Part 6 out of 24
o'clock to-night. You shall therefore take my carriage, go there, send
in my name, and then enter yourself. Tell him that a severe headache
confines me to my bed, but that I will be with him without fail tomorrow.
Bid him not be alarmed, for all will soon be right again. Elude his
questions as much as possible; do not stay long, and come to me on your
At precisely eleven o'clock I reached the residence of Barras, in General
Bonaparte's carriage. Solitude and silence prevailed in all the
apartments through which I passed to Barras' cabinet. Bonaparte was
announced, and when Barras saw me enter instead of him, he manifested the
greatest astonishment and appeared much cast down. It was easy to
perceive that he looked on himself as a lost man. I executed my
commission, and stayed only a short time. I rose to take my leave, and
he said, while showing me out, "I see that Bonaparte is deceiving me: he
will not come again. He has settled everything; yet to me he owes all."
I repeated that he would certainly come tomorrow, but he shook his head
in a way which plainly denoted that he did not believe me. When I gave
Bonaparte an account of my visit he appeared much pleased. He told me
that Joseph was going to call that evening on Bernadotte, and to ask him
to come tomorrow. I replied that, from all I knew, he would be of no use
to him. "I believe so too," said he; "but he can no longer injure me,
and that is enough. Well, good-night; be here at seven in the morning."
It was then one o'clock.
I was with him a little before seven o'clock on the morning of the 18th
Brumaire, and on my arrival I found a great number of generals and
officers assembled. I entered Bonaparte's chamber, and found him already
up--a thing rather unusual with him. At this moment he was as calm as on
the approach of a battle. In a few moments Joseph and Bernadotte
arrived. Joseph had not found him at home on the preceding evening, and
had called for him that morning. I was surprised to see Bernadotte in
plain clothes, and I stepped up to him and said in a low voice, "General,
every one here, except you and I, is in uniform."--" Why should I be in
uniform?" said he. As he uttered these words Bonaparte, struck with the
same surprise as myself, stopped short while speaking to several persons
around him, and turning quickly towards Bernadotte said, "How is this?
you are not in uniform!"--"I never am on a morning when I am not on
duty," replied Bernadotte.--"You will be on duty presently."--" I have
not heard a word of it: I should have received my orders sooner."
Bonaparte then led Bernadotte into an adjoining room. Their conversation
was not long, for there was no time to spare.
On the other hand, by the influence of the principal conspirators the
removal of the legislative body to St. Cloud was determined on the
morning of the 18th Brumaire, and the command of the army was given to
All this time Barras was no doubt waiting for Bonaparte, and Madame
Bonaparte was expecting Gohier to breakfast. At Bonaparte's were
assembled all the general's who were devoted to him. I never saw so
great a number before in the Rue de la Victoire. They were all, except
Bernadotte, in full uniform; and there were, besides, half a dozen
persons there initiated in the secrets of the day. The little hotel of
the conqueror of Italy was much too small for such an assemblage, and
several persons were standing in the court-yard. Bonaparte was
acquainted with the decree of the Council of the Ancients, and only
waited for its being brought to him before he should mount his horse.
That decree was adopted in the Council of the Ancients by what may be
called a false majority, for the members of the Council were summoned at
different hours, and it was so contrived that sixty or eighty of them,
whom Lucien and his friends had not been able to gain over, should not
receive their notices in time.
As soon as the message from the Council of the Ancients arrived Bonaparte
requested all the officers at his house to follow him. At that
announcement a few who were in ignorance of what was going on did not
follow--at least I saw two groups separately leave the hotel. Bernadotte
said to me, "I shall stay with you." I perceived there was a good deal
of suspicion in his manner. Bonaparte, before going down the stairs
which led from the small round dining-room into the courtyard, returned
quickly to bid Bernadotte follow him. He would not, and Bonaparte then
said to me, while hurrying off, "Gohier is not come--so much the worse
for. him," and leaped on his horse. Scarcely was he off when Bernadotte
left me. Josephine and I being now left alone; she acquainted me with
her anxiety. I assured her that everything bad been so well prepared
that success was certain. She felt much interest about Gohier on account
of her friendship for his wife. She asked me whether I was well
acquainted with Gohier. "You know, Madame," replied I, "that we have
been only twenty days in Paris, and that during that time I have only
gone out to sleep in the Rue Martel. I have seen M. Gohier several
times, when he came to visit the General, and have talked to him about
the situation of our affairs in Switzerland, Holland, France, and other
political matters, but I never exchanged a word with him as to what is
now going on. This is the whole extent of my acquaintance with him."
"I am sorry for it," resumed Josephine, "because I should have asked you
to write to him, and beg him to make no stir, but imitate Sieyes and
Roger, who will voluntarily retire, and not to join Barras, who is
probably at this very moment forced to do so. Bonaparte has told me that
if Gohier voluntarily resigns, he will do everything for him." I believe
Josephine communicated directly with the President of the Directory
through a friend of Madame Gohier's.
Gohier and Moulins, no longer depending on Sieyes and Roger Ducos, waited
for their colleague, Barras, in the hall of the Directory, to adopt some
measure on the decree for removing the Councils to St. Cloud. But they
were disappointed; for Barras, whose eyes had been opened by my visit on
the preceding night, did not join them. He had been invisible to his
colleagues from the moment that Bruix and M. de Talleyrand had informed
him of the reality of what he already suspected; and insisted on his
On the 18th Brumaire a great number of military, amounting to about
10,000 men, were assembled in the gardens of the Tuileries, and were
reviewed by Bonaparte, accompanied by Generals Beurnonville, Moreau, and
Macdonald. Bonaparte read to them the decree just issued by the
commission of inspectors of the Council of the Ancients, by which the
legislative body was removed to St. Cloud; and by which he himself was
entrusted with the execution of that decree, and appointed to the command
of all the military force in Paris, and afterwards delivered an address
to the troops.
Whilst Bonaparte was haranguing the soldiers, the Council of the Ancients
published an address to the French people, in which it was declared that
the seat of the legislative body was changed, in order to put down the
factions, whose object was to control the national representation.
While all this was passing abroad I was at the General's house in the Rue
de la Victoire; which I never left during the whole day. Madame
Bonaparte and I were not without anxiety in Bonaparte's absence.
I learned from Josephine that Joseph's wife had received a visit from
Adjutant-General Rapatel, who had been sent by Bonaparte and Moreau to
bring her husband to the Tuileries. Joseph was from home at the time,
and so the message was useless. This circumstance, however, awakened
hopes which we had scarcely dared to entertain. Moreau was then in
accordance with Bonaparte, for Rapatel was sent in the name of both
Generals. This alliance, so long despaired of, appeared to augur
favourably. It was one of Bonaparte's happy strokes. Moreau, who was a
slave to military discipline, regarded his successful rival only as a
chief nominated by the Council of the Ancients. He received his orders
and obeyed them. Bonaparte appointed him commander of the guard of the
Luxembourg, where the Directors were under confinement. He accepted the
command, and no circumstance could have contributed more effectually to
the accomplishment of Bonaparte's views and to the triumph of his
At length Bonaparte, whom we had impatiently expected, returned.
Almost everything had gone well with him, for he had had only to do with
soldiers. In the evening he said to me, "I am sure that the committee of
inspectors of the hall are at this very moment engaged in settling what
is to be done at St. Cloud to-morrow. It is better to let them decide
the matter, for by that means their vanity is flattered. I will obey
orders which I have myself concerted." What Bonaparte was speaking of
had been arranged nearly two or three days previously. The committee of
inspectors was under the influence of the principal conspirators.
In the evening of this anxious day, which was destined to be succeeded by
a stormy morrow, Bonaparte, pleased with having gained over Moreau, spoke
to me of Bernadotte's visit in the morning.--"I saw," said he, "that you
were as much astonished as I at Bernadotte's behaviour. A general out of
uniform! He might as well have come in slippers. Do you know what
passed when I took him aside? I told him all; I thought that the best
way. I assured him that his Directory was hated, and his Constitution
worn out; that it was necessary to turn them all off, and give another
impulse to the government. 'Go and put on your uniform said I: I cannot
wait for you long. You will find me at the Tuileries, with the rest of
our comrades. Do not depend on Moreau, Beurnonville, or the generals of
your party. When you know them better you will find that they promise
much but perform little. Do not trust them.' Bernadotte then said that
he would not take part in what he called a rebellion. A rebellion!
Bourrienne, only think of that! A set of imbeciles, who from morning to
night do nothing but debate in their kennels! But all was in vain. I
could not move Bernadotte. He is a bar of iron. I asked him to give me
his word that he would do nothing against me; what do you think was his
answer?"--"Something unpleasant, no doubt."--" Unpleasant! that is too
mild a word. He said, 'I will remain quiet as a citizen; but if the
Directory order me to act, I will march against all disturbers.' But I
can laugh at all that now. My measures are taken, and he will have no
command. However, I set him at ease as to what would take place.
I flattered him with a picture of private life, the pleasures of the
country, and the charms of Malmaison; and I left him with his head full
of pastoral dreams. In a word, I am very well satisfied with my day's
work. Good-night, Bourrienne; we shall see what will turn up to-morrow."
On the 19th I went to St. Cloud with my friend La Vallette. As we passed
the Place Louis XV., now Louis XVI., he asked me what was doing, and what
my opinion was as to the coming events? Without entering into any detail
I replied, "My friend, either we shall sleep tomorrow at the Luxembourg,
or there will be an end of us." Who could tell which of the two things
would happen! Success legalised a bold enterprise, which the slightest
accident might have changed into a crime.
The sitting of the Ancients, under the presidency of Lemercier, commenced
at one o'clock. A warm discussion took place upon the situation of
affairs, the resignation of the members of the Directory, and the
immediate election of others. Great heat and agitation prevailed during
the debate. Intelligence was every minute carried to Bonaparte of what
was going forward, and he determined to enter the hall and take part in
the discussion. He entered in a hasty and angry way, which did not give
me a favourable foreboding of what he was about to say. We passed
through a narrow passage to the centre of the hall; our backs were turned
to the door. Bonaparte had the President to his right. He could not see
him full in the face. I was close to the General on his right. Berthier
was at his left.
All the speeches which have been subsequently passed off as having been
delivered by Bonaparte on this occasion differ from each other; as well
they may, for he delivered none to the Ancients, unless his confused
conversation with the President, which was alike devoid of dignity and
sense, is to be called a speech. He talked of his "brothers in arms" and
the "frankness of a soldier." The questions of the President followed
each other rapidly: they were clear; but it is impossible to conceive
anything more confused or worse delivered than the ambiguous and
perplexed replies of Bonaparte. He talked without end of "volcanoes;
secret agitations, victories, a violated constitution! "He blamed the
proceedings of the 18th Fructidor, of which he was the first promoter and
the most powerful supporter. He pretended to be ignorant of everything
until the Council of Ancients had called him to the aid of his country.
Then came "Caesar--Cromwell--tyrant!" and he several times repeated,
"I have nothing more to say to you!" though, in fact, he had said
nothing. He alleged that he had been called to assume the supreme
authority, on his return from Italy, by the desire of the nation, and
afterwards by his comrades in arms. Next followed the words "liberty-
equality!" though it was evident he had not come to St. Cloud for the
sake of either. No sooner did he utter these words, than a member of the
Ancients, named, I think, Linglet, interrupting him, exclaimed, "You
forget the Constitution!" His countenance immediately lighted up; yet
nothing could be distinguished but, "The 18th Fructidor--the 30th
Prairial--hypocrites--intriguers--I will disclose all!--I will resign my
power, when the danger which threatens the Republic shall have passed
Bonaparte, believing all his assertions to be admitted as proved, assumed
a little confidence, and accused the two directors Barras and Moulins of
having proposed to put him at the head of a party whose object was to
oppose all men professing liberal ideas.
