serious
negotiation. Bonaparte's original ideas, which I have under his hand,
were as follows:
1. The Emperor to have Italy as far as the Adda.
2. The King of Sardinia as far as the Adda.
3. The Genoese Republic to have the boundary of Tortona as far as
the Po (Tortona to be demolished), as also the imperial fiefs.
(Coni to be ceded to France, or to be demolished.)
4. The Grand Duke of Tuscany to be restored.
5. The Duke of Parma to be restored.
Influence of the 18th Fructidor on the negotiations--Bonaparte's
suspicion of Bottot--His complaints respecting the non-erasure of
Bourrienne--Bourrienne's conversation with the Marquis of Gallo--
Bottot writes from Paris to Bonaparte on the part of the Directory
Agents of the Directory employed to watch Bonaparte--Influence of
the weather on the conclusion of peace--Remarkable observation of
Bonaparte--Conclusion of the treaty--The Directory dissatisfied with
the terms of the peace--Bonaparte's predilection for representative
government--Opinion on Bonaparte.
After the 18th Fructidor Bonaparte was more powerful, Austria less
haughty and confident. Venice was the only point of real difficulty.
Austria wanted the line of the Adige, with Venice, in exchange for
Mayence, and the boundary of the Rhine until that river enters Holland.
The Directory wished to have the latter boundary, and to add Mantua to
the Italian Republic, without giving up all the line of the Adige and
Venice. The difficulties were felt to be so irreconcilable that within
about a month of the conclusion of peace the Directory wrote to General
Bonaparte that a resumption of hostilities was preferable to the state of
uncertainty which was agitating and ruining France. The Directory,
therefore, declared that both the armies of the Rhine should take the
field. It appears from the Fructidorian correspondence, which has been
already given, that the majority of the Directory then looked upon a
peace such as Bonaparte afterwards made as infamous.
But Bonaparte, from the moment the Venetian insurrection broke out,
perceived that Venice might be used for the pacification. Bonaparte,
who was convinced that, in order to bring matters to an issue, Venice and
the territory beyond the Adige must fall beneath the Hapsburg sceptre,
wrote to the Directory that he could not commence operations,
advantageously, before the end of March, 1798; but that if the objections
to giving Venice to the Emperor of Austria were persisted in, hostilities
would certainly be resumed in the month of October, for the Emperor would
not renounce Venice. In that case it would be necessary to be ready on
the Rhine for an advance in Germany, as the army of Italy, if it could
make head against the Archduke Charles, was not sufficiently strong for
any operations on a grand scale. At this period the conclusion of peace
was certainly very doubtful; it was even seriously considered in, what
form the rupture should be notified.
Towards the end of September Bottot, Barras' secretary, arrived at
Passeriano. He was despatched by the Directory. Bonaparte immediately
suspected he was a new spy, come on a secret mission, to watch him. He
was therefore received and treated with coolness; but Bonaparte never
had, as Sir Walter Scott asserts, the idea of ordering him to be shot.
That writer is also in error when he says that Bottot was sent to
Passeriano to reproach Bonaparte for failing to fulfil his promise of
sending money to the Directory.
Bonaparte soon gave Bottot an opportunity of judging of the kind of
spirit which prevailed at headquarters. He suddenly tendered his
resignation, which he had already several times called upon the Directory
to accept. He accused the Government, at table, in Bottot's presence,
of horrible ingratitude. He recounted all his subjects of complaint,
in loud and impassioned language, without any restraint, and before
twenty or thirty persons.
Indignant at finding that his reiterated demands for the erasure of my
name from the list of emigrants had been slighted, and that, in spite of
his representations, conveyed to Paris by General Bernadotte, Louis
Bonaparte, and others, I was still included in that fatal list, he
apostrophised M. Bottot at dinner one day, before forty individuals,
among whom were the diplomatists Gallo, Cobentzel, and Meerweldt. The
conversation turned upon the Directory. "Yes, truly," cried Bonaparte,
in a loud voice, "I have good reason to complain; and, to pass from great
to little things, look, I pray you, at Bourrienne's case. He possesses
my most unbounded confidence. He alone is entrusted, under my orders,
with all the details of the negotiation. This you well know; and yet
your Directory will not strike him off the list. In a word it is not
only an inconceivable, but an extremely stupid piece of business; for he
has all my secrets; he knows my ultimatum, and could by a single word
realize a handsome fortune, and laugh at your obstinacy. Ask M. de Gallo
if this be not true."
Bottot wished to offer some excuse; but the general murmur which followed
this singular outburst reduced him to silence.
The Marquis de Gallo had conversed with me but three days before, in the
park of Passeriano, on the subject of my position with regard to France,
of the determination expressed by the Directory not to erase my name, and
of the risk I thereby ran. "We have no desire," continued he, "to renew
the war; we wish sincerely for peace; but it must be an honourable one.
The Republic of Venice presents a large territory for partition, which
would be sufficient for both parties. The cessions at present proposed
are not, however, satisfactory. We want to know Bonaparte's ultimatum;
and I am authorised to offer an estate in Bohemia, with a title and
residence, and an annual revenue of 90,000 florins."
I quickly interrupted M. de Gallo, and assured him that both my
conscience and my duty obliged me to reject his proposal; and so put at
once an end to the conversation.
I took care to let the General-in-Chief know this story, and he was not
surprised at my reply. His conviction, however, was strong, from all
that M. de Gallo had said, and more particularly from the offer he had
made, that Austria was resolved to avoid war, and was anxious for peace.
After I had retired to rest M. Bottot came to my bedroom and asked me,
with a feigned surprise, if it was true that my name was still on the
list of emigrants. On my replying in the affirmative, he requested me to
draw up a note on the subject. This I declined doing, telling him that
twenty notes of the kind he required already existed; that I would take
no further steps; and that I would henceforth await the decision in a
state of perfect inaction.
General Bonaparte thought it quite inexplicable that the Directory should
express dissatisfaction at the view he took of the events of the 18th
Fructidor, as, without his aid, they would doubtless have been overcome.
He wrote a despatch, in which he repeated that his health and his spirits
were affected--that he had need of some years' repose-that he could no
longer endure the fatigue of riding; but that the prosperity and liberty
of his country would always command his warmest interests. In all this
there was not a single word of truth. The Directory thought as much, and
declined to accept his resignation in the most flattering terms.
Bottot proposed to him, on the part of the Directory, to revolutionise
Italy. The General inquired whether the whole of Italy would be included
in the plan. The revolutionary commission had, however, been entrusted
to Bottot in so indefinite a way that he could only hesitate, and give a
vague reply. Bonaparte wished for more precise orders. In the interval
peace was concluded, and the idea of that perilous and extravagant
undertaking was no longer agitated. Bottot, soon after his return to
Paris, wrote a letter to General Bonaparte, in which he complained that
the last moments he had passed at Passeriano had deeply afflicted his
heart. He said that cruel suspicions had followed him even to the gates
of the Directory. These cruel suspicions had, however, been dissipated
by the sentiments of admiration and affection which he had found the
Directory entertained for the person of Bonaparte.
These assurances, which were precisely what Bonaparte had expected, did
not avail to lessen the contempt he entertained for the heads of the
Government, nor to change his conviction of their envy and mistrust of
himself. To their alleged affection he made no return. Bottot assured
the hero of Italy of "the Republican docility" of the Directory, and
touched upon the reproaches Bonaparte had thrown out against them, and
upon his demands which had not been granted. He said:
"The three armies, of the North, of the Rhine, and of the Sambre-et-
Meuse, are to form only one, the army of Germany.--Augereau? But you
yourself sent him. The fault committed by the Directory is owing to
yourself! Bernadotte?--he is gone to join you. Cacault?--he is
recalled. Twelve thousand men for your army?--they are on their march.
The treaty with Sardinia?--it is ratified. Bourrienne?--he is erased.
The revolution of Italy?--it is adjourned. Advise the Directory, then: I
repeat it, they have need of information, and it is to you they look for
The assertion regarding me was false. For six months Bonaparte demanded
my erasure without being able to obtain it. I was not struck off the
list until the 11th of November 1797.
Just before the close of the negotiation Bonaparte, disgusted at the
opposition and difficulties with which he was surrounded, reiterated
again and again the offer of his resignation, and his wish to have a
successor appointed. What augmented his uneasiness was an idea he
entertained that the Directory had penetrated his secret, and attributed
his powerful concurrence on the 18th Fructidor to the true cause--his
personal views of ambition. In spite of the hypocritical assurances of
gratitude made to him in writing, and though the Directory knew that his
services were indispensable, spies were employed to watch his movements,
and to endeavour by means of the persons about him to discover his views.