At these words, the falsehood of which was odious, a great tumult arose
in the hall. A general committee was loudly called for to hear the
disclosures. "No, no!" exclaimed others, "no general committee!
conspirators have been denounced: it is right that France should know
Bonaparte was then required to enter into the particulars of his
accusation against Barras and Moulins, and of the proposals which had
been made to him: "You must no longer conceal anything."
Embarrassed by these interruptions and interrogatories Bonaparte believed
that he was completely lost. Instead of giving an explanation of what he
had said, he began to make fresh accusations; and against whom? The
Council of the Five Hundred, who, he said, wished for "scaffolds,
revolutionary committees, and a complete overthrow of everything."
Violent murmurs arose, and his language became more and more incoherent
and inconsequent. He addressed himself at one moment to the
representatives of the people, who were quite overcome by astonishment;
at another to the military in the courtyard, who could not hear him.
Then, by an unaccountable transition, he spoke of "the thunderbolts of
war!" and added, that he was "attended by the God of war and the God of
The President, with great calmness, told him that he saw nothing,
absolutely nothing, upon which the Council could deliberate; that there
was vagueness in all he had said. "Explain yourself; reveal the plot
which you say you were urged to join."
Bonaparte repeated again the same things. But only those who were
present can form any idea of his manner. There was not the slightest
connection in what he stammered out. Bonaparte was then no orator. It
may well be supposed that he was more accustomed to the din of war than
to the discussions of the tribunes. He was more at home before a battery
than before a President's chair.
Perceiving the bad effect which this unconnected babbling produced on the
assembly, as well as the embarrassment of Bonaparte, I said, in a low
voice, pulling him gently by the skirt of his coat, "withdraw, General;
you know not what you are saying." I made signs to Berthier, who was on
his left, to second me in persuading him to leave the hall; and all at
once, after having stammered out a few more, words, he turned round
exclaiming, "Let those who love me follow me!" The sentinels at the door
offered no opposition to his passing. The person who went before him
quietly drew aside the tapestry which concealed the door, and General
Bonaparte leaped upon his horse, which stood in the court-yard. It is
hard to say what would have happened if, on seeing the General retire,
the President had said, "Grenadiers, let no one pass!" Instead of
sleeping next day at the Luxembourg he would, I am convinced, have ended
his career on the Place de la Revolution.
The two Councils--Barras' letter--Bonaparte at the Council of the
Five Hundred--False reports--Tumultuous sitting--Lucien's speech--
He resigns the Presidency of the Council of the Five Hundred--He is
carried out by grenadiers--He harangues the troops--A dramatic scene
--Murat and his soldiers drive out the Five Hundred--Council of
Thirty--Consular commission--Decree--Return to Paris--Conversation
with Bonaparte and Josephine respecting Gohier and Bernadotte--The
directors Gohier and Moulins imprisoned.
The scene which occurred at the sitting of the Council of the Ancients
was very different from that which passed outside. Bonaparte had
scarcely reached the courtyard and mounted his horse when cries of "Vive
Bonaparte!" resounded on all sides. But this was only a sunbeam between
two storms. He had yet to brave the Council of the Five Hundred, which
was far more excited than the Council of the Ancients. Everything tended
to create a dreadful uncertainty; but it was too late to draw back. We
had already staked too heavily. The game was desperate, and everything
was to be ventured. In a few hours all would be determined.
Our apprehensions were not without foundation. In the Council of the
Five Hundred agitation was at its height. The most serious alarm marked
its deliberations. It had been determined to announce to the Directory
the installation of the Councils, and to inquire of the Council of the
Ancients their reasons for resolving upon an extraordinary convocation.
But the Directory no longer existed. Sieyes and Roger Ducos had joined
Bonaparte's party. Gohier and Moulins were prisoners in the Luxembourg,
and in the custody of General Moreau; and at the very moment when the
Council of the Five Hundred had drawn up a message to the Directory, the
Council of the Ancients transmitted to them the following letter,
received from Barras. This letter; which was addressed to the Council of
the Ancients, was immediately read by Lucien Bonaparte, who was President
of the Council of the Five Hundred.
CITIZEN PRESIDENT--Having entered into public affairs solely from my
love of liberty, I consented to share the first magistracy of the
State only that I might be able to defend it in danger; to protect
against their enemies the patriots compromised in its cause; and to
ensure to the defenders of, their country that attention to their
interests which no one was more calculated to feel than a citizen,
long the witness of their heroic virtues, and always sensible to
The glory which accompanies the return of the illustrious warrior to
whom I had the honour of opening the path of glory, the striking
marks of confidence given him by the legislative body, and the
decree of the National Convention, convince me that, to whatever
post he may henceforth be called, the dangers to liberty will be
averted, and the interests of the army ensured.
I cheerfully return to the rank of a private citizen: happy, after
so many storms, to resign, unimpaired, and even more glorious than
ever, the destiny of the Republic, which has been, in part,
committed to my care.
This letter occasioned a great sensation in the Council of the Five
Hundred. A second reading was called far, and a question was started,
whether the retirement was legal, or was the result of collusion, and of
the influence of Bonaparte's agents; whether to believe Barras, who
declared the dangers of liberty averted, or the decree for the removal of
the legislative corps, which was passed and executed under the pretext of
the existence of imminent peril? At that moment Bonaparte appeared,
followed by a party of grenadiers, who remained at the entrance of the
I did not accompany him to the Council of the Five Hundred. He had
directed me to send off an express to ease the apprehensions of
Josephine, and to assure her that everything would go well. It was some
time before I joined him again.
However, without speaking as positively as if I had myself been an eye-
witness of the scene, I do not hesitate to declare that all that has been
said about assaults and poniards is pure invention. I rely on what was
told me, on the very night, by persons well worthy of credit, and who
were witnessess of all that passed.
As to what passed at the sitting, the accounts, given both at the time
and since, have varied according to opinions. Some have alleged that
unanimous cries of indignation were excited by the appearance of the
military. From all parts of the hall resounded, "The sanctuary of the
laws is violated. Down with the tyrant!--down with Cromwell!--down with
the Dictator! "Bonaparte stammered out a few words, as he had done
before the Council of the Ancients, but his voice was immediately drowned
by cries of "Vive la Republique!" "Vive la Constitution!" "Outlaw the
Dictator!" The grenadiers are then said to have rushed forward,
exclaiming, "Let us save our General!" at which indignation reached its
height, and cries, even more violent than ever, were raised; that
Bonaparte, falling insensible into the arms of the grenadiers, said,
"They mean to assassinate me!" All that regards the exclamations and
threats I believe to be correct; but I rank with the story of the
poniards the assertion of the members of the Five Hundred being provided
with firearms, and the grenadiers rushing into the hall; because
Bonaparte never mentioned a word of anything of the sort to me, either on
the way home, or when I was with him in his chamber. Neither did he say
anything on the subject to his wife, who had been extremely agitated by
the different reports which reached her.
After Bonaparte left the Council of the Five Hundred the deliberations
were continued with great violence. The excitement caused by the
appearance of Bonaparte was nothing like subsided when propositions of
the most furious nature were made. The President, Lucien, did all in his
power to restore tranquillity. As soon as he could make himself heard he
said, "The scene which has just taken place in the Council proves what
are the sentiments of all; sentiments which I declare are also mine. It
was, however, natural to believe that the General had no other object
than to render an account of the situation of affairs, and of something
interesting to the public. But I think none of you can suppose him
capable of projects hostile to liberty."
Each sentence of Lucien's address was interrupted by cries of "Bonaparte
has tarnished his glory! He is a disgrace to the Republic!"
--[The next younger brother of Napoleon, President of the Council of
the Five Hundred in 1799; Minister of the Interior, 1st December
1799 to 1841; Ambassador in Spain, 1801 to December 1801; left
France in disgrace in 1804; retired to Papal States; Prisoner in
Malta and England, 1810 to 1814; created by Pope in 1814 Prince de
Canino and Duc de Musignano; married firstly, 1794, Christine Boyer,
who died 1800; married secondly, 1802 or 118, a Madame Jonberthon.
Of his part in the 18th Brumaire Napoleon said to him in 1807,
"I well know that you were useful to me en the 18th Brumaire, but it
is not so cleat to me that you saved me then" (Iung's Lucien, tome
made fresh efforts to be heard, and wished to be allowed to address the
assembly as a member of the Council, and for that purpose resigned the
Presidentship to Chasal. He begged that the General might be introduced
again and heard with calmness. But this preposition was furiously
opposed. Exclamations of "Outlaw Bonaparte! outlaw him!" rang through
the assembly, and were the only reply given to the President. Lucien,
who had reassumed the President's chair, left it a second time, that he
might not be constrained to put the question of outlawry demanded against
his brother. Braving the displeasure of the assembly, he mounted the
tribune, resigned the Presidentship, renounced his seat as a deputy, and
threw aside his robes.
Just as Lucien left the Council I entered. Bonaparte, who was well
informed of all that was passing,
--[Lucien distinctly states that he himself, acting within his right
as President, had demanded an escort of the grenadiers of the
Councils as soon as he saw his withdrawal might be opposed.
Then the first entry of the soldiers with Napoleon would be illegal.
The second, to withdraw Lucien, was nominally legal (see Iung's
Lucien, tome i, pp, 318-322)]--
had sent in soldiers to the assistance of his brother; they carried him
off from the midst of the Council, and Bonaparte thought it a matter of
no little importance to have with him the President of an assembly which
he treated as rebellious. Lucien was reinstalled in office; but he was
now to discharge his duties, not in the President's chair, but on
horseback, and at the head of a party of troops ready to undertake
anything. Roused by the danger to which both his brother and himself
were exposed he delivered on horseback the following words, which can
never be too often remembered, as showing what a man then dared to say,
who never was anything except from the reflection of his brother's
CITIZENS! SOLDIERS!--The President of the Council of the Five
Hundred declares to you that the majority of that Council is at this
moment held in terror by a few representatives of the people, who
are armed with stilettoes, and who surround the tribune, threatening
their colleagues with death, and maintaining most atrocious
I declare to you that these brigands, who are doubtless in the pay
of England, have risen in rebellion against the Council of the
Ancients, and have dared to talk of outlawing the General, who is
charged with the execution of its decree, as if the word "outlaw"
was still to be regarded as the death-warrant of persons most
beloved by their country.
I declare to you that these madmen have outlawed themselves by their
attempts upon the liberty of the Council. In the name of that
people, which for so many years have been the sport of terrorism,
I consign to you the charge of rescuing the majority of their
representatives; so that, delivered from stilettoes by bayonets,
they may deliberate on the fate of the Republic.
General, and you, soldiers, and you, citizens, you will not
acknowledge, as legislators of France, any but those who rally round
me. As for those who remain in the orangery, let force expel
them. They are not the representatives of the people, but the
representatives of the poniard. Let that be their title, and let it
follow them everywhere; and whenever they dare show themselves to
the people, let every finger point at them, and every tongue
designate them by the well-merited title of representatives of the
Vive la Republique!
Notwithstanding the cries of "Vive Bonaparte!" which followed this
harangue, the troops still hesitated. It was evident that they were not
fully prepared to turn their swords against the national representatives.
Lucien then drew his sword, exclaiming, "I swear that I will stab my own
brother to the heart if he ever attempt anything against the liberty of
Frenchmen." This dramatic action was perfectly successful; hesitation
vanished; and at a signal given by Bonaparte, Murat, at the head of his
grenadiers, rushed into the hall, and drove out the representatives.
Everyone yielded to the reasoning of bayonets, and thus terminated the
employment of the armed force on that memorable day.
At ten o'clock at night the palace of St. Cloud, where so many tumultuous
scenes had occurred, was perfectly tranquil. All the deputies were still
there, pacing the hall, the corridors, and the courts. Most of them had
an air of consternation; others affected to have foreseen the event, and
to appear satisfied with it; but all wished to return to Paris, which
they could not do until a new order revoked the order for the removal of
the Councils to St. Cloud.
At eleven o'clock Bonaparte, who had eaten nothing all day, but who was
almost insensible to physical wants in moments of great agitation, said
to me, "We must go and write, Bourrienne; I intend this very night to
address a proclamation to the inhabitants of Paris. To-morrow morning I
shall be all the conversation of the capital." He then dictated to me
the following proclamation, which proves, no less than some of his
reports from Egypt, how much Bonaparte excelled in the art of twisting
the truth to own advantage:
TO THE PEOPLE.
19th Brumaire, 11 o'clock, p.m.
Frenchmen!--On my return to France I found division reigning amongst
all the authorities. They agreed only on this single point, that
the Constitution was half destroyed, and was unable to protect
Each party in turn came to me, confided to me their designs,
imparted their secrets, and requested my support. I refused to be
the man of a party.
The Council of the Ancients appealed to me. I answered their
appeal. A plan of general restoration had been concerted by men
whom the nation has been accustomed to regard as the defenders of,
liberty, equality, and property. This plan required calm and free
deliberation, exempt from all influence and all fear. The Ancients,
therefore, resolved upon the removal of the legislative bodies to
St. Cloud. They placed at my disposal the force necessary to secure
their independence. I was bound, in duty to my fellow-citizens, to
the soldiers perishing in our armies, and to the national glory,
acquired at the cost of so much blood, to accept the command.
The Councils assembled at St. Cloud. Republican troops guaranteed
their safety from without, but assassins created terror within.
Many members of the Council of the Five Hundred, armed with
stilettoes and pistols, spread menaces of death around them.
The plans which ought to have been developed were withheld. The
majority of the Council was rendered inefficient; the boldest
orators were disconcerted, and the inutility of submitting any
salutary proposition was quite evident.
I proceeded, filled with indignation and grief, to the Council of
the Ancients. I besought them to carry their noble designs into
execution. I directed their attention to the evils of the nation,
which were their motives for conceiving those designs. They
concurred in giving me new proofs of their uniform goodwill, I
presented myself before the Council of the Five Hundred, alone,
unarmed, my head uncovered, just as the Ancients had received and
applauded me. My object was to restore to the majority the
expression of its will, and to secure to it its power.
The stilettoes which had menaced the deputies were instantly raised
against their deliverer. Twenty assassins rushed upon me and aimed
at my breast. The grenadiers of the legislative body, whom I had
left at the door of the hall, ran forward, and placed themselves
between me and the assassins. One of these brave grenadiers (Thome)
had his clothes pierced by a stiletto. They bore me off.
--[Thome merely had a small part of his coat torn by a deputy,
who took him by the collar. This constituted the whole of the
attempted assassinations of the 19th Brumaire.--Bourrienne]--
At the same moment cries of "Outlaw him!" were raised against the
defender of the law. It was the horrid cry of assassins against the
power destined to repress them.
They crowded round the President, uttering threats. With arms in
their hands they commanded him to declare "the outlawry." I was
informed of this. I ordered him to be rescued from their fury, and
six grenadiers of the legislative body brought him out. Immediately
afterwards some grenadiers of the legislative body charged into the
hall and cleared it.
The factions, intimidated, dispersed and fled. The majority, freed
from their assaults, returned freely and peaceably into the hall;
listened to the propositions made for the public safety,
deliberated, and drew up the salutary resolution which will become
the new and provisional law of the Republic.
Frenchmen, you doubtless recognise in this conduct the zeal of a
soldier of liberty, of a citizen devoted to the Republic.
Conservative, tutelary, and liberal ideas resumed their authority
upon the dispersion of the factions, who domineered in the Councils,
and who, in rendering themselves the most odious of men, did not
cease to be the most contemptible.
(Signed) BONAPARTE, General, etc.
The day had been passed in destroying a Government; it was necessary to
devote the night to framing a new one. Talleyrand, Raederer, and Sieyes
were at St. Cloud. The Council of the Ancients assembled, and Lucien set
himself about finding some members of the Five Hundred on whom he could
reckon. He succeeded in getting together only thirty; who, with their
President, represented the numerous assembly of which they formed part.
This ghost of representation was essential, for Bonaparte,
notwithstanding his violation of all law on the preceding day, wished to
make it appear that he was acting legally. The Council of the Ancients
had, however, already decided that a provisional executive commission
should be appointed, composed of three members, and was about to name the
members of the commission--a measure which should have originated with
the Five Hundred--when Lucien came to acquaint Bonaparte that his chamber
'introuvable' was assembled.
This chamber, which called itself the Council of the Five Hundred, though
that Council was now nothing but a Council of Thirty, hastily passed a
decree, the first article of which was as follows:
The Directory exists no longer; and the individuals hereafter named
are no longer members of the national representation, on account of
the excesses and illegal acts which they have constantly committed,
and more particularly the greatest part of them, in the sitting of
Then follow the names of sixty-one members expelled.
By other articles of the same decree the Council instituted a provisional
commission, similar to that which the Ancients had proposed to appoint,
resolved that the said commission should consist of three members, who
should assume the title of Consuls; and nominated as Consuls Sieyes,
Roger Ducos, and Bonaparte. The other provisions of the nocturnal decree
of St. Cloud had for their object merely the carrying into effect those
already described. This nocturnal sitting was very calm, and indeed it
would have been strange had it been otherwise, for no opposition could be
feared from the members of the Five Hundred, who were prepared to concur
with Lucien. All knew beforehand what they would have to do. Everything
was concluded by three o'clock in the morning; and the palace of St.
Cloud, which had been so agitated since the previous evening, resumed in
the morning its wonted stillness, and presented the appearance of a vast
All the hurrying about, the brief notes which I had to write to many
friends, and the conversations in which I was compelled to take part,
prevented me from dining before one o'clock in the morning. It was not
till then that Bonaparte, having gone to take the oath as Consul before
the Five Hundred, afforded me an opportunity of taking some refreshment
with Admires Bruix and some other officers.
At three o'clock in the morning I accompanied Bonaparte, in his carriage
to Paris. He was extremely fatigued after so many trials and fatigues.
A new future was opened before him. He was completely absorbed in
thought, and did not utter a single word during the journey. But when he
arrived at his house in the Rue de la Victoire, he had no sooner entered
his chamber and wished good morning to Josephine, who was in bed, and in
a state of the greatest anxiety on account of his absence, than he said
before her, "Bourrienne, I said many ridiculous things?"--"Not so very
bad, General"--"I like better to speak to soldiers than to lawyers.
Those fellows disconcerted me. I have not been used to public
assemblies; but that will come in time."
We then began, all three, to converse. Madame Bonaparte became calm, and
Bonaparte resumed his wonted confidence. The events of the day naturally
formed the subject of our conversation. Josephine, who was much attached
to the Gohier family, mentioned the name of that Director in a tone of
kindness. "What would you have, my dear?" said Bonaparte to her. "It
is not my fault. He is a respectable man, but a simpleton. He does not
understand me!--I ought, perhaps, to have him transported. He wrote
against me to the Council of the Ancients; but I have his letter, and
they know nothing about it. Poor man! he expected me to dinner
yesterday. And this man thinks himself a statesman!--Speak no more of
During our discourse the name of Bernadotte was also mentioned. "Have
you seen him, Bourrienne?" said Bonaparte to me.--"No, General"--
"Neither have I. I have not heard him spoken of. Would you imagine it?
I had intelligence to-day of many intrigues in which he is concerned.
Would you believe it? he wished nothing less than to be appointed my
colleague in authority. He talked of mounting his horse and marching
with the troops that might be placed under his command. He wished, he
said, to maintain the Constitution: nay, more; I am assured that he had
the audacity to add that, if it were necessary to outlaw me, the
Government might come to him and he would find soldiers capable of
carrying the decree into execution."--"All this, General, should give you
an idea how inflexible his principles are."--"Yes, I am well aware of it;
there is something in that: he is honest. But for his obstinacy, my
brothers would have brought him over. They are related to him. His
wife, who is Joseph's sister-in-law, has ascendency over him. As for me,
have I not, I ask you, made sufficient advances to him? You have
witnessed them. Moreau, who has a higher military reputation than he,
came over to me at once. However, I repent of having cajoled Bernadotte.
I am thinking of separating him from all his coteries without any one
being able to find fault with the proceeding. I cannot revenge myself in
any other manner. Joseph likes him. I should have everybody against me.
These family considerations are follies! Goodnight, Bourrienne.--By the
way, we will sleep in the Luxembourg to-morrow."
I then left the General, whom, henceforth, I will call the First Consul,
after having remained with him constantly during nearly twenty-four
hours, with the exception of the time when he was at the Council of the
Five Hundred. I retired to my lodging, in the Rue Martel, at five
o'clock in the morning.
It is certain that if Gohier had come to breakfast on the morning of the
18th Brumaire, according to Madame Bonaparte's invitation, he would have
been one of the members of the Government. But Gohier acted the part of
the stern republican. He placed himself, according to the common phrase
of the time, astride of the Constitution of the year III.; and as his
steed made a sad stumble, he fell with it.
It was a singular circumstance which prevented the two Directors Gohier
and Moulins from defending their beloved Constitution. It was from their
respect for the Constitution that they allowed it to perish, because they
would have been obliged to violate the article which did not allow less
than three Directors to deliberate together. Thus a king of Castile was
burned to death, because there did not happen to be in his apartment men
of such rank as etiquette would permit to touch the person of the
General approbation of the 18th Brumaire--Distress of the treasury--
M. Collot's generosity--Bonaparte's ingratitude--Gohier set at
Liberty--Constitution of the year VIII.--The Senate, Tribunate, and
Council of State--Notes required on the character of candidates--
Bonaparte's love of integrity and talent--Influence of habit over
him--His hatred of the Tribunate--Provisional concessions--The first
Consular Ministry--Mediocrity of La Place--Proscription lists--
Cambaceres report--M. Moreau de Worms--Character of Sieyes--
Bonaparte at the Luxembourg--Distribution of the day and visits--
Lebrun's opposition--Bonaparte's singing--His boyish tricks--
Assumption of the titles "Madame" and "Monseigneur"--The men of the
Revolution and the partisans of the Bourbons--Bonaparte's fears--
Confidential notes on candidates for office and the assemblies.
It cannot be denied that France hailed, almost with unanimous voice,
Bonaparte's accession to the Consulship as a blessing of Providence.
I do not speak now of the ulterior consequences of that event; I speak
only of the fact itself, and its first results, such as the repeal of the
law of hostages, and the compulsory loan of a hundred millions.
Doubtless the legality of the acts of the 18th Brumaire may be disputed;
but who will venture to say that the immediate result of that day ought
not to be regarded as a great blessing to France? Whoever denies this
can have no idea of the wretched state of every branch of the
administration at that deplorable epoch. A few persons blamed the 18th
Brumaire; but no one regretted the Directory, with the exception,
perhaps, of the five Directors themselves. But we will say no more of
the Directorial Government. What an administration! In what a state
were the finances of France! Would it be believed? on the second day of
the Consulate, when Bonaparte wished to send a courier to General
Championet, commander-in-chief of the army of Italy, the treasury had not
1200 francs disposable to give to the courier!