Some of the General's friends wrote to him from Paris, and for my part I
never ceased repeating to him that the peace, the power of making which
he had in his own hands, would render him far more popular than the
renewal of hostilities undertaken with all the chances of success and
reverse. The signing of the peace, according to his own ideas, and in
opposition to those of the Directory, the way in which he just halted at
Rastadt, and avoided returning to the Congress, and, finally, his
resolution to expatriate himself with an army in order to attempt new
enterprises, sprung more than is generally believed from the ruling idea
that he was distrusted, and that his ruin was meditated. He often
recalled to mind what La Vallette had written to him about his
conversation with Lacuee; and all he saw and heard confirmed the
impression he had received on this subject.
The early appearance of bad weather precipitated his determination. On
the 13th of October, at daybreak, on opening my window, I perceived the
mountains covered with snow. The previous night had been superb, and the
autumn till then promised to be fine and late. I proceeded, as I always
did, at seven o'clock in the morning, to the General's chamber. I woke
him, and told him what I had seen. He feigned at first to disbelieve me,
then leaped from his bed, ran to the window, and, convinced of the sudden
change, he calmly said, "What! before the middle of October! What a
country is this! Well, we must make peace!" While he hastily put on his
clothes I read the journals to him, as was my daily custom. He paid but
little attention to them.
Shutting himself up with me in his closet, he reviewed with the greatest
care all the returns from the different corps of his army. "Here are,"
said he, "nearly 80,000 effective men. I feed, I pay them: but I can
bring but 60,000 into the field on the day of battle. I shall gain it,
but afterwards my force will be reduced 20,000 men--by killed, wounded,
and prisoners. Then how oppose all the Austrian forces that will march
to the protection of Vienna? It would be a month before the armies of
the Rhine could support me, if they should be able; and in a fortnight
all the roads and passages will be covered deep with snow. It is
settled--I will make peace. Venice shall pay for the expense of the war
and the boundary of the Rhine: let the Directory and the lawyers say what
He wrote to the Directory in the following words: "The summits of the
hills are covered with snow; I cannot, on account of the stipulations
agreed to for the recommencement of hostilities, begin before five-and-
twenty days, and by that time we shall be overwhelmed with snow."
Fourteen years after, another early winter, in a more severe climate, was
destined to have a fatal influence on his fortunes. Had he but then
exercised equal foresight!
It is well known that, by the treaty of Campo-Formio, the two belligerent
powers made peace at the expense of the Republic of Venice, which had
nothing to do with the quarrel in the first instance, and which only
interfered at a late period, probably against her own inclination, and
impelled by the force of inevitable circumstances. But what has been the
result of this great political spoliation? A portion of the Venetian
territory was adjudged to the Cisalpine Republic; it is now in the
possession of Austria.
Another considerable portion, and the capital itself, fell to the lot of
Austria in compensation for the Belgic provinces and Lombard, which she
ceded to France. Austria has now retaken Lombard, and the additions then
made to it, and Belgium is in the possession of the House of Orange.
France obtained Corfu and some of the Ionian isles; these now belong to
--[Afterwards to be ceded by her to Greece. Belgium is free.]--
Romulus never thought he was founding Rome for Goths and priests.
Alexander did not foresee that his Egyptian city would belong to the
Turks; nor did Constantine strip Rome for the benefit of Mahomet II. Why
then fight for a few paltry villages?
Thus have we been gloriously conquering for Austria and England. An
ancient State is overturned without noise, and its provinces, after being
divided among different bordering States, are now all under the dominion
of Austria. We do not possess a foot of ground in all the fine countries
we conquered, and which served as compensations for the immense
acquisitions of the House of Hapsburgh in Italy. Thus that house was
aggrandised by a war which was to itself most disastrous. But Austria
has often found other means of extending her dominion than military
triumphs, as is recorded in the celebrated distich of Mathias Corvinus:
"Bella gerunt alli, to felix Austria nube;
Nam quae Mars allis, dat tibi regna Venus."
["Glad Austria wins by Hymen's silken chain
What other States by doubtful battle gain,
And while fierce Mars enriches meaner lands,
Receives possession from fair Venus' hands."]
The Directory was far from being satisfied with the treaty of Campo-
Formio, and with difficulty resisted the temptation of not ratifying it.
A fortnight before the signature the Directors wrote to General Bonaparte
that they would not consent to give to the Emperor Venice, Frioul, Padua,
and the 'terra firma' with the boundary of the Adige. "That," said they,
"would not be to make peace, but to adjourn the war. We shall be
regarded as the beaten party, independently of the disgrace of abandoning
Venice, which Bonaparte himself thought so worthy of freedom. France
ought not, and never will wish, to see Italy delivered up to Austria.
The Directory would prefer the chances of a war to changing a single word
of its ultimatum, which is already too favourable to Austria."
All this was said in vain. Bonaparte made no scruple of disregarding his
instructions. It has been said that the Emperor of Austria made an offer
of a very considerable sum of money, and even of a principality, to
obtain favourable terms. I was never able to find the slightest ground
for this report, which refers to a time when the smallest circumstance
could not escape my notice. The character of Bonaparte stood too high
for him to sacrifice his glory as a conqueror and peacemaker for even the
greatest private advantage. This was so thoroughly known, and he was so
profoundly esteemed by the Austrian plenipotentiaries, that I will
venture to say none of them would have been capable of making the
slightest overture to him of so debasing a proposition. Besides, it
would have induced him to put an end to all intercourse with the
plenipotentiaries. Perhaps what I have just stated of M. de Gallo will
throw some light upon this odious accusation. But let us dismiss this
story with the rest, and among them that of the porcelain tray, which was
said to have been smashed and thrown at the head of M. de Cobentzel.
I certainly know nothing of any such scene; our manners at Passeriano
were not quite so bad!
The presents customary on such occasions were given, and the Emperor of
Austria also took that opportunity to present to General Bonaparte six
magnificent white horses.
Bonaparte returned to Milan by way of Gratz, Laybach, Thrust, Mestre,
Verona, and Mantua.
At this period Napoleon was still swayed by the impulse of the age. He
thought of nothing but representative governments. Often has he said to
me, "I should like the era of representative governments to be dated from
my time." His conduct in Italy and his proclamations ought to give, and
in fact do give, weight to this account of his opinion. But there is no
doubt that this idea was more connected with lofty views of ambition than
a sincere desire for the benefit of the human race; for, at a later
period, he adopted this phrase: "I should like to be the head of the most
ancient of the dynasties cf Europe." What a difference between
Bonaparte, the author of the 'Souper de Beaucaire', the subduer of
royalism at Toulon; the author of the remonstrance to Albitte and
Salicetti, the fortunate conqueror of the 13th Vendemiaire, the
instigator and supporter of the revolution of Fructidor, and the founder
of the Republics of Italy, the fruits of his immortal victories,--and
Bonaparte, First Consul in 1800, Consul for life in 1802, and, above all,
Napoleon, Emperor of the French in 1804, and King of Italy in 1805!
Effect of the 18th Fructidor on the peace--The standard of the army
of Italy--Honours rendered to the memory of General Hoche and of
Virgil at Mantua--Remarkable letter--In passing through Switzerland
Bonaparte visits the field of Morat--Arrival at Rastadt--Letter from
the Directory calling Bonaparte to Paris--Intrigues against
Josephine--Grand ceremony on the reception of Bonaparte by the
Directory--The theatres--Modesty of Bonaparte--An assassination--
Bonaparte's opinion of the Parisians--His election to the National
Institute--Letter to Camus--Projects--Reflections.
The day of the 18th Fructidor had, without any doubt, mainly contributed
to the conclusion of peace at Campo Formio. On the one hand, the
Directory, hitherto not very pacifically inclined, after having effected
a 'coup d'etat', at length saw the necessity of appeasing the
discontented by giving peace to France. On the other hand, the Cabinet
of Vienna, observing the complete failure of all the royalist plots in
the interior, thought it high time to conclude with the French Republic a
treaty which, notwithstanding all the defeats Austria had sustained,
still left her a preponderating influence over Italy.
Besides, the campaign of Italy, so fertile in glorious achievements of
arms, had not been productive of glory alone. Something of greater
importance followed these conquests. Public affairs had assumed a
somewhat unusual aspect, and a grand moral influence, the effect of
victories and of peace, had begun to extend all over France.
Republicanism was no longer so sanguinary and fierce as it had been some
years before. Bonaparte, negotiating with princes and their ministers on
a footing of equality, but still with all that superiority to which
victory and his genius entitled him, gradually taught foreign courts to
be familiar with Republican France, and the Republic to cease regarding
all States governed by Kings as of necessity enemies.