It may be supposed that in the first moments of a new Government money
would be wanted. M. Collot, who had served under Bonaparte in Italy, and
whose conduct and administration deserved nothing but praise, was one of
the first who came to the Consul's assistance. In this instance
M. Collot was as zealous as disinterested. He gave the Consul 500,000
francs in gold, for which service he was badly rewarded. Bonaparte
afterwards behaved to M. Collot as though he was anxious to punish him
for being rich. This sum, which at the time made so fine an appearance
in the Consular treasury, was not repaid for a long time after, and then
without interest. This was not, indeed, the only instance in which
M. Collot had cause to complain of Bonaparte, who was never inclined to
acknowledge his important services, nor even to render justice to his
On the morning of the 20th Brumaire Bonaparte sent his brother Louis to
inform the Director Gohier that he was free. This haste in relieving
Gohier was not without a reason, for Bonaparte was anxious to install
himself in the Luxembourg, and we went there that same evening.
Everything was to be created. Bonaparte had with him almost the whole of
the army, and on the soldiers he could rely. But the military force was
no longer sufficient for him. Wishing to possess a great civil power
established by legal forms, he immediately set about the composition of a
Senate and Tribunate; a Council of State and a new legislative body, and,
finally, a new Constitution.
--[The Constitution of the year VIII. was presented an the 18th of
December 1799 (22d Frimaire, year VIII.), and accepted by the people
on the 7th of February 1800 (18th Pluviose, year VIII.). It
established a Consular Government, composed of Bonaparte, First
Consul, appointed for ten years; Cambaceres, Second Consol, also for
ten Years; and Lebrun, Third Consul appointed for five years. It
established a conservative Senate, a legislative body of 800
members, and a Tribunate composed of 100 members. The establishment
of the Council of State took place on the 29th of December 1799.
The installation of the new legislative body and the Tribunate was
fixed for the 1st of January 1800.--Bourrienne. Lanfrey (tome i.
p. 329) sees this Constitution foreshadowed in that proposed by
Napoleon in 1797 for the Cisalpine Republic.]--
As Bonaparte had not time to make himself acquainted with the persons by
whom he was about to be surrounded; he requested from the most
distinguished men of the period, well acquainted with France and the
Revolution, notes respecting the individuals worthy and capable of
entering the Senate, the Tribunate, and the Council of State. From the
manner in which all these notes were drawn up it was evident that the
writers of them studied to make their recommendation correspond with what
they conceived to be Bonaparte's views, and that they imagined he
participated in the opinions which were at that time popular.
Accordingly they stated, as grounds for preferring particular candidates,
their patriotism, their republicanism, and their having had seats in
Of all qualities, that which most influenced the choice of the First
Consul was inflexible integrity; and it is but just to say that in this
particular he was rarely deceived. He sought earnestly for talent; and
although he did not like the men of the Revolution, he was convinced that
he could not do without them. He had conceived an extreme aversion for
mediocrity, and generally rejected a man of that character when
recommended to him; but if he had known such a man long, he yielded to
the influence of habit, dreading nothing so much as change, or, as he was
accustomed to say himself, new faces.'
--[Napoleon loved only men with strong passions and great weakness;
he judged the most opposite qualities in men by these defects
(Metternich, tome iii. p.589)]--
Bonaparte then proceeded to organise a complaisant Senate, a mute
legislative body, and a Tribunals which was to have the semblance of
being independent, by the aid of some fine speeches and high-sounding
phrases. He easily appointed the Senators, but it was different with the
Tribunats. He hesitated long before he fixed upon the candidates for
that body, which inspired him with an anticipatory fear. However, on
arriving at power he dared not oppose himself to the exigencies of the
moment, and he consented for a time to delude the ambitious dupes who
kept up a buzz of fine sentiments of liberty around him. He saw that
circumstances were not yet favourable for refusing a share in the
Constitution to this third portion of power, destined apparently to
advocate the interests of the people before the legislative body. But in
yielding to necessity, the mere idea of the Tribunate filled him with the
utmost uneasiness; and, in a word, Bonaparte could not endure the public
discussions on his projects.'
--[The Tribunate under this Constitution of the year VIII. was the
only body allowed to debate in public on proposed laws, the
legislative body simply hearing in silence the orators sent by the
Council of State and by the Tribunals to state reasons for or
against propositions, and then voting in silence. Its orators were
constantly giving umbrage to Napoleon. It was at first Purified,
early in 1802, by the Senate naming the members to go out in
rotation then reduced to from 100 to 50 members later in 1802, and
suppressed in 1807; its disappearance being regarded by Napoleon as
his last break with the Revolution.]--
Bonaparte composed the first Consular Ministry as follows: Berthier was
Minister of War; Gaudin, formerly employed in the administration of the
Post Office, was appointed Minister of Finance; Cambaceres remained
Minister of Justice; Forfait was Minister of Marine; La Place of the
Interior; Fouche of Police; and Reinhard of Foreign Affairs.
Reinhard and La Place were soon replaced, the former by the able M.
Talleyrand, the latter by Lucien Bonaparte.
--[When I quitted the service of the First Consul Talleyrand was
still at the head of the Foreign Department. I have frequently been
present at this great statesman's conferences with Napoleon, and I
can declare that I never saw him flatter his dreams of ambition;
but, on the contrary, he always endeavoured to make him sensible of
his true interests.--Bourrienne.]--
It maybe said that Lucien merely passed through the Ministry on his way
to a lucrative embassy in Spain. As to La Place, Bonaparte always
entertained a high opinion of his talents. His appointment to the
Ministry of the Interior was a compliment paid to science; but it was not
long before the First Consul repented of his choice. La Place, so
happily calculated for science, displayed the most inconceivable
mediocrity in administration. He was incompetent to the most trifling
matters; as if his mind, formed to embrace the system of the world, and
to interpret the laws of Newton and Kepler, could not descend to the
level of subjects of detail, or apply itself to the duties of the
department with which he was entrusted for a short, but yet, with regard
to him, too long a time.
On the 26th Brumaire (17th November 1799) the Consuls issued a decree,
in which they stated that, conformably with Article III. of the law of
the 19th of the same month, which especially charged them with the
reestablishment of public tranquillity, they decreed that thirty-eight
individuals, who were named, should quit the continental territory of the
Republic, and for that purpose should proceed to Rochefort, to be
afterwards conducted to, and detained in, the department of French
Guiana. They likewise decreed that twenty-three other individuals, who
were named, should proceed to the commune of Rochelle, in the department
of the lower Charente, in order to be afterwards filed and detained in
such part of that department as should be pointed out by the Minister of
General Police. I was fortunate enough to keep my friend M. Moreau de
Worms, deputy from the Youne, out of the fiat of exiles. This produced a
mischievous effect. It bore a character of wanton severity quite
inconsistent with the assurances of mildness and moderation given at St.
Cloud on the 19th Brumaire. Cambaceres afterwards made a report, in
which he represented that it was unnecessary for the maintenance of
tranquillity to subject the proscribed to banishment, considering it
sufficient to place them under the supervision of the superior police.
Upon receiving the report the Consuls issued a decree, in which they
directed all the individuals included in the proscription to retire
respectively into the different communes which should be fixed upon by
the Minister of Justice, and to remain there until further orders.
At the period of the issuing of these decrees Sieyes was still one of the
Consuls; conjointly with Bonaparte and Roger Ducos; and although
Bonaparte had, from the first moment, possessed the whole power of the
government, a sort of apparent equality was, nevertheless, observed
amongst them. It was not until the 25th of December that Bonaparte
assumed the title of First Consul, Cambaceres and Lebrun being then
joined in the office with him. He had fixed his eyes on them previously
to the 18th Brumaire, and he had no cause to reproach them with giving
him much embarrassment in his rapid progress towards the imperial throne.
I have stated that I was so fortunate as to rescue M. Moreau de Worms
from the list of proscription. Some days after Sieyes entered
Bonaparte's cabinet and said to him, "Well, this M. Moreau de Worms, whom
M. Bourrienne induced you to save from banishment, is acting very finely!
I told you how it would be! I have received from Sens, his native place,
a letter which informs me that Moreau is in that town, where he has
assembled the people in the market-place, and indulged in the most
violent declamations against the 18th Brumaire,"--"Can you, rely upon
your agent" asked Bonaparte.--"Perfectly. I can answer for the truth of
his communication." Bonaparte showed me the bulletin of Sieyes' agent,
and reproached me bitterly. "What would you say, General," I observed,
"if I should present this same M. Moreau de Worms, who is declaiming at
Sens against the 18th Brumaire, to you within an hour?"--"I defy you to
do it."--"I have made myself responsible for him, and I know what I am
about. He is violent in his politics; but he is a man of honour,
incapable of failing in his word."--" Well, we shall see. Go and find
him." I was very sure of doing what I had promised, for within an hour
before I had seen M. Moreau de Worms. He had been concealed since the
13th Brumaire, and had not quitted Paris. Nothing was easier than to
find him, and in three-quarters of an hour he was at the Luxembourg. I
presented him to Bonaparte, who conversed with him a long time concerning
the 18th Brumaire. When M. Moreau departed Bonaparte said to me, "You
are right. That fool Sieyes is as inventive as a Cassandra. This proves
that one should not be too ready to believe the reports of the wretches
whom we are obliged to employ in the police." Afterwards he added,
"Bourrienne, Moreau is a nice fellow: I am satisfied with him; I will do
something for him." It was not long before M. Moreau experienced the
effect of the Consul's good opinion. Some days after, whilst framing the
council of prizes, he, at my mere suggestion, appointed M. Moreau one of
the members, with a salary of 10,000 francs. On what extraordinary
circumstances the fortunes of men frequently depend! As to Sieyes, in
the intercourse, not very frequent certainly, which I had with him, he
appeared to be far beneath the reputation which he then--enjoyed.'
--[M. de Talleyrand, who is so capable of estimating men, and whose
admirable sayings well deserve to occupy a place in history, had
long entertained a similar opinion of Sieyes. One day, when he was
conversing with the Second Consul concerning Sieyes, Cambaceres said
to him. "Sieyes, however, is a very profound man."--"Profound?"
said Talleyrand. "Yes, he is, a cavity, a perfect cavity, as you
He reposed a blind confidence in a multitude of agents, whom he sent into
all parts of France. When it happened, on other occasions, that I proved
to him, by evidence as sufficient as that in the case of M. Moreau, the
falseness of the reports he had received, he replied, with a confidence
truly ridiculous, "I can rely on my men." Sieyes had written in his
countenance, "Give me money!" I recollect that I one day alluded to this
expression in the anxious face of Sieyes to the First Consul. "You are
right," observed he to me, smiling; "when money is in question, Sieyes is
quite a matter-of-fact man. He sends his ideology to the right about and
thus becomes easily manageable. He readily abandons his constitutional
dreams for a good round sum, and that is very convenient."
--[Everybody knows, in fact, that Sieyes refused to resign his
consular dignities unless he received in exchange a beautiful farm
situated in the park of Versailles, and worth about 15,000 livres a
year. The good abbe consoled himself for no longer forming a third
of the republican sovereignty by making himself at home in the
ancient domain of the kings of France.--Bourrienne.]--
Bonaparte occupied, at the Little Luxembourg, the apartments on the
ground floor which lie to the right on entering from the Rue de
Vaugirard. His cabinet was close to a private staircase, which conducted
me to the first floor, where Josephine dwelt. My apartment was above.
After breakfast, which was served at ten o'clock, Bonaparte would
converse for a few moments with his usual guests, that is to say, his
'aides de camp', the persons he invited, and myself, who never left him.
He was also visited very often by Deferment, Regnault (of the town of St.
Jean d'Angely), Boulay (de la Meurthe), Monge, and Berber, who were, with
his brothers, Joseph and Lucien, those whom he most delighted to see; he
conversed familiarly with them. Cambaceres generally came at mid-day,
and stayed some time with him, often a whole hour. Lebrun visited but
seldom. Notwithstanding his elevation, his character remained unaltered;
and Bonaparte considered him too moderate, because he always opposed his
ambitious views and his plans to usurp power. When Bonaparte left the
breakfast-table it was seldom that he did not add, after bidding
Josephine and her daughter Hortense good-day, "Come, Bourrienne, come,
let us to work."
After the morning audiences I stayed with Bonaparte all the day, either
reading to him, or writing to his dictation. Three or four times in the
week he would go to the Council. On his way to the hall of deliberation
he was obliged to cross the courtyard of the Little Luxembourg and ascend
the grand staircase. This always vexed him, and the more so as the
weather was very bad at the time. This annoyance continued until the
25th of December, and it was with much satisfaction that he saw himself
quit of it. After leaving the Council he used to enter his cabinet
singing, and God knows how wretchedly he sung! He examined whatever work
he had ordered to be done, signed documents, stretched himself in his
arm-chair, and read the letters of the preceding day and the publications
of the morning. When there was no Council he remained in his cabinet,
conversed with me, always sang, and cut, according to custom, the arm of
his chair, giving himself sometimes quite the air of a great boy. Then,
all at once starting up, he would describe a plan for the erection of a
monument, or dictate some of those extraordinary productions which
astonished and dismayed the world. He often became again the same man,
who, under the walls of St. Jean d'Acre, had dreamed of an empire worthy
At five o'clock dinner was served up. When that was over the First
Consul went upstairs to Josephine's apartments, where he commonly
received the visits of the Ministers. He was always pleased to see among
the number the Minister of Foreign Affairs, especially since the
portfolio of that department had been entrusted to the hands of M. de
Talleyrand. At midnight, and often sooner, he gave the signal for
retiring by saying in a hasty manner, "Allons nous coucher."
It was at the Luxembourg, in the salons of which the adorable Josephine
so well performed the honours, that the word 'Madame' came again into
use. This first return towards the old French politeness was startling
to some susceptible Republicans; but things were soon carried farther at
the Tuileries by the introduction of 'Votre Altesse' on occasions of
state ceremony, and Monseigneur in the family circle.
If, on the one hand, Bonaparte did not like the men of the Revolution, on
the other he dreaded still more the partisans of the Bourbons. On the
mere mention of the name of those princes he experienced a kind of inward
alarm; and he often spoke of the necessity of raising a wall of brass
between France and them. To this feeling, no doubt, must be attributed
certain nominations, and the spirit of some recommendations contained in
the notes with which he was supplied on the characters of candidates, and
which for ready reference were arranged alphabetically. Some of the
notes just mentioned were in the handwriting of Regnault de St. Jean
d'Angely, and some in Lucien Bonaparte's.
--[Among them was the following, under the title of "General
Observations": "In choosing among the men who were members of the
Constituent Assembly it is necessary to be on guard against the
Orleans' party, which is not altogether a chimera, and may one day
or other prove dangerous.
"There is no doubt that the partisans of that family are intriguing
secretly; and among many other proofs of this fact the following is
a striking one: the journal called the 'Aristargue', which
undisguisedly supports royalism, is conducted by a man of the name
of Voidel, one of the hottest patriots of the Revolution. He was
for several months president of the committee of inquiry which
caused the Marquis de Favras to be arrested and hanged, and gave so
much uneasiness to the Court. There was no one in the Constituent
Assembly more hateful to the Court than Voidel, so much on account
of his violence as for his connection with the Duke of Orleans,
whose advocate and counsel he was. When the Duke of Orleans was
arrested, Voidel, braving the fury of the revolutionary tribunals,
had the courage to defend him, and placarded all the walls of Paris
with an apology for the Duke and his two sons. This man, writing
now in favour of royalism, can have no other object than to advance
a member of the Orleans family to the throne."--Bourrienne.]--
At the commencement of the First Consul's administration, though he
always consulted the notes he had collected, he yet received with
attention the recommendations of persons with whom he was well
acquainted; but it was not safe for them to recommend a rogue or a fool.
The men whom he most disliked were those whom he called babblers, who are
continually prating of everything and on everything. He often said,--
"I want more head and less tongue." What he thought of the regicides will
be seen farther on, but at first the more a man had given a gage to the
Revolution, the more he considered him as offering a guarantee against
the return of the former order of things. Besides, Bonaparte was not the
man to attend to any consideration when once his policy was concerned.
As I have said a few pages back, on taking the government into his own
hands Bonaparte knew so little of the Revolution and of the men engaged
in civil employments that it was indispensably necessary for him to
collect information from every quarter respecting men and things. But
when the conflicting passions of the moment became more calm and the
spirit of party more prudent, and when order had been, by his severe
investigations, introduced where hitherto unbridled confusion had
reigned, he became gradually more scrupulous in granting places, whether
arising from newly-created offices, or from those changes which the
different departments often experienced. He then said to me,
"Bourrienne, I give up your department to you. Name whom you please for
the appointments; but remember you must be responsible to me."
What a list would have been which should contain the names of all the
prefects, sub-prefects, receivers-general, and other civil officers to
whom I gave places! I have kept no memoranda of their names; and indeed,
what advantage would there have been in doing so? It was impossible for
me to have a personal knowledge of all the fortunate candidates; but I
relied on recommendations in which I had confidence.
I have little to complain of in those I obliged; though it is true that,
since my separation from Bonaparte, I have seen many of them take the
opposite side of the street in which I was walking, and by that delicate
attention save me the trouble of raising my hat.
MEMOIRS OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE, VOLUME 4.
By LOUIS ANTOINE FAUVELET DE BOURRIENNE
His Private Secretary
Edited by R. W. Phipps
Colonel, Late Royal Artillery
Chapter XXVII. to Chapter XXXV.
Difficulties of a new Government--State of Europe--Bonaparte's wish
for peace--M. de Talleyrand Minister for Foreign Affairs--
Negotiations with England and Austria--Their failure--Bonaparte's
views on the East--His sacrifices to policy--General Bonaparte
denounced to the First Consul--Kleber's letter to the Directory--
Accounts of the Egyptian expedition published in the Moniteur--
Proclamation to the army of the East--Favour and disgrace of certain
individuals accounted for.
When a new Government rises on the ruins of one that has been overthrown,
its best chance of conciliating the favour of the nation, if that nation
be at war, is to hold out the prospect of peace; for peace is always dear
to a people. Bonaparte was well aware of this; and if in his heart he
wished otherwise, he knew how important it was to seem to desire peace.
Accordingly, immediately after his installation at the Luxembourg he
notified to all the foreign powers his accession to the Consulate, and,
for the same purpose, addressed letters to all the diplomatic agents of
the French Government abroad.
The day after he got rid of his first two colleagues, Sieyes and Roger
Ducos, he prepared to open negotiations with the Cabinet of London. At
that time we were at war with almost the whole of Europe. We had also
lost Italy. The Emperor of Germany was ruled by his Ministers, who in
their turn were governed by England. It was no easy matter to manage
equally the organization of the Consular Government and the no less
important affairs abroad; and it was very important to the interests
of the First Consul to intimate to foreign powers, while at the same time
he assured himself against the return of the Bourbons, that the system
which he proposed to adopt was a system of order and regeneration, unlike
either the demagogic violence of the Convention or the imbecile artifice
of the Directory. In fulfilment of this object Bonaparte directed M. de
Talleyrand, the new Minister for Foreign Affairs, to make the first
friendly overtures to the English Cabinet: A correspondence ensued, which
was published at the time, and which showed at once the conciliatory
policy of Bonaparte and the arrogant policy of England.
The exchange of notes which took place was attended by no immediate
result. However, the First Consul had partly attained his object: if the
British Government would not enter into negotiations for peace, there was
at least reason to presume that subsequent overtures of the Consular
Government might be listened to. The correspondence had at all events
afforded Bonaparte the opportunity of declaring his principles, and above
all, it had enabled him to ascertain that the return of the Bourbons to
France (mentioned in the official reply of Lord Grenville) would not be a
sine qua non condition for the restoration of peace between the two
Since M. de Talleyrand had been Minister for Foreign Affairs the business
of that department had proceeded with great activity. It was an
important advantage to Bonaparte to find a nobleman of the old regime
among the republicans. The choice of M. de Talleyrand was in some sort
an act of courtesy to the foreign Courts. It was a delicate attention to
the diplomacy of Europe to introduce to its members, for the purpose of
treating with them, a man whose rank was at least equal to their own, and
who was universally distinguished for a polished elegance of manner
combined with solid good qualities and real talents.
It was not only with England that Bonaparte and his Minister endeavoured
to open negotiations; the Consular Cabinet also offered peace to the
House of Austria; but not at the same time. The object of this offer was
to sow discord between the two powers. Speaking to me one day of his
earnest wish to obtain peace Bonaparte said, "You see, Bourrienne, I have
two great enemies to cope with. I will conclude peace with the one I
find most easy to deal with. That will enable me immediately to assail
the other. I frankly confess that I should like best to be at peace with
England. Nothing would then be more easy than to crush Austria. She has
no money except what she gets through England."
For a long time all negotiations proved abortive. None of the European
powers would acknowledge the new Government, of which Bonaparte was the
head; and the battle of Marengo was required before the peace of Amiens
could be obtained.
Though the affairs of the new Government afforded abundant occupation to
Bonaparte, he yet found leisure to direct attention to the East--to that
land of despotism whence, judging from his subsequent conduct, it might
be presumed he derived his first principles of government. On becoming
the head of the State he wished to turn Egypt, which he had conquered as
a general, to the advantage of his policy as Consul. If Bonaparte
triumphed over a feeling of dislike in consigning the command of the army
to Kleber, it was because he knew Kleber to be more capable than any
other of executing the plans he had formed; and Bonaparte was not the man
to sacrifice the interests of policy to personal resentment. It is
certainly true that he then put into practice that charming phrase of
Moliere's--"I pardon you, but you shall pay me for this!"
With respect to all whom he had left in Egypt Bonaparte stood in a very
singular situation. On becoming Chief of the Government he was not only
the depositary of all communications made to the Directory; but letters
sent to one address were delivered to another, and the First Consul
received the complaints made against the General who had so abruptly
quitted Egypt. In almost all the letters that were delivered to us he
was the object of serious accusation. According to some he had not
avowed his departure until the very day of his embarkation; and he had
deceived everybody by means of false and dissembling proclamations.
Others canvassed his conduct while in Egypt: the army which had triumphed
under his command he had abandoned when reduced to two-thirds of its
original force and a prey to all the horrors of sickness and want: It
must be confessed that these complaints and accusations were but too well
founded, and one can never cease wondering at the chain of fortunate
circumstances which so rapidly raised Bonaparte to the Consular seat.
In the natural order of things, and in fulfilment of the design which he
himself had formed, he should have disembarked at Toulon, where the
quarantine laws would no doubt have been observed; instead of which, the
fear of the English and the uncertainty of the pilots caused him to go to
Frejus, where the quarantine laws were violated by the very persons most
interested in respecting them. Let us suppose that Bonaparte had been
forced to perform quarantine at Toulon. What would have ensued? The
charges against him would have fallen into the hands of the Directory,
and he would probably have been suspended, and put upon his trial.