In these circumstances the General-in-Chief's departure and his expected
visit to Paris excited general attention. The feeble Directory was
prepared to submit to the presence of the conqueror of Italy in the
It was for the purpose of acting as head of the French legation at the
Congress of Rastadt that Bonaparte quitted Milan on the 17th of November.
But before his departure he sent to the Directory one of those monuments,
the inscriptions on which may generally be considered as fabulous, but
which, in this case, were nothing but the truth. This monument was the
"flag of the Army of Italy," and to General Joubert was assigned the
honourable duty of presenting it to the members of the Executive
On one side of the flag were the words "To the Army of Italy, the
grateful country." The other contained an enumeration of the battles
fought and places taken, and presented, in the following inscriptions, a
simple but striking abridgment of the history of the Italian campaign.
150,000 PRISONERS; 170 STANDARDS; 550 PIECES OF SIEGE ARTILLERY;
6OO PIECES OF FIELD ARTILLERY; FIVE PONTOON EQUIPAGES; NINE 64-GUN
SHIPS; TWELVE 32-GUN FRIGATES; 12 CORVETTES; 18 GALLEYS; ARMISTICE
WITH THE KING OF SARDINIA; CONVENTION WITH GENOA; ARMISTICE WITH THE
DUKE OF PARMA; ARMISTICE WITH THE KING OF NAPLES; ARMISTICE WITH THE
POPE; PRELIMINARIES OF LEOBEN; CONVENTION OF MONTEBELLO WITH THE
REPUBLIC OF GENOA; TREATY OF PEACE WITH THE EMPEROR OF GERMANY AT
LIBERTY GIVEN TO THE PEOPLE OF BOLOGNA, FERRARA, MODENA, MASSA-
CARRARA, LA ROMAGNA, LOMBARD, BRESCIA, BERGAMO, MANTUA, CREMONA.
PART OF THE VERONESE, CHIAVENA, BORMIO, THE VALTELINE, THE GENOESE,
THE IMPERIAL FIEFS, THE PEOPLE OF THE DEPARTMENTS OF CORCYRA, OF THE
AEGEAN SEA, AND OF ITHACA.
SENT TO PARIS ALL THE MASTERPIECES OF MICHAEL ANGELO, OF GVERCINO,
OF TITIAN, OF PAUL VERONESE, OF CORREGGIO, OF ALBANA, OF THE
CARRACCI, OF RAPHAEL, AND OF LEONARDO DA VINCI.
Thus were recapitulated on a flag, destined to decorate the Hall of the
Public Sittings of the Directory, the military deeds of the campaign in
Italy, its political results, and the conquest of the monuments of art.
Most of the Italian cities looked upon their conqueror as a liberator-
such was the magic of the word liberty, which resounded from the Alps to
the Apennines. On his way to Mantua the General took up his residence in
the palace of the ancient dukes. Bonaparte promised the authorities of
Mantua that their department should be one of the most extensive;
impressed on them the necessity of promptly organising a local militia,
and of putting in execution the plans of Mari, the mathematician, for the
navigation of the Mincio from Mantua to Peschiera.
He stopped two days at Mantua, and the morrow of his arrival was devoted
to the celebration of a military funeral solemnity, in honour of General
Hoche, who had just died. His next object was to hasten the execution of
the monument which was erecting to the memory of Virgil. Thus, in one
day, he paid honour to France and Italy, to modern and to ancient glory,
to the laurels of war and to the laurels of poetry.
A person who saw Bonaparte on this occasion for the first time thus
described him in a letter he wrote to Paris:--"With lively interest and
extreme attention I have observed this extraordinary man, who has
performed such great deeds, and about whom there is something which seems
to indicate that his career is not yet terminated. I found him very like
his portraits--little, thin, pale, with an air of fatigue, but not of
ill-health, as has been reported of him. He appears to me to listen with
more abstraction than interest, and that he was more occupied with what
he was thinking of than with what was said to him. There is great
intelligence in his countenance, along with which may be marked an air of
habitual meditation, which reveals nothing of what is passing within.
In that thinking head, in that bold mind, it is impossible not to believe
that some daring designs are engendering which will have their influence
an the destinies of Europe."
From the last phrase, in particular, of this letter, one might suspect
that it was written after Bonaparte had made his name feared throughout
Europe; but it really appeared in a journal in the month of December
1797, a little before his arrival in Paris.
There exists a sort of analogy between celebrated men and celebrated
places; it was not, therefore, an uninteresting spectacle to see
Bonaparte surveying the field of Morat, where, in 1476, Charles the Bold,
Duke of Burgundy, daring like himself, fell with his powerful army under
the effects of Helvetian valour. Bonaparte slept during the night at
Maudon, where, as in every place through which he passed, the greatest
honours were paid him. In the morning, his carriage having broken down,
we continued our journey an foot, accompanied only by some officers and
an escort of dragoons of the country. Bonaparte stopped near the
Ossuary, and desired to be shown the spot where the battle of Morat was
fought. A plain in front of the chapel was pointed out to him. An
officer who had served in France was present, and explained to him how
the Swiss, descending from the neighbouring mountains, were enabled,
under cover of a wood, to turn the Burgundian army and put it to the
rout. "What was the force of that army?" asked Bonaparte.--"Sixty
thousand men."--"Sixty thousand men!" he exclaimed: "they ought to have
completely covered these mountains!"--"The French fight better now," said
Lannes, who was one of the officers of his suite. "At that time,"
observed Bonaparte, interrupting him, "the Burgundians were not
Bonaparte's journey through Switzerland was not without utility; and his
presence served to calm more than one inquietude. He proceeded on his
journey to Rastadt by Aix in Savoy, Berne, and Bale. On arriving at
Berne during night we passed through a double file of well-lighted
equipages, filled with beautiful women, all of whom raised the cry of
"Long live, Bonaparte!--long live the Pacificator! "To have a proper
idea of this genuine enthusiasm it is necessary to have seen it.
The position in society to which his services had raised him rendered it
unfit to address him in the second person singular and the familiar
manner sometimes used by his old schoolfellows of Brienne. I thought,
this very natural.
M. de Cominges, one of those who went with him to the military school at
Paris, and who had emigrated, was at Bale. Having learned our arrival,
he presented himself without ceremony, with great indecorum, and with a
complete disregard of the respect due to a man who had rendered himself
so illustrious. General Bonaparte, offended at this behaviour, refused
to receive him again, and expressed himself to me with much warmth on the
occasion of this visit. All my efforts to remove his displeasure were
unavailing this impression always continued, and he never did for M. de
Cominges what his means and the old ties of boyhood might well have
On arriving at Rastadt
--[The conference for the formal peace with the Empire of Germany
was held there. The peace of Leoben was only one made with
Bonaparte found a letter from the Directory summoning him to Paris. He
eagerly obeyed this invitation, which drew him from a place where he
could act only an insignificant part, and which he had determined to
leave soon, never again to return. Some time after his arrival in Paris,
on the ground that his presence was necessary for the execution of
different orders, and the general despatch of business, he required that
authority should be given to a part of his household, which he had left
at Rastadt, to return.
How could it ever be said that the Directory "kept General Bonaparte away
from the great interests which were under discussion at Rastadt"? Quite
the contrary! The Directory would have been delighted to see him return
there, as they would then have been relieved from his presence in Paris;
but nothing was so disagreeable to Bonaparte as long and seemingly
interminable negotiations. Such tedious work did not suit his character,
and he had been sufficiently disgusted with similar proceedings at Campo-
On our arrival at Rastadt I soon found that General Bonaparte was
determined to stay there only a short time. I therefore expressed to him
my decided desire to remain in Germany. I was then ignorant that my
erasure from the emigrant list had been ordered on the 11th of November,
as the decree did not reach the commissary of the Executive Directory at
Auxerre until the 17th of November, the day of our departure from Milan.
The silly pretext of difficulties by which my erasure, notwithstanding
the reiterated solicitations of the victorious General, was so long
delayed made me apprehensive of a renewal, under a weak and jealous
pentarchy, of the horrible scenes of 1796. Bonaparte said to me, in
atone of indignation, "Come, pass the Rhine; they will not dare to seize
you while near me. I answer for your safety." On reaching Paris I found
that my erasure had taken place. It was at this period only that General
Bonaparte's applications in my favour were tardily crowned with success.
Sotin, the Minister of General Police, notified the fact to Bonaparte;
but his letter gave a reason for my erasure very different from that
stated in the decree. The Minister said that the Government did not wish
to leave among the names of traitors to their country the name of a
citizen who was attached to the person of the conqueror of Italy; while
the decree itself stated as the motive for removing my name from the list
that I never had emigrated.
At St. Helena it seems Bonaparte said that he did not return from Italy
with more than 300,000 francs; but I assert that he had at that time in
his possession something more than 3,000,000.
--[Joseph says that Napoleon, when he exiled for Egypt, left with
him all his fortune, and that it was much nearer 300,000 francs than
3,000,000. (See Erreurs, tome i. pp. 243, 259)]--
How could he with 300,000 francs have been able to provide for the
extensive repairs, the embellishment, and the furnishing of his house in
the Rue Chantereine? How could he have supported the establishment he
did with only 15,000 francs of income and the emoluments of his rank?
The excursion which he made along the coast, of which I have yet to
speak, of itself cost near 12,000 francs in gold, which he transferred to
me to defray the expense of the journey; and I do not think that this sum
was ever repaid him. Besides, what did it signify, for any object he
might have in disguising his fortune, whether he brought 3,000,000 or
300,000 francs with him from Italy? No one will accuse him of
peculation. He was an inflexible administrator. He was always irritated
at the discovery of fraud, and pursued those guilty of it with all the
vigour of his character. He wished to be independent, which he well knew
that no one could be without fortune. He has often said to me, "I am no
Capuchin, not I" But after having been allowed only 300,000 francs on
his arrival from the rich Italy, where fortune never abandoned him, it
has been printed that he had 20,000,000 (some have even doubled the
amount) on his return from Egypt, which is a very poor country, where
money is scarce, and where reverses followed close upon his victories.
All these reports are false. What he brought from Italy has just been
stated, and it will be seen when we come to Egypt what treasure he
carried away from the country of the Pharaohs.
Bonaparte's brothers, desirous of obtaining complete dominion over his
mind, strenuously endeavoured to lessen the influence which Josephine
possessed from the love of her husband. They tried to excite his
jealousy, and took advantage of her stay at Milan after our departure,
which had been authorised by Bonaparte himself. My intimacy with both
the husband and the wife fortunately afforded me an opportunity of
averting or lessening a good deal of mischief. If Josephine still lived
she would allow me this merit. I never took part against her but once,
and that unwillingly. It was on the subject of the marriage of her
daughter Hortense. Josephine had never as yet spoken to me on the
subject. Bonaparte wished to give his stepdaughter to Duroc, and his
brothers were eager to promote the marriage, because they wished to
separate Josephine from Hortense, for whom Bonaparte felt the tenderest
affection. Josephine, on the other hand, wished Hortense to marry Louis
Bonaparte. Her motives, as may easily be divined, were to, gain support
in a family where she experienced nothing but enmity, and she carried her
--[Previous to her marriage with Louis, Hortense cherished an
attachment for Duroc, who was at that time a handsome man about
thirty, and a great favourite of Bonaparte. However, the
indifference with which Duroc regarded the marriage of Louis
Bonaparte sufficiently proves that the regard with which be had
inspired Hortense was not very ardently returned. It is certain
that Duroc might have become the husband of Mademoiselle de
Beauharnais had he been willing to accede to the conditions on which
the First Consul offered him his step-daughter's hand. But Duroc
looked forward to something better, and his ordinary prudence
forsook him at a moment when he might easily have beheld a
perspective calculated to gratify even a more towering ambition than
his. He declined the proposed marriage; and the union of Hortense
and Louis, which Madame Bonaparte, to conciliate the favour of her
brothers-in-law, had endeavoured to bring about, was immediately
determined on (Memoires de Constant).
In allusion to the alleged unfriendly feeling of Napoleon's brothers
towards Josephine, the following observation occurs in Joseph
Bonaparte's Notes on Bourrienne:
"None of Napoleon's brothers," he says, "were near him from the time
of his departure for Italy except Louis who cannot be suspected of
having intrigued against Josephine, whose daughter he married.
These calumnies are without foundation" (Erreurs, tome i. p. 244)]--
On his arrival from Rastadt the most magnificent preparations were made
at the Luxembourg for the reception of Bonaparte. The grand court of the
Palace was elegantly ornamented; and at its farther end, close to tho
Palace, a large amphitheatre was erected for the accommodation of
official persons. Curiosity, as on all like occasions, attracted
multitudes, and the court was filled. Opposite to the principal
vestibule stood the altar of the country, surrounded by the statues of
Liberty, Equality, and Peace. When Bonaparte entered every head was
uncovered. The windows were full of young and beautiful females. But
notwithstanding this great preparation an icy coldness characterized the
ceremony. Every one seemed to be present only for the purpose of
beholding a sight, and curiosity was the prevailing expression rather
than joy or gratitude. It is but right to say, however, that an
unfortunate event contributed to the general indifference. The right
wing of the Palace was not occupied, but great preparations had been
making there, and an officer had been directed to prevent anyone from
ascending. One of the clerks of the Directory, however, contrived to get
upon the scaffolding, but had scarcely placed his foot on the first plank
when it tilted up, and the imprudent man fell the whole height into the
court. This accident created a general stupor. Ladies fainted, and the
windows were nearly deserted.
However, the Directory displayed all the Republican splendour of which
they were so prodigal on similar occasions. Speeches were far from being
scarce. Talleyrand, who was then Minister for Foreign Affairs, on
introducing Bonaparte to the Directory, made a long oration, in the
course of which he hinted that the personal greatness of the General
ought not to excite uneasiness, even in a rising Republic. "Far from
apprehending anything from his ambition, I believe that we shall one day
be obliged to solicit him to tear himself from the pleasures of studious
retirement. All France will be free, but perhaps he never will; such is
Talleyrand was listened to with impatience, so anxious was every one to
hear Bonaparte. The conqueror of Italy then rose, and pronounced with a
modest air, but in a firm voice, a short address of congratulation on the
improved position of the nation.
Barras, at that time President of the Directory, replied to Bonaparte
with so much prolixity as to weary everyone; and as soon as he had
finished speaking he threw himself into the arms of the General, who was
not much pleased with such affected displays, and gave him what was then
called the fraternal embrace. The other members of the Directory,
following the example of the President, surrounded Bonaparte and pressed
him in their arms; each acted, to the best of his ability, his part in
the sentimental comedy.
Chenier composed for this occasion a hymn, which Mehul set to music. A
few days after an opera was produced, bearing the title of the 'Fall of
Carthage', which was meant as an allusion to the anticipated exploits of
the conqueror of Italy, recently appointed to the command of the "Army of
England." The poets were all employed in praising him; and Lebrun, with
but little of the Pindaric fire in his soul, composed the following
distich, which certainly is not worth much:
"Heros, cher a la paix, aux arts, a la victoire--
Il conquit en deux ans mille siecles de gloire."
The two councils were not disposed to be behind the Directory in the
manifestation of joy. A few days after they gave a banquet to the
General in the gallery of the Louvre, which had recently been enriched by
the masterpieces of painting conquered in Italy.
At this time Bonaparte displayed great modesty in all his transactions in
Paris. The administrators of the department of the Seine having sent a
deputation to him to inquire what hour and day he would allow them to
wait on him, he carried himself his answer to the department, accompanied
by General Berthier. It was also remarked that the judge of the peace of
the arrondissement where the General lived having called on him on the
6th of December, the evening of his arrival, he returned the visit next
morning. These attentions, trifling as they may appear, were not without
their effect on the minds of the Parisians.
In consequence of General Bonaparte's victories, the peace he had
effected, and the brilliant reception of which he had been the object,
the business of Vendemiaire was in some measure forgotten. Every one was
eager to get a sight of the young hero whose career had commenced with so
much 'eclat'. He lived very retiredly, yet went often to the theatre.
He desired me, one day, to go and request the representation of two of
the best pieces of the time, in which Elleviou, Mesdames St. Aubin,
Phillis, and other distinguished performers played. His message was,
that he only wished these two pieces on the same night, if that were
possible. The manager told me that nothing that the conqueror of Italy
wished for was impossible, for he had long ago erased that word from the
dictionary. Bonaparte laughed heartily at the manager's answer. When we
went to the theatre he seated himself, as usual, in the back of the box,
behind Madame Bonaparte, making me sit by her side. The pit and boxes,
however, soon found out that he was in the house, and loudly called for
him. Several times an earnest desire to see him was manifested, but all
in vain, for he never showed himself.
Some days after, being at the Theatre des Arts, at the second
representation of 'Horatius Cocles', although he was sitting at the back
of a box in the second tier, the audience discovered that he was in the
house. Immediately acclamations arose from all quarters; but he kept
himself concealed as much as possible, and said to a person in the next
box, "Had I known that the boxes were so exposed, I should not have
During Bonaparte's stay at Paris a woman sent a messenger to warn him
that his life would be attempted, and that poison was to be employed for
that purpose. Bonaparte had the bearer of this information arrested,
who: went, accompanied by the judge of the peace, to the woman's house,
where she was found extended on the floor, and bathed in her blood. The
men whose plot she had overheard, having discovered that she had revealed
their secret, murdered her. The poor woman was dreadfully mangled: her
throat was cut; and, not satisfied with that, the assassins had also
hacked her body with sharp instruments.