Among the letters which fell into Bonaparte's hands, by reason of the
abrupt change of government, was an official despatch (of the 4th
Vendemiaire, year VIII.) from General Kleber at Cairo to the Executive
Directory, in which that general spoke in very stringent terms of the
sudden departure of Bonaparte and of the state in which the army in Egypt
had been left. General Kleber further accused him of having evaded, by
his flight, the difficulties which he thus transferred to his successor's
shoulders, and also of leaving the army "without a sou in the chest,"
with pay in arrear, and very little supply of munitions or clothing.
The other letters from Egypt were not less accusatory than Kleber's; and
it cannot be doubted that charges of so precise a nature, brought by the
general who had now become commander-in-chief against his predecessor,
would have had great weight, especially backed as they were by similar
complaints from other quarters. A trial would have been inevitable; and
then, no 18th Brumaire, no Consulate, no Empire, no conquest of Europe-
but also, it may be added, no St. Helena. None of these, events would
have ensued had not the English squadron, when it appeared off Corsica,
obliged the Huiron to scud about at hazard, and to touch at the first
land she could reach.
The Egyptian expedition filled too important a place in the life of
Bonaparte for him to neglect frequently reviving in the public mind the
recollection of his conquests in the East. It was not to be forgotten
that the head of the Republic was the first of her generals. While
Moreau received the command of the armies of the Rhine, while Massena, as
a reward for the victory of Zurich, was made Commander-in-Chief in Italy,
and while Brune was at the head of the army of Batavia, Bonaparte, whose
soul was in the camps, consoled himself for his temporary inactivity by a
retrospective glance on his past triumphs. He was unwilling that Fame
should for a moment cease to blazon his name. Accordingly, as soon as he
was established at the head of the Government, he caused accounts of his
Egyptian expedition to be from time to time published in the Moniteur.
He frequently expressed his satisfaction that the accusatory
correspondence, and, above all, Kleber's letter, had fallen into his own
hands.' Such was Bonaparte's perfect self-command that immediately after
perusing that letter he dictated to me the following proclamation,
addressed to the army of the East:
SOLDIERS!--The Consuls of the French Republic frequently direct
their attention to the army of the East.
France acknowledges all the influence of your conquests on the
restoration of her trade and the civilisation of the world.
The eyes of all Europe are upon you, and in thought I am often with
In whatever situation the chances of war may place you, prove
yourselves still the soldiers of Rivoli and Aboukir--you will be
Place in Kleber the boundless confidence which you reposed in me.
He deserves it.
Soldiers, think of the day when you will return victorious to the
sacred territory of France. That will be a glorious day for the
Nothing can more forcibly show the character of Bonaparte than the above
allusion to Kleber, after he had seen the way in which Kleber spoke of
him to the Directory. Could it ever have been imagined that the
correspondence of the army, to whom he addressed this proclamation,
teemed with accusations against him? Though the majority of these
accusations were strictly just, yet it is but fair to state that the
letters from Egypt contained some calumnies. In answer to the well-
founded portion of the charges Bonaparte said little; but he seemed to
feel deeply the falsehoods that were stated against him, one of which
was, that he had carried away millions from Egypt. I cannot conceive
what could have given rise to this false and impudent assertion. So far
from having touched the army chest, Bonaparte had not even received all
his own pay. Before he constituted himself the Government the Government
was his debtor.
Though he knew well all that was to be expected from the Egyptian
expedition, yet those who lauded that affair were regarded with a
favourable eye by Bonaparte. The correspondence which had fallen into
his hands was to him of the highest importance in enabling him to
ascertain the opinions which particular individuals entertained of him.
It was the source of favours and disgraces which those who were not in
the secret could not account for. It serves to explain why many men of
mediocrity were elevated to the highest dignities and honours, while
other men of real merit fell into disgrace or were utterly neglected.
Great and common men--Portrait of Bonaparte--The varied expression
of his countenance--His convulsive shrug--Presentiment of his
corpulency--Partiality for bathing--His temperance--His alleged
capability of dispensing with sleep--Good and bad news--Shaving, and
reading the journals--Morning, business--Breakfast--Coffee and snuff
--Bonaparte's idea of his own situation--His ill opinion of mankind
--His dislike of a 'tete-a-tete'--His hatred of the Revolutionists
--Ladies in white--Anecdotes--Bonaparte's tokens of kindness, and
his droll compliments--His fits of ill humour--Sound of bells--
Gardens of Malmaison--His opinion of medicine--His memory--
His poetic insensibility--His want of gallantry--Cards and
conversation--The dress-coat and black cravat--Bonaparte's payments
--His religious ideas--His obstinacy.
In perusing the history of the distinguished characters of past ages, how
often do we regret that the historian should have portrayed the hero
rather than the man! We wish to know even the most trivial habits of
those whom great, talents and vast reputation have elevated above their
fellow-creatures. Is this the effect of mere curiosity, or rather is it
not an involuntary feeling of vanity which prompts us to console
ourselves for the superiority of great men by reflecting on their faults,
their weaknesses, their absurdities; in short, all the points of
resemblance between them and common men? For the satisfaction of those
who are curious in details of this sort, I will here endeavour to paint
Bonaparte, as I saw him, in person and in mind, to describe what were his
tastes and habits, and even his whims and caprices.
Bonaparte was now in the prime of life, and about thirty. The person of
Bonaparte has served as a model for the most skilful painters and
sculptors; many able French artists have successfully delineated his
features, and yet it may be said that no perfectly faithful portrait of
him exists. His finely-shaped head, his superb forehead, his pale
countenance, and his usual meditative look, have been transferred to the
canvas; but the versatility of his expression was beyond the reach of
imitation: All the various workings of his mind were instantaneously
depicted in his countenance; and his glance changed from mild to severe,
and from angry to good-humoured, almost with the rapidity of lightning.
It may truly be said that he had a particular look for every thought that
arose in his mind.
Bonaparte had beautiful hands, and he was very proud of them; while
conversing he would often look at them with an air of self-complacency.
He also fancied he had fine teeth, but his pretension to that advantage
was not so well founded as his vanity on the score of his hands.
When walking, either alone or in company with any one, in his apartments
or in his gardens, he had the habit of stooping a little, and crossing
his hands behind his back. He frequently gave an involuntary shrug of
his right shoulder, which was accompanied by a movement of his mouth from
left to right. This habit was always most remarkable when his mind was
absorbed in the consideration of any profound subject. It was often
while walking that he dictated to me his most important notes. He could
endure great fatigue, not only on horseback but on foot; he would
sometimes walk for five or six hours in succession without being aware of
When walking with any person whom he treated with familiarity he would
link his arm into that of his companion, and lean on it.
He used often to say to me, "You see, Bourrienne, how temperate, and how
thin I am; but, in spite of that, I cannot help thinking that at forty I
shall become a great eater, and get very fat. I foresee that my
constitution will undergo a change. I take a great deal of exercise; but
yet I feel assured that my presentiment will be fulfilled." This idea
gave him great uneasiness, and as I observed nothing which seemed to
warrant his apprehensions, I omitted no opportunity of assuring him that
they were groundless. But he would not listen to me, and all the time I
was about him, he was haunted by this presentiment, which, in the end,
was but too well verified.
His partiality for the bath he mistook for a necessity. He would usually
remain in the bath two hours, during which time I used to read to him
extracts from the journals and pamphlets of the day, for he was anxious
to hear and know all that was going on. While in the bath he was
continually turning on the warm water to raise the temperature, so that I
was sometimes enveloped in such a dense vapour that I could not see to
read, and was obliged to open the door.
Bonaparte was exceedingly temperate, and averse to all excess. He knew
the absurd stories that were circulated about him, and he was sometimes
vexed at theme It has been repeated, over and over again, that he was
subject to attacks of epilepsy; but during the eleven years that I was
almost constantly with him I never observed any symptom which in the
least degree denoted that malady. His health was good and his
constitution sound. If his enemies, by way of reproach, have attributed
to him a serious periodical disease, his flatterers, probably under the
idea that sleep is incompatible with greatness, have evinced an equal
disregard of truth in speaking of his night-watching. Bonaparte made
others watch, but he himself slept, and slept well. His orders were that
I should call him every morning at seven. I was therefore the first to
enter his chamber; but very frequently when I awoke him he would turn
himself, and say, "Ah, Bourrienne! let me lie a little longer." When
there was no very pressing business I did not disturb him again till
eight o'clock. He in general slept seven hours out of the twenty-four,
besides taking a short nap in the afternoon.
Among the private instructions which Bonaparte gave me, one was very
curious. "During the night," said he, "enter my chamber as seldom as
possible. Do not awake me when you have any good news to communicate:
with that there is no hurry. But when you bring bad news, rouse me
instantly; for then there is not a moment to be lost."
This was a wise regulation, and Bonaparte found his advantage in it.
As soon as he rose his 'valet de chambre' shaved him and dressed his
hair. While he was being shaved I read to him the newspapers, beginning
always with the 'Moniteur.' He paid little attention to any but the
German and English papers. "Pass over all that," he would say, while I
was perusing the French papers; "I know it already. They say only what
they think will please me." I was often surprised that his valet did not
cut him while I was reading; for whenever ha heard anything interesting
he turned quickly round towards me.
When Bonaparte had finished: his toilet, which he did with great
attention, for he was scrupulously neat in his person, we went down to
his cabinet. There he signed the orders on important petitions which had
been analysed by me on the preceding evening. On reception and parade
days he was particularly exact in signing these orders, because I used to
remind him that he would be, likely to see most of the petitioners, and
that they would ask him for answers. To spare him this annoyance I used
often to acquaint them beforehand of what had been granted or refused,
and what had been the decision of the First Consul. He next perused the
letters which I had opened and laid on his table, ranging them according
to their importance. He directed me to answer them in his name; he
occasionally wrote the answers himself, but not often.
At ten o'clock the 'maitre d'hotel' entered, and announced breakfast,
saying, "The General is served." We went to breakfast, and the repast
was exceedingly simple. He ate almost every morning some chicken,
dressed with oil and onions. This dish was then, I believe, called
'poulet a la Provencale'; but our restaurateurs have since conferred upon
it the more ambitious name of 'poulet a la Marengo.'
Bonaparte drank little wine, always either claret or Burgundy, and the
latter by preference. After breakfast, as well as after dinner, he took
a cup of strong coffee.
--[M. Brillat de Savarin, whose memory is dear to all gourmands, had
established, as a gastronomic principle, that "he who does not take
coffee after each meal is assuredly not a men of taste."--
I never saw him take any between his meals, and I cannot imagine what
could have given rise to the assertion of his being particularly fond of
coffee. When he worked late at night he never ordered coffee, but
chocolate, of which he made me take a cup with him. But this only
happened when our business was prolonged till two or three in the
All that has been said about Bonaparte's immoderate use of snuff has no
more foundation in truth than his pretended partiality for coffee. It is
true that at an early period of his life he began to take snuff, but it
was very sparingly, and always out of a box; and if he bore any
resemblance to Frederick the Great, it was not by filling his waistcoat-
pockets with snuff, for I must again observe he carried his notions of
personal neatness to a fastidious degree.
Bonaparte had two ruling passions, glory and war. He was never more gay
than in the camp, and never more morose than in the inactivity of peace.
Plans for the construction of public monuments also pleased his
imagination, and filled up the void caused by the want of active
occupation. He was aware that monuments form part of the history of
nations, of whose civilisation they bear evidence for ages after those
who created them have disappeared from the earth, and that they likewise
often bear false-witness to remote posterity of the reality of merely
fabulous conquests. Bonaparte was, however, mistaken as to the mode of
accomplishing the object he had in view. His ciphers, his trophies, and
subsequently his eagles, splendidly adorned the monuments of his reign.