On the night of the 10th of Nivose the Rue Chantereine, in which
Bonaparte had a small house (No. 6), received, in pursuance of a decree
of the department, the name of Rue de la Victoire. The cries of "Vive
Bonaparte!" and the incense prodigally offered up to him, did not however
seduce him from his retired habits. Lately the conqueror and ruler of
Italy, and now under men for whom he had no respect, and who saw in him a
formidable rival, he said to me one day, "The people of Paris do not
remember anything. Were I to remain here long, doing nothing, I should
be lost. In this great Babylon one reputation displaces another. Let me
be seen but three times at the theatre and I shall no longer excite
attention; so I shall go there but seldom." When he went he occupied a
box shaded with curtains. The manager of the opera wished to get up a
special performance in his honour; but he declined the offer. When I
observed that it must be agreeable to him to see his fellow-citizens so
eagerly running after him, he replied, "Bah! the people would crowd as
fast to see me if I were going to the scaffold."
--[A similar remark made to William III. on his lending at Brixham
elicited the comment, "Like the Jews, who cried one day 'Hosanna!'
and the next 'Crucify Him! crucify Him!'"]--
On the 28th of December Bonaparte was named a member of the Institute, in
the class of the Sciences and arts.
--[Napoleon seems to have really considered this nomination as a
great honour. He was fond of using the title in his proclamations;
and to the last the allowance attached to the appointment figured in
the Imperial accounts. He replaced Carnot, the exiled Director.]--
He showed a deep sense of this honour, and wrote the following letter to
Camus; the president of the class:
CITIZEN PRESIDENT--The suffrage of the distinguished men who compose
the institute confers a high honour on me. I feel well assured
that, before I can be their equal, I must long be their scholar. If
there were any way more expressive than another of making known my
esteem for you, I should be glad to employ it. True conquests--the
only ones which leave no regret behind them--are those which are
made over ignorance. The most honourable, as well as the most
useful, occupation for nations is the contributing to the extension
of human knowledge. The true power of the French Republic should
henceforth be made to consist in not allowing a single new idea to
exist without making it part of its property.
The General now renewed, though unsuccessfully, the attempt he had made
before the 18th Fructidor to obtain a dispensation of the age necessary
for becoming a Director. Perceiving that the time was not yet favourable
for such a purpose, he said to me, on the 29th of January 1798,
"Bourrienne, I do not wish to remain here; there is nothing to do. They
are unwilling to listen to anything. I see that if I linger here, I
shall soon lose myself. Everything wears out here; my glory has already
disappeared. This little Europe does not supply enough of it for me. I
must seek it in the East, the fountain of glory. However, I wish first
to make a tour along the coast, to ascertain by my own observation what
may be attempted. I will take you, Lannes, and Sulkowsky, with me. If
the success of a descent on England appear doubtful, as I suspect it
will, the army of England shall become the army of the East, and I will
go to Egypt."
This and other conversations give a correct insight into his character.
He always considered war and conquest as the most noble and inexhaustible
source of that glory which was the constant object of his desire. He
revolted at the idea of languishing in idleness at Paris, while fresh
laurels were growing for him in distant climes. His imagination
inscribed, in anticipation, his name on those gigantic monuments which
alone, perhaps, of all the creations of man, have the character of
eternity. Already proclaimed the most illustrious of living generals,
he sought to efface the rival names of antiquity by his own. If Caesar
fought fifty battles, he longed to fight a hundred--if Alexander left
Macedon to penetrate to the Temple of Ammon, he wished to leave Paris to
travel to the Cataracts of the Nile. While he was thus to run a race
with fame, events would, in his opinion, so proceed in France as to
render his return necessary and opportune. His place would be ready for
him, and he should not come to claim it a forgotten or unknown man.
Bonaparte's departure from Paris--His return--The Egyptian
expedition projected--M. de Talleyrand--General Desaix--Expedition
against Malta--Money taken at Berne--Bonaparte's ideas respecting
the East--Monge--Non-influence of the Directory--Marriages of
Marmont and La Valette--Bonaparte's plan of colonising Egypt--His
camp library--Orthographical blunders--Stock of wines--Bonaparte's
arrival at Toulon--Madame Bonaparte's fall from a balcony--Execution
of an old man--Simon.
Bonaparte left Paris for the north on the 10th of February 1798--but he
received no order, though I have seen it everywhere so stated, to go
there--"for the purpose of preparing the operations connected with the
intended invasion of England." He occupied himself with no such
business, for which a few days certainly would not have been sufficient.
His journey to the coast was nothing but a rapid excursion, and its sole
object was to enable him to form an opinion on the main point of the
question. Neither did he remain absent several weeks, for the journey
occupied only one. There were four of us in his carriage--himself,
Lannes, Sulkowsky, and I. Moustache was our courier. Bonaparte was not
a little surprised on reading, in the 'Moniteur' of the 10th February, an
article giving greater importance to his little excursion than it
"General Bonaparte," said the 'Moniteur', "has departed for Dunkirk
with some naval and engineer officers. They have gone to visit the
coasts and prepare the preliminary operations for the descent [upon
England]. It may be stated that he will not return to Rastadt, and
that the close of the session of the Congress there is approaching."
Now for the facts. Bonaparte visited Etaples, Ambleteuse, Boulogne,
Calais, Dunkirk, Furnes, Niewport, Ostend, and the Isle of Walcheren.
He collected at the different ports all the necessary information with
that intelligence and tact for which he was so eminently distinguished.
He questioned the sailors, smugglers, and fishermen, and listened
attentively to the answers he received.
We returned to Paris by Antwerp, Brussels, Lille, and St. Quentin. The
object of our journey was accomplished when we reached the first of these
towns. "Well, General," said I, "what think you of our journey? Are you
satisfied? For my part, I confess I entertain no great hopes from
anything I have seen and heard." Bonaparte immediately answered, "It is
too great a chance. I will not hazard it. I would not thus sport with
the fate of my beloved France." On hearing this I already fancied myself
On his return to Paris Bonaparte lost no time in setting on foot the
military and scientific preparations for the projected expedition to the
banks of the Nile, respecting which such incorrect statements have
appeared. It had long occupied his thoughts, as the following facts will
In the month of August 1797 he wrote "that the time was not far distant
when we should see that, to destroy the power of England effectually, it
would be necessary to attack Egypt." In the same month he wrote to
Talleyrand, who had just succeeded Charles de Lacroix as Minister of
Foreign Affairs, "that it would be necessary to attack Egypt, which did
not belong to the Grand Signior." Talleyrand replied, "that his ideas
respecting Egypt were certainly grand, and that their utility could not
fail to be fully appreciated." He concluded by saying he would write to
him at length on the subject.
History will speak as favourably of M. de Talleyrand as his
contemporaries have spoken ill of him. When a statesman, throughout a
great, long, and difficult career, makes and preserves a number of
faithful friends, and provokes but few enemies, it must be acknowledged
that his character is honourable and his talent profound, and that his
political conduct has been wise and moderate. It is impossible to know
M. de Talleyrand without admiring him. All who have that advantage, no
doubt, judge him as I do.
In the month of November of the same year Bonaparte sent Poussielgue,
under the pretence of inspecting the ports of the Levant, to give the
finishing stroke to the meditated expedition against Malta.
General Desaix, whom Bonaparte had made the confidant of all his plans at
their interview in Italy after the preliminaries of Leoben, wrote to him
from Affenbourg, on his return to Germany, that he regarded the fleet of
Corfu with great interest. "If ever," said he, "it should be engaged in
the grand enterprises of which I have heard you speak, do not, I beseech
you, forget me." Bonaparte was far from forgetting him.
The Directory at first disapproved of the expedition against Malta, which
Bonaparte had proposed long before the treaty of Campo-Formio was signed.
The expedition was decided to be impossible, for Malta had observed
strict neutrality, and had on several occasions even assisted our ships
and seamen. Thus we had no pretext for going to war with her. It was
said, too, that the legislative body would certainly not look with a
favourable eye on such a measure. This opinion, which, however, did not
last long, vexed Bonaparte. It was one of the disappointments which made
him give a rough welcome to Bottot, Barras' agent, at the commencement of
In the course of an animated conversation he said to Bottot, shrugging
his shoulders, "Mon Dieu! Malta is for sale!" Sometime after he himself
was told that "great importance was attached to the acquisition of Malta,
and that he must not suffer it to escape." At the latter end of
September 1797 Talleyrand, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, wrote to him
that the Directory authorized him to give the necessary orders to Admiral
Brueys for taking Malta. He sent Bonaparte some letters for the island,
because Bonaparte had said it was necessary to prepare the public mind
for the event.
Bonaparte exerted himself night and day in the execution of his projects.
I never saw him so active. He made himself acquainted with the abilities
of the respective generals, and the force of all the army corps. Orders
and instructions succeeded each other with extraordinary rapidity. If he
wanted an order of the Directory he ran to the Luxembourg to get it
signed by one of the Directors. Merlin de Douai was generally the person
who did him this service, for he was the most constant at his post.
Lagarde, the Secretary-General, did not countersign any document relative
to this expedition, Bonaparte not wishing him to be informed of the
business. He transmitted to Toulon the money taken at Berne, which the
Directory had placed at his disposal. It amounted to something above
3,000,000 francs. In those times of disorder and negligence the finances
were very badly managed. The revenues were anticipated and squandered
away, so that the treasury never possessed so large a sum as that just
It was determined that Bonaparte should undertake an expedition of an
unusual character to the East. I must confess that two things cheered me
in this very painful interval; my friendship and admiration for the
talents of the conqueror of Italy, and the pleasing hope of traversing
those ancient regions, the historical and religious accounts of which had
engaged the attention of my youth.
It was at Passeriano that, seeing the approaching termination of his
labours in Europe, he first began to turn serious attention to the East.
During his long strolls in the evening in the magnificent park there he
delighted to converse about the celebrated events of that part of the
world, and the many famous empires it once possessed. He used to say,
"Europe is a mole-hill. There have never been great empires and
revolutions except in the East, where there are 600,000,000 men." He
considered that part of the world as the cradle of all religious, of all
metaphysical extravagances. This subject was no less interesting than
inexhaustible, and he daily introduced it when conversing with the
generals with whom he was intimate, with Monge, and with me.
Monge entirely concurred in the General-in-Chief's opinions on this
point; and his scientific ardour was increased by Bonaparte's enthusiasm.
In short, all were unanimously of one opinion. The Directory had no
share in renewing the project of this memorable expedition, the result of
which did not correspond with the grand views in which it had been
conceived. Neither had the Directory any positive control over
Bonaparte's departure or return. It was merely the passive instrument of
the General's wishes, which it converted into decrees, as the law
required. He was no more ordered to undertake the conquest of Egypt than
he was instructed as to the plan of its execution. Bonaparte organised
the army of the East, raised money, and collected ships; and it was he
who conceived the happy idea of joining to the expedition men
distinguished in science and art, and whose labours have made known, in
its present and past state, a country, the very name of which is never
pronounced without exciting grand recollections.
Bonaparte's orders flew like lightning from Toulon to Civita Vecchia.
With admirable precision he appointed some forces to assemble before
Malta, and others before Alexandria. He dictated all these orders to me
in his Cabinet.
In the position in which France stood with respect to Europe, after the
treaty of Campo-Formio, the Directory, far from pressing or even
facilitating this expedition, ought to have opposed it. A victory on the
Adige would have been far better far France than one on the Nile. From
all I saw, I am of opinion that the wish to get rid of an ambitious and
rising man, whose popularity excited envy, triumphed over the evident
danger of removing, for an indefinite period, an excellent army, and the
possible loss of the French fleet. As to Bonaparte, he was well assured
that nothing remained for him but to choose between that hazardous
enterprise and his certain ruin. Egypt was, he thought, the right place
to maintain his reputation, and to add fresh glory to his name.
On the 12th of April 1798 he was appointed General-in-Chief of the army
of the East.
It was about this time that Marmont was married to Mademoiselle
Perregaux; and Bonaparte's aide de camp, La Valletta, to Mademoiselle
--[Sir Walter Scott informs us that Josephine, when she became
Empress, brought about the marriage between her niece and La
Vallette. This is another fictitious incident of his historical
Shortly before our departure I asked Bonaparte how long he intended to
remain in Egypt. He replied, "A few months, or six years: all depends on
circumstances. I will colonise the country. I will bring them artists
and artisans of every description; women, actors, etc. We are but nine-
and-twenty now, and we shall then be five-and-thirty. That is not an old
age. Those six years will enable me, if all goes well, to get to India.
Give out that you are going to Brest. Say so even to your family." I
obeyed, to prove my discretion and real attachment to him.
Bonaparte wished to form a camp library of cabinet editions, and he gave
me a list of the books which I was to purchase. This list is in his own
writing, and is as follows:
1. ARTS AND SCIENCE.--Fontenelle's Worlds, 1 vol. Letters to a German
Princess, 2 vols. Courses of the Normal School, 6 vols. The Artillery
Assistant, 1 vol. Treatise on Fortifications, 3 vols. Treatise on
Fireworks, 1 vol.
2. GEOGRAPHY AND TRAVELS.--Barclay's Geography, 12 vols. Cook's
Voyages, 3 vols. La Harpe's Travels, 24 vols.
3. HISTORY.--Plutarch, 12 vols. Turenne, 2 vols. Conde, 4 vols.
Villars, 4 vols. Luxembourg, 2 vols. Duguesclin, 2 vols.
Saxe, 3 vols. Memoirs of the Marshals of France, 20 vols. President
Hainault, 4 vols. Chronology, 2 vols. Marlborough, 4 vols. Prince
Eugene, 6 vols. Philosophical History of India, 12 vols.
Germany, 2 vols. Charles XII., 1 vol. Essay on the Manners of
Nations, 6 vols. Peter the Great, 1 vol. Polybius, 6 vols.
Justin, 2 vols. Arrian, 3 vols. Tacitus, 2 vols. Titus Livy,
Thucydides, 2 vols. Vertot, 4 vols. Denina, 8 vols.
Frederick II, 8 vols.
4. POETRY.--Osaian, 1 vol. Tasso, 6 vols. Ariosto, 6 vols.
Homer, 6 vols. Virgil, 4 vols. The Henriade, 1 vol.
Telemachus, 2 vols. Les Jardin, 1 vol. The Chefs-d'Oeuvre of the
French Theatre, 20 vols. Select Light Poetry, 10 vols. La Fontaine.
5. ROMANCE.--Voltaire, 4 vols. Heloise, 4 vols. Werther, 1 vol.
Marmontel, 4 vols. English Novels, 40 vols. Le Sage, 10 vols.
Prevost, 10 vols.
6. POLITICS AND MORALS.--The Old Testament. The New Testament. The
Koran. The Vedan. Mythology. Montesquieu. The Esprit des Lois.
It will be observed that he classed the books of the religious creeds of
nations under the head of "politics."
The autograph copy of the above list contains some of those
orthographical blunders which Bonaparte so frequently committed. Whether
these blunders are attributable to the limited course of instruction he
received at Brienne, to his hasty writing, the rapid flow of his ideas,
or the little importance he attached to that indispensable condition of
polite education, I know not. Knowing so well as he did the authors and
generals whose names appear in the above list, it is curious that he
should have written Ducecling for Duguesclin, and Ocean for Ossian. The
latter mistake would have puzzled me not a little had I not known his
predilection for the Caledonian bard.
Before his departure Bonaparte laid in a considerable stock of Burgundy.
It was supplied by a man named James, of Dijon. I may observe that on
this occasion we had an opportunity of ascertaining that good Burgundy,
well racked off, and in casks hermetically sealed, does not lose its
quality on a sea voyage. Several cases of this Burgundy twice crossed
the desert of the Isthmus of Suez on camels' backs. We brought some of
it back with us to Frejus, and it was as good as when we departed. James
went with us to Egypt
During the remainder of our stay in Paris nothing occurred worthy of
mention, with the exception of a conversation between Bonaparte and me
some days before our departure for Toulon. He went with me to the
Luxembourg to get signatures to the official papers connected with his
expedition. He was very silent. As we passed through the Rue Sainte
Anne I asked him, with no other object than merely to break a long pause,
whether he was still determined to quit France. He replied, "Yes: I have
tried everything. They do not want me (probably alluding to the office
of Director). I ought to overthrow them, and make myself King; but it
will not do yet. The nobles will never consent to it. I have tried my
ground. The time is not yet come. I should be alone. But I will dazzle
them again." I replied, "Well, we will go to Egypt;" and changed the
--[Lucien and the Bonapartists of course deny that Napoleon wished
to become Director, or to seize on power at this time; see Lucien,
tome 1. p. 154. Thiers (vol. v. p. 257) takes the same view.