But why did he wish to stamp false initials on things with which neither
he nor his reign had any connection; as, for example the old Louvre? Did
he imagine that the letter, "N" which everywhere obtruded itself on the
eye, had in it a charm to controvert the records of history, or alter the
course of time?
--[When Louis XVIII. returned to the Tuileries in 1814 he found that
Bonaparte had been an excellent tenant, and that he had left
everything in very good condition.]--
Be this as it may, Bonaparte well knew that the fine arts entail lasting
glory on great actions, and consecrate the memory of princes who protect
and encourage them. He oftener than once said to me, "A great reputation
is a great poise; the more there is made, the farther off it is heard.
Laws, institutions, monuments, nations, all fall; but the noise continues
and resounds in after ages." This was one of his favourite ideas. "My
power," he would say at other times, "depends on my glory, and my glory
on my victories. My power would fall were I not to support it by new
glory and new victories. Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest
alone can maintain me." This was then, and probably always continued to
be, his predominant idea, and that which prompted him continually to
scatter the seeds of war through Europe. He thought that if he remained
stationary ha would fall, and he was tormented with the desire of
continually advancing. Not to do something great and decided was, in his
opinion, to do nothing. "A newly-born Government," said he to me, "must
dazzle and astonish. When it ceases to do that it falls." It was vain
to look for rest from a man who was restlessness itself.
His sentiments towards France now differed widely from what I had known
them to be in his youth. He long indignantly cherished the recollection
of the conquest of Corsica, which he was once content to regard as his
country. But that recollection was effaced, and it might be said that he
now ardently loved France. His imagination was fired by the very thought
of seeing her great, happy, and powerful, and, as the first nation in the
world, dictating laws to the rest. He fancied his name inseparably
connected with France, and resounding in, the ears of posterity. In all
his actions he lost sight of the present moment, and thought only of
futurity; so, in all places where he led the way to glory, the opinion of
France was ever present in his thoughts. As Alexander at Arbela pleased
himself less in having conquered Darius than in having gained the
suffrage of the Athenians, so Bonaparte at Marengo was haunted by the
idea of what would be said in France. Before he fought a battle
Bonaparte thought little about what he should do in case of success, but
a great deal about what he should do in case of a reverse of fortune.
I mention this as a fact of which I have often been a witness, and leave
to his brothers in arms to decide whether his calculations were always
correct. He had it in his power to do much, for he risked everything and
spared nothing. His inordinate ambition goaded him on to the attainment
of power; and power when possessed served only to augment his ambition.
Bonaparte was thoroughly convinced of the truth that trifles often decide
the greatest events; therefore he watched rather than provoked
opportunity, and when the right moment approached, he suddenly took
advantage of it. It is curious that, amidst all the anxieties of war and
government, the fear of the Bourbons incessantly pursued him, and the
Faubourg St. Germain was to him always a threatening phantom.
He did not esteem mankind, whom, indeed, he despised more and more in
proportion as he became acquainted with them. In him this unfavourable
opinion of human nature was justified by many glaring examples of
baseness, and he used frequently to repeat, "There are two levers for
moving men,--interest and fear." What respect, indeed, could Bonaparte
entertain for the applicants to the treasury of the opera? Into this
treasury the gaming-houses paid a considerable sum, part of which went to
cover the expenses of that magnificent theatre. The rest was distributed
in secret gratuities, which were paid on orders signed by Duroc.
Individuals of very different characters were often seen catching the
little door in the Rue Rameau. The lady who was for a while the
favourite of the General-in-Chief in Egypt, and whose husband was
maliciously sent back-by the English, was a frequent visitor to the
treasury. On an occasion would be seen assembled there a distinguished
scholar and an actor, a celebrated orator and a musician; on another, the
treasurer would have payments to make to a priest, a courtesan, and a
One of Bonaparte's greatest misfortunes was, that he neither believed in
friendship not felt the necessity of loving. How often have I heard him
say, "Friendship is but a name; I love nobody. I do not even love my
brothers. Perhaps Joseph, a little, from habit and because he is my
elder; and Duroc, I love him too. But why? Because his character
pleases me. He is stern and resolute; and I really believe the fellow
never shed a tear. For my part, I know very well that I have no true
friends. As long as I continue what I am, I may have as many pretended
friends as I please. Leave sensibility to women; it is their business.
But men should be firm in heart and in purpose, or they should have
nothing to do with war or government."
In his social relations Bonaparte's temper was bad; but his fits of ill-
humour passed away like a cloud, and spent themselves in words. His
violent language and bitter imprecations were frequently premeditated.
When he was going to reprimand any one he liked to have a witness
present. He would then say the harshest things, and level blows against
which few could bear up. But he never gave way to those violent
ebullitions of rage until be acquired undoubted proofs of the misconduct
of those against whom they were directed. In scenes of this sort I have
frequently observed that the presence of a third person seemed to give
him confidence. Consequently, in a 'tete-a-tete' interview, any one who
knew his character, and who could maintain sufficient coolness and
firmness, was sure to get the better of him. He told his friends at St.
Helena that he admitted a third person on such occasions only that the
blow might resound the farther. That was not his real motive, or the
better way would have been to perform the scene in public. He had other
reasons. I observed that he did not like a 'tete-a-tete'; and when he
expected any one, he would say to me beforehand, "Bourrienne, you may
remain;" and when any one was announced whom he did not expect, as a
minister or a general; if I rose to retire he would say in a half-
whisper, "Stay where you are." Certainly this was not done with the
design of getting what he said reported abroad; for it belonged neither
to my character nor my duty to gossip about what I had heard. Besides,
it may be presumed, that the few who were admitted as witnesses to the
conferences of Napoleon were aware of the consequences attending
indiscreet disclosures under a Government which was made acquainted with
all that was said and done.
Bonaparte entertained a profound dislike of the sanguinary men of the
Revolution, and especially of the regicides. He felt, as a painful
burden, the obligation of dissembling towards them. He spoke to me in
terms of horror of those whole he celled the assassins of Louis XVI, and
he was annoyed at the necessity of employing them and treating them with
apparent respect. How many times has he not said to Cambaceres, pinching
him by the ear, to soften, by that habitual familiarity, the bitterness
of the remark, "My dear fellow, your case is clear; if ever the Bourbons
come back you will be hanged!" A forced smile would then relax the livid
countenance of Cambaceres, and was usually the only reply of the Second
Consul, who, however, on one occasion said in my hearing, "Come, come,
have done with this joking."
One thing which gave Bonaparte great pleasure when in the country was to
see a tall, slender woman, dressed in white, walking beneath an alley of
shaded trees. He detested coloured dresses, and especially dark ones.
To fat women he had an invincible antipathy, and he could not endure the
sight of a pregnant woman; it therefore rarely happened that a female in
that situation was invited to his parties. He possessed every requisite
for being what is called in society an agreeable man, except the will to
be so. His manner was imposing rather than pleasing, and those who did
not know him well experienced in his presence an involuntary feeling of
awe. In the drawing-room, where Josephine did the honours with so much
grace and affability, all was gaiety and ease, and no one felt the
presence of a superior; but on Bonaparte's entrance all was changed, and
every eye was directed towards him, to read his humour in his
countenance, whether he intended to be silent or talkative, dull or
He often talked a great deal, and sometimes a little too much; but no one
could tell a story in a more agreeable and interesting way. His
conversation rarely turned on gay or humorous subjects, and never on
trivial matters. He was so fond of argument that in the warmth of
discussion it was easy to draw from him secrets which he was most anxious
to conceal. Sometimes, in a small circle, he would amuse himself by
relating stories of presentiments and apparitions. For this he always
chose the twilight of evening, and he would prepare his hearers for what
was coming by some solemn remark. On one occasion of this kind he said,
in a very grave tone of voice, "When death strikes a person whom we love,
and who is distant from us, a foreboding almost always denotes the event,
and the dying person appears to us at the moment of his dissolution."
He then immediately related the following anecdote: "A gentleman of the
Court of Louis XIV. was in the gallery of Versailles at the time that the
King was reading to his courtiers the bulletin of the battle of
Friedlingen gained by Villars. Suddenly the gentleman saw, at the
farther end of the gallery, the ghost of his son, who served under
Villars. He exclaimed, 'My son is no more!' and next moment the King
named him among the dead."
When travelling Bonaparte was particularly talkative. In the warmth of
his conversation, which was always characterised by original and
interesting idea, he sometimes dropped hints of his future views, or, at
least, he said things which were calculated to disclose what he wished to
conceal. I took the liberty of mentioning to him this indiscretion, and
far from being offended, he acknowledged his mistake, adding that he was
not aware he had gone so far. He frankly avowed this want of caution
when at St. Helena.
When in good humour his usual tokens of kindness consisted in a little
rap on the head or a slight pinch of the ear. In his most friendly
conversations with those whom he admitted into his intimacy he would say,
"You are a fool"--"a simpleton"--"a ninny"--"a blockhead." These, and a
few other words of like import, enabled him to vary his catalogue of
compliments; but he never employed them angrily, and the tone in which
they were uttered sufficiently indicated that they were meant in
Bonaparte had many singular habits and tastes. Whenever he experienced
any vexation, or when any unpleasant thought occupied his mind, he would
hum something which was far from resembling a tune, for his voice was
very unmusical. He would, at the same time, seat himself before the
writing-table, and swing back in his chair so far that I have often been
fearful of his falling.
He would then vent his ill-humour on the right arm of his chair,
mutilating it with his penknife, which he seemed to keep for no other
purpose. I always took care to keep good pens ready for him; for, as it
was my business to decipher his writing, I had a strong interest in doing
what I could to make it legible.
The sound of bells always produced in Bonaparte pleasurable sensations,
which I could never account for. When we were at Malmaison, and walking
in the alley leading to the plain of Ruel, how many times has the bell of
the village church interrupted our most serious conversations!
He would stop, lest the noise of our footsteps should drown any portion
of the delightful sound: He was almost angry with me because I did not
experience the impressions he did. So powerful was the effect produced
upon him by the sound of these bells that his voice would falter as he
said, "Ah! that reminds me of the first years I spent at Brienne! I was
then happy!" When the bells ceased he would resume the course of his
speculations, carry himself into futurity, place a crown on his head; and
Nowhere, except on the field of battle, did I ever see Bonaparte more
happy than in the gardens of Malmaison. At the commencement of the
Consulate we used to go there every Saturday evening, and stay the whole
of Sunday, and sometimes Monday. Bonaparte used to spend a considerable
part of his time in walking and superintending the improvements which he
had ordered. At first he used to make excursions about the
neighbourhood, but the reports of the police disturbed his natural
confidence, and gave him reason to fear the attempts of concealed
During the first four or five days that Bonaparte spent at Malmaison he
amused himself after breakfast with calculating the revenue of that
domain. According to his estimates it amounted to 8000 francs. "That is
not bad!" said he; "but to live here would require au income of 30,000
livres!" I could not help smiling to see him seriously engaged in such a
Bonaparte had no faith in medicine. He spoke of it as an art entirely
conjectural, and his opinion on this subject was fired and
incontrovertible. His vigorous mind rejected all but demonstrative
He had little memory for proper name, words, or dates, but he had a
wonderful recollection of facts and places. I recollect that, on going
from Paris to Toulon, he pointed out to me ten places calculated for
great battles, and he never forgot them. They were memoranda of his
first youthful journeys.