Lanfrey (tome i. p. 363) believes Napoleon was at last compelled by
the Directory to start and he credits the story told by Desaix to
Mathieu Dumas, or rather to the wife of that officer, that there was
a plot to upset the Directory, but that when all was ready Napoleon
judged that the time was not ripe. Lanfrey, however, rather
enlarges what Dumas says; see Dumas, tome iii. p. 167. See also
the very remarkable conversation of Napoleon with Miot de Melito
just before leaving Italy for Rastadt: "I cannot obey any longer. I
have tasted the pleasures of command, and I cannot renounce it. My
decision is taken. If I cannot be master, I shall quit France
(Miot, tome i. p. 184).]--
The squabble with Bernadotte at Vienna delayed our departure for a
fortnight, and might have had the most disastrous influence on the fate
of the squadron, as Nelson would most assuredly have waited between Malta
and Sicily if he had arrived there before us.'
--[Sir Walter Scott, without any authority, states that, at the
moment of his departure, Bonaparte seemed disposed to abandon the
command of an expedition so doubtful and hazardous, and that for
this purpose he endeavoured to take advantage of what had occurred
at Vienna. This must be ranked in the class of inventions, together
with Barras mysterious visit to communicate the change of
destination, and also the ostracism and honourable exile which the
Directory wished to impose on Bonaparte.--Bourrienne.]--
It is untrue that he ever entertained the idea of abandoning the
expedition in consequence of Bernadotte's affair. The following letter
to Brueys, dated the 28th of April 1798, proves the contrary:
Some disturbances which have arisen at Vienna render my presence in
Paris necessary for a few days. This will not change any of the
arrangements for the expedition. I have sent orders by this courier
for the troops at Marseilles to embark and proceed to Toulon. On
the evening of the 30th I will send you a courier with orders for
you to embark and proceed with the squadron and convoy to Genoa,
where I will join you.
The delay which this fresh event has occasioned will, I imagine,
have enabled you to complete every preparation.
We left Paris on the 3d of May 1798. Ten days before Bonaparte's
departure for Egypt a prisoner (Sir Sidney Smith) escaped from the Temple
who was destined to contribute materially to his reverses. An escape so
unimportant in itself afterwards caused the failure of the most gigantic
projects and daring conceptions. This escape was pregnant with future
events; a false order of the Minister of Police prevented the revolution
of the East!
We were at Toulon on the 8th. Bonaparte knew by the movements of the
English that not a moment was to be lost; but adverse winds detained us
ten days, which he occupied in attending to the most minute details
connected with the fleet.
Bonaparte, whose attention was constantly occupied with his army, made a
speech to the soldiers, which I wrote to his dictation, and which
appeared in the public papers at the time. This address was followed by
cries of "The Immortal Republic for ever!" and the singing of national
Those who knew Madame Bonaparte are aware that few women were more
amiable and fascinating. Bonaparte was passionately fond of her, and to
enjoy the pleasure of her society as long as possible he brought her with
him to Toulon. Nothing could be more affecting than their parting. On
leaving Toulon Josephine went to the waters of Plombieres. I recollect
that during her stay at Plombieres she incurred great danger from a
serious accident. Whilst she was one day sitting at the balcony of the
hotel, with her suite, the balcony suddenly gave way, and all the persons
in it fell into the street. Madame Bonaparte was much hurt, but no
serious consequences ensued.
Bonaparte had scarcely arrived at Toulon when he heard that the law for
the death of emigrants was enforced with frightful rigour; and that but
recently an old man, upwards of eighty, had been shot. Indignant at this
barbarity, he dictated to me, in a tone of anger, the following letter:
27th Floreal, year VI. (16th May 1798).
BONAPARTE, MEMBER OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE, TO THE MILITARY
COMMISSIONERS OF THE NINTH DIVISION, ESTABLISHED BY THE LAW OF
THE 19TH FRUCTIDOR.
I have learned, citizens, with deep regret, that an old man, between
seventy and eighty years of age, and some unfortunate women, in a
state of pregnancy, or surrounded with children of tender age, have
been shot on the charge of emigration.
Have the soldiers of liberty become executioners? Can the mercy
which they have exercised even in the fury of battle be extinct in
The law of the 19th Fructidor was a measure of public safety. Its
object was to reach conspirators, not women and aged men.
I therefore exhort you, citizens, whenever the law brings to your
tribunals women or old men, to declare that in the field of battle
you have respected the women and old men of your enemies.
The officer who signs a sentence against a person incapable of
bearing arms is a coward.
This letter saved the life of an unfortunate man who came under the
description of persons to whom Bonaparte referred. The tone of this note
shows what an idea he already entertained of his power. He took upon
him, doubtless from the noblest motives, to step out of his way to
interpret and interdict the execution of a law, atrocious, it is true,
but which even in those times of weakness, disorder, and anarchy was
still a law. In this instance, at least, the power of his name was nobly
employed. The letter gave great satisfaction to the army destined for
A man named Simon, who had followed his master in emigration, and dreaded
the application of the law, heard that I wanted a servant. He came to me
and acknowledged his situation. He suited me, and I hired him. He then
told me he feared he should be arrested whilst going to the port to
embark. Bonaparte, to whom I mentioned the circumstance, and who had
just given a striking proof of his aversion to these acts of barbarity,
said to me in a tone of kindness, "Give him my portfolio to carry, and
let him remain with you." The words "Bonaparte, General-in-Chief of the
Army of the East," were inscribed in large gold letters on the green
morocco. Whether it was the portfolio or his connection with us that
prevented Simon from being arrested I know not; but he passed on without
interruption. I reprimanded him for having smiled derisively at the ill
humour of the persons appointed to arrest him. He served me faithfully,
and was even sometimes useful to Bonaparte.
Departure of the squadron--Arrival at Malta--Dolomieu--General
Barguay d'Hilliers--Attack on the western part of the island--
Caffarelli's remark--Deliverance of the Turkish prisoners--Nelson's
pursuit of the French fleet--Conversations on board--How Bonaparte
passed his, time--Questions to the Captains--Propositions discussed
--Morning music--Proclamation--Admiral Brueys--The English fleet
avoided Dangerous landing--Bonaparte and his fortune--Alexandria
taken--Kleber wounded--Bonaparte's entrance into Alexandria.
The squadron sailed on the 19th of May. The Orient, which, owing to her
heavy lading, drew too much water, touched the ground; but she was got
off without much difficulty.
We arrived off Malta on the 10th of June. We had lost two days in
waiting for some convoys which joined us at Malta.
The intrigues throughout Europe had not succeeded in causing the ports of
that island to be opened to us immediately on our arrival. Bonaparte
expressed much displeasure against the persons sent from Europe to
arrange measures for that purpose. One of them, however, M. Dolomieu,
had cause to repent his mission, which occasioned him to be badly treated
by the Sicilians. M. Poussielgue had done all he could in the way of
seduction, but he had not completely succeeded. There was some
misunderstanding, and, in consequence, some shots were interchanged.
Bonaparte was very much pleased with General Baraguay d'Hilliers'
services in Italy. He could not but praise his military and political
conduct at Venice when, scarcely a year before, he had taken possession
of that city by his orders. General Baraguay d'Hilliers joined us with
his division,--which had embarked in the convoy that sailed from Genoa.
The General-in-Chief ordered him to land and attack the western part of
the island. He executed this order with equal prudence and ability, and
highly to the satisfaction of the General-in-Chief. As every person in
the secret knew that all this was a mere form, these hostile
demonstrations produced no unpleasant consequences. We wished to save
the honour of the knights--that was all; for no one who has seen Malta
can imagine that an island surrounded with such formidable and perfect
fortifications would have surrendered in two days to a fleet which was
pursued by an enemy. The impregnable fortress of Malta is so secure
against a 'coup de main' that General Caffarelli, after examining its
fortifications, said to the General-in-Chief, in my presence, "Upon my
word, General, it is luck: there is some one in the town to open the
gates for us."
By comparing the observation of General Caffarelli with what has been
previously stated respecting the project of the expedition to Egypt and
Malta, an idea may be formed of the value of Bonaparte's assertion at St.
"The capture of Malta was not owing to private intrigues, but to the
sagacity of the Commander-in-chief. I took Malta when I was in Mantua!"
It is not the less true, however, that I wrote, by his dictation, a mass
of instructions for private intrigues. Napoleon also said to another
noble companion of his exile at St Helena, "Malta certainly possessed
vast physical means of resistance; but no moral means. The knights did
nothing dishonourable nobody is obliged to do impossibilities. No; but
they were sold; the capture of Malta was assured before we left Toulon."
The General-in-Chief proceeded to that part of the port where the Turks
made prisoners by the knights were kept.
The disgusting galleys were emptied of their occupants: The same
principles which, a few days after, formed the basis of Bonaparte's
proclamation to the Egyptians, guided him in this act of reason and
He walked several times in the gardens of the grandmaster. They were in
beautiful order, and filled with magnificent orange-trees. We regaled
ourselves with their fruit, which the great heat rendered most delicious.
On the 19th of June, after having settled the government and defence of
the island, the General left Malta, which he little dreamed he had taken
for the English, who have very badly requited the obligation. Many of
the knights followed Bonaparte and took civil and military appointments.
During the night of the 22d of June the English squadron was almost close
upon us. It passed at about six leagues from the French fleet. Nelson,
who learned the capture of Malta at Messina on the day we left the
island, sailed direct for Alexandria, without proceeding into the north.
He considered that city to be the place of our destination. By taking
the shortest course, with every sail set, and unembarrassed by any
convoy, he arrived before Alexandria on the 28th of June, three days
before the French fleet, which, nevertheless, had sailed before him from
the shores of Malta. The French squadron took the direction of Candia,
which we perceived on the 25th of June, and afterwards stood to the
south, favoured by the Etesian winds, which regularly prevail at that
season. The French fleet did not reach Alexandria till the 30th of June.
When on board the 'Orient' he took pleasure in conversing frequently with
Monge and Berthollet. The subjects on which they usually talked were
chemistry, mathematics, and religion. General Caffarelli, whose
conversation, supplied by knowledge, was at once energetic, witty, and
lively, was one of those with whom he most willingly discoursed.
Whatever friendship he might entertain for Berthollet, it was easy to
perceive that he preferred Monge, and that he was led to that preference
because Monge, endowed with an ardent imagination, without exactly
possessing religious principles, had a kind of predisposition for
religious ideas which harmonised with the notions of Bonaparte. On this
subject Berthollet sometimes rallied his inseparable friend Monge.
Besides, Berthollet was, with his cold imagination, constantly devoted to
analysis and abstractions, inclined towards materialism, an opinion with
which the General was always much dissatisfied.
Bonaparte sometimes conversed with Admiral Brueys. His object was always
to gain information respecting the different manoeuvres, and nothing
astonished the Admiral more than the sagacity of his questions.
I recollect that one day, Bonaparte having asked Brueys in what manner
the hammocks were disposed of when clearing for action, he declared,
after he had received an answer, that if the case should occur he would
order every one to throw his baggage overboard.
He passed a great part of his time in his cabin, lying on a bed, which,
swinging on a kind of castors, alleviated the severity of the sea-
sickness from which he frequently suffered much when the ship rolled.
I was almost always with him in his cabin, where I read to him some of
the favourite works which he had selected for his camp library. He also
frequently conversed, for hours together, with the captains of the
vessels which he hailed. He never failed to ask whence they came? what
was their destination? what ships they had met? what course they had
sailed? His curiosity being thus satisfied, he allowed them to continue
their voyage, after making them promise to say nothing of having seen the
Whilst we were at sea he seldom rose before ten o'clock in the morning.
The 'Orient' had the appearance of a populous town, from which women had
been excluded; and this floating city was inhabited by 2000 individuals,
amongst whom were a great number of distinguished men. Bonaparte every
day invited several persons to dine with him, besides Brueys, Berthier,
the colonels, and his ordinary household, who were always present at the
table of the General-in-Chief. When the weather was fine he went up to
the quarter-deck, which, from its extent, formed a grand promenade.
I recollect once that when walking the quarter-deck with him whilst we
were in Sicilian waters I thought I could see the summits of the Alps
beautifully lighted by the rays of the setting sun. Bonaparte laughed
much, and joked me about it. He called Admiral Brueys, who took his
telescope and soon confirmed my conjecture. The Alps!
At the mention of that word by the Admiral I think I can see Bonaparte
still. He stood for a long time motionless; then, suddenly bursting from
his trance, exclaimed, "No! I cannot behold the land of Italy without
emotion! There is the East: and there I go; a perilous enterprise
invites me. Those mountains command the plains where I so often had the
good fortune to lead the French to victory. With them we will conquer
One of Bonaparte's greatest pleasures during the voyage was, after
dinner, to fix upon three or four persons to support a proposition and as
many to oppose it. He had an object in view by this. These discussions
afforded him an opportunity of studying the minds of those whom he had an
interest in knowing well, in order that he might afterwards confide to
each the functions for which he possessed the greatest aptitude: It will
not appear singular to those who have been intimate with Bonaparte, that
in these intellectual contests he gave the preference to those who had
supported an absurd proposition with ability over those who had
maintained the cause of reason; and it was not superiority of mind which
determined his judgment, for he really preferred the man who argued well
in favour of an absurdity to the man who argued equally well in support
of a reasonable proposition. He always gave out the subjects which were
to be discussed; and they most frequently turned upon questions of
religion, the different kinds of government, and the art of war. One day
he asked whether the planets were inhabited; on another, what was the age
of the world; then he proposed to consider the probability of the
destruction of our globe, either by water or fire; at another time,
the truth or fallacy of presentiments, and the interpretation of dreams.
I remember the circumstance which gave rise to the last proposition was
an allusion to Joseph, of whom he happened to speak, as he did of almost
everything connected with the country to which we were bound, and which
that able administrator had governed. No country came under Bonaparte's
observation without recalling historical recollections to his mind.
On passing the island of Candia his imagination was excited, and he spoke
with enthusiasm of ancient Crete and the Colossus, whose fabulous renown
has surpassed all human glories. He spoke much of the fall of the empire
of the East, which bore so little resemblance to what history has
preserved of those fine countries, so often moistened with the blood of
man. The ingenious fables of mythology likewise occurred to his mind,
and imparted to his language something of a poetical, and, I may say, of
an inspired character. The sight of the kingdom of Minos led him to
reason on the laws best calculated for the government of nations; and the
birthplace of Jupiter suggested to him the necessity of a religion for
the mass of mankind. This animated conversation lasted until the
favourable north winds, which drove the clouds into the valley of the
Nile, caused us to lose sight of the island of Candia.
The musicians on board the Orient sometimes played serenades; but only
between decks, for Bonaparte was not yet sufficiently fond of music to
wish to hear it in his cabin. It may be said that his taste for this art
increased in the direct ratio of his power; and so it was with his taste
for hunting, of which he gave no indication until after his elevation to
the empire; as though he had wished to prove that he possessed within
himself not only the genius of sovereignty for commanding men, but also
the instinct for those aristocratical pleasures, the enjoyment of which
is considered by mankind to be amongst the attributes of kings.
It is scarcely possible that some accidents should not occur during a
long voyage in a crowded vessel--that some persons should not fall
overboard. Accidents of this kind frequently happened on board the
'Orient'. On those occasions nothing was more remarkable than the great
humanity of the man who has since been so prodigal of the blood of his
fellow-creatures on the field of battle, and who was about to shed rivers
of it even in Egypt, whither we were bound. When a man fell into the sea
the General-in-Chief was in a state of agitation till he was saved. He
instantly had the ship hove-to, and exhibited the greatest uneasiness
until the unfortunate individual was recovered. He ordered me to reward
those who ventured their lives in this service. Amongst these was a
sailor who had incurred punishment for some fault. He not only exempted
him from the punishment, but also gave him some money. I recollect that
one dark night we heard a noise like that occasioned by a man falling
into the sea. Bonaparte instantly caused the ship to be hove-to until
the supposed victim was rescued from certain death. The men hastened
from all sides, and at length they picked up-what?--the quarter of a
bullock, which had fallen from the hook to which it was hung. What was
Bonaparte's conduct? He ordered me to reward the sailors who had exerted
themselves in this occasion even more generously than usual, saying,
"It might have been a sailor, and these brave fellows have shown as much
activity and courage as if it had."
After the lapse of thirty years all these things are as fresh in my
recollection as if they were passing at the present moment. In this
manner Bonaparte employed his time on board the Orient during the voyage,
and it was also at this time that he dictated to me the following
HEADQUARTERS ON BOARD THE "ORIENT,"
The 4th Messidor, Year VI.
BONAPARTE, MEMBER OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE,
SOLDIERS--You are about to undertake a conquest the effects of which
on civilisation and commerce are incalculable. The blow you are
about to give to England will be the best aimed, and the most
sensibly felt, she can receive until the time arrive when you can
give her her deathblow.
We must make some fatiguing marches; we must fight several battles;
we shall succeed in all we undertake. The destinies are with us.
The Mameluke Beys who favour exclusively English commerce, whose
extortions oppress our merchants, and who tyrannise over the
unfortunate inhabitants of the Nile, a few days after our arrival