Bonaparte was insensible to the charms of poetic harmony. He had not
even sufficient ear to feel the rhythm, of poetry, and he never could
recite a verse without violating the metre; yet the grand ideas of poetry
charmed him. He absolutely worshipped Corneille; and, one day, after
having witnessed a performance of 'Cinna', he said to me, "If a man like
Corneille were living in my time I would make him my Prime Minister. It
is not his poetry that I most admire; it is his powerful understanding,
his vast knowledge of the human heart, and his profound policy!" At St.
Helena he said that he would have made Corneille a prince; but at the
time he spoke to me of Corneille he had no thought of making either
princes or kings.
Gallantry to women was by no means a trait in Bonaparte's character.
He seldom said anything agreeable to females, and he frequently addressed
to them the rudest and most extraordinary remarks. To one he would say,
"Heavens, how red your elbows are!" To another, "What an ugly headdress
you have got!" At another time he would say, "Your dress is none of the
cleanest..... Do you ever change your gown? I have seen you in that
twenty times!" He showed no mercy to any who displeased him on these
points. He often gave Josephine directions about her toilet, and the
exquisite taste for which she was distinguished might have helped to make
him fastidious about the costume of other ladies. At first he looked to
elegance above all things: at a later period he admired luxury and
splendour, but he always required modesty. He frequently expressed his
disapproval of the low-necked dresses which were so much in fashion at
the beginning of the Consulate.
Bonaparte did not love cards, and this was very fortunate for those who
were invited to his parties; for when he was seated at a card-table, as
he sometimes thought himself obliged to be, nothing could exceed the
dulness of the drawing-room either at the Luxembourg or the Tuileries.
When, on the contrary, he walked about among the company, all were
pleased, for he usually spoke to everybody, though he preferred the
conversation of men of science, especially those who had been with him in
in Egypt; as for example, Monge and Berthollet. He also liked to talk
with Chaptal and Lacphede, and with Lemercier, the author of 'Agamemnon'.
Bonaparte was seen to less advantage in a drawing-room than at the head
of his troops. His military uniform became him much better than the
handsomest dress of any other kind. His first trials of dress-coats were
unfortunate. I have been informed that the first time he wore one he
kept on his black cravat. This incongruity was remarked to him, and he
replied, "So much the better; it leaves me something of a military air,
and there is no harm in that." For my own part, I neither saw the black
cravat nor heard this reply.
The First Consul paid his own private bills very punctually; but he was
always tardy in settling the accounts of the contractors who bargained
with Ministers for supplies for the public service. He put off these
payments by all sorts of excuses and shufflings. Hence arose immense
arrears in the expenditure, and the necessity of appointing a committee
of liquidation. In his opinion the terms contractor and rogue were
synonymous. All that he avoided paying them he regarded as a just
restitution to himself; and all the sums which were struck off from their
accounts he regarded as so much deducted from a theft. The less a
Minister paid out of his budget the more Bonaparte was pleased with him;
and this ruinous system of economy can alone explain the credit which
Decres so long enjoyed at the expense of the French navy.
On the subject of religion Bonaparte's ideas were very vague.
"My reason," said he, "makes me incredulous respecting many things; but
the impressions of my childhood and early youth throw me into
uncertainty." He was very fond of talking of religion. In Italy, in
Egypt, and on board the 'Orient' and the 'Muiron', I have known him to
take part in very animated conversations on this subject.
He readily yielded up all that was proved against religion as the work of
men and time: but he would not hear of materialism. I recollect that one
fine night, when he was on deck with some persons who were arguing in
favour of materialism, Bonaparte raised his hand to heaven and, pointing
to the stars, said, "You may talk as long as you please, gentlemen, but
who made all that?" The perpetuity of a name in the memory of man was to
him the immortality of the soul. He was perfectly tolerant towards every
variety of religious faith.
Among Bonaparte's singular habits was that of seating himself on any
table which happened to be of a suitable height for him. He would often
sit on mine, resting his left arm on my right shoulder, and swinging his
left leg, which did not reach the ground; and while he dictated to me he
would jolt the table so that I could scarcely write.
Bonaparte had a great dislike to reconsider any decision, even when it
was acknowledged to be unjust. In little as well as in great things he
evinced his repugnance to retrograde. An instance of this occurred in
the affair of General Latour-Foissac. The First Consul felt how much he
had wronged that general; but he wished some time to elapse before he
repaired his error. His heart and his conduct were at variance; but his
feelings were overcome by what he conceived to be political necessity.
Bonaparte was never known to say, "I have done wrong:" his usual
observation was, "I begin to think there is something wrong."
In spite of this sort of feeling, which was more worthy of an ill-
humoured philosopher than the head of a government, Bonaparte was neither
malignant nor vindictive. I cannot certainly defend him against all the
reproaches which he incurred through the imperious law of war and cruel
necessity; but I may say that he has often been unjustly accused. None
but those who are blinded by fury will call him a Nero or a Caligula.
I think I have avowed his faults with sufficient candour to entitle me to
credit when I speak in his commendation; and I declare that, out of the
field of battle, Bonaparte had a kind and feeling heart. He was very
fond of children, a trait which seldom distinguishes a bad man. In the
relations of private life to call him amiable would not be using too
strong a word, and he was very indulgent to the weakness of human nature.
The contrary opinion is too firmly fixed in some minds for me to hope to
root it out. I shall, I fear, have contradictors, but I address myself
to those who look for truth. To judge impartially we must take into
account the influence which time and circumstances exercise on men; and
distinguish between the different characters of the Collegian, the
General, the Consul, and the Emperor.
Bonaparte's laws--Suppression of the festival of the 21st of
January--Officials visits--The Temple--Louis XVI. and Sir Sidney
Smith--Peculation during the Directory--Loan raised--Modest budget
--The Consul and the Member of the Institute--The figure of the
Republic--Duroc's missions--The King of Prussia--The Emperor
Alesander--General Latour-Foisac--Arbitrary decree--Company of
players for Egypt--Singular ideas respecting literary property--
The preparatory Consulate--The journals--Sabres and muskets of
honour--The First Consul and his Comrade--The bust of Brutus--
Statues in the gallery of the Tuileries--Sections of the Council of
State--Costumes of public functionaries--Masquerades--The opera-
balls--Recall of the exiles.
It is not my purpose to say much about the laws, decrees, and 'Senatus-
Consultes', which the First Consul either passed, or caused to be passed,
after his accession to power, what were they all, with the exception of
the Civil Code? The legislative reveries of the different men who have
from time to time ruled France form an immense labyrinth, in which
chicanery bewilders reason and common sense; and they would long since
have been buried in oblivion had they not occasionally served to
authorise injustice. I cannot, however, pass over unnoticed the happy
effect produced in Paris, and throughout the whole of France, by some of
the first decisions of the Consuls. Perhaps none but those who witnessed
the state of society during the reign of Terror can fully appreciate the
satisfaction which the first steps towards the restoration of social
order produced in the breasts of all honest men. The Directory, more
base and not less perverse than the Convention, had retained the horrible
21st of January among the festivals of the Republic. One of Bonaparte's
first ideas on attaining the possession of power was to abolish this; but
such was the ascendency of the abettors of the fearful event that he
could not venture on a straightforward course. He and his two
colleagues, who were Sieyes and Roger Ducos, signed, on the 5th Nivose,
a decree, setting forth that in future the only festivals to be
celebrated by the Republic were the 1st Vendemiaire and the 14th of July,
intending by this means to consecrate provisionally the recollection of
the foundation of the Republic and of liberty.
All was calculation with Bonaparte. To produce effect was his highest
gratification. Thus he let slip no opportunity of saying or doing things
which were calculated to dazzle the multitude. While at the Luxembourg,
he went sometimes accompanied by his 'aides de camp' and sometimes by a
Minister, to pay certain official visits. I did not accompany him on
these occasions; but almost always either on his return, after dinner, or
in the evening, he related to me what he had done and said. He
congratulated himself on having paid a visit to Daubenton, at the Jardin
des Plantes, and talked with great self-complacency of the distinguished
way in which he had treated the contemporary of Buffon.
On the 24th Brumaire he visited the prisons. He liked to make these
visits unexpectedly, and to take the governors of the different public
establishments by surprise; so that, having no time to make their
preparations, he might see things as they really were. I was in his
cabinet when he returned, for I had a great deal of business to go
through in his absence. As he entered he exclaimed, "What brutes these
Directors are! To what a state they have brought our public
establishments! But, stay a little! I will put all in order. The
prisons are in a shockingly unwholesome state, and the prisoners
miserably fed. I questioned them, and I questioned the jailers, for
nothing is to be learned from the superiors. They, of course, always
speak well of their own work! When I was in the Temple I could not help
thinking of the unfortunate Louis XVI. He was an excellent man, but too
amiable, too gentle for the times. He knew not how to deal with mankind!
And Sir Sidney Smith! I made them show me his apartment. If the fools
had not let him escape I should have taken St. Jean d'Acre! There are
too many painful recollections connected with that prison! I will
certainly have it pulled down some day or other! What do you think I did
at the Temple? I ordered the jailers' books to be brought to me, and
finding that some hostages were still in confinement I liberated them.
'An unjust law,' said I, 'has deprived you of liberty; my first duty is
to restore it to you.' Was not this well done, Bourrienne? "As I was, no
less than Bonaparte himself, an enemy to the revolutionary laws, I
congratulated him sincerely; and he was very sensible to my approbation,
for I was not accustomed to greet him with "Good; very good," on all
occasions. It is true, knowing his character as I did, I avoided saying
anything that was calculated to offend him; but when I said nothing, he
knew very well how to construe my silence. Had I flattered him I should
have continued longer in favour.
Bonaparte always spoke angrily of the Directors he had turned off. Their
incapacity disgusted and astonished him. "What simpletons! what a
government!" he would frequently exclaim when he looked into the measures
of the Directory. "Bourrienne," said he, "can you imagine anything more
pitiable than their system of finance? Can it for a moment be doubted
that the principal agents of authority daily committed the most
fraudulent peculations? What venality! what disorder! what
wastefulness! everything put up for sale: places, provisions, clothing,
and military, all were disposed of. Have they not actually consumed
75,000,000 in advance? And then, think of all the scandalous fortunes
accumulated, all the malversations! But are there no means of making
them refund? We shall see."
In these first moments of poverty it was found necessary to raise a loan,
for the funds of M. Collot did not last long, and 12,000,000 were
advanced by the different bankers of Paris, who, I believe, were paid by
bills of the receivers-general, the discount of which then amounted to
about 33 per cent. The salaries of the first offices were not very
considerable, and did not amount to anything like the exorbitant stipends
of the Empire.
Bonaparte's salary was fixed at 500,000 francs. What a contrast to the
300,000,000 in gold which were reported to have been concealed in 1811 in
the cellars of the Tuileries!
In mentioning Bonaparte's nomination to the Institute, and his
affectation in putting at the head of his proclamation his title of
member of that learned body before that of General-in-Chief, I omitted to
state what value he really attached to that title. The truth is that;
when young and ambitious, he was pleased with the proffered title, which
he thought would raise him in public estimation. How often have we
laughed together when he weighed the value of his scientific titles!
Bonaparte, to be sure, knew something of mathematics, a good deal of
history, and, I need not add, possessed extraordinary military talent;
but he was nevertheless a useless member of the Institute.
On his return from Egypt he began to grow weary of a title which gave him
so many colleagues. "Do you not think," said he one day to me, "that
there is something mean and humiliating in the words, 'I have the honour
to be, my dear Colleague'! I am tired of it!" Generally speaking, all
phrases which indicated equality displeased him. It will be recollected
how gratified he was that I did not address him in the second person
singular on our meeting at Leoben, and also what befell M. de Cominges at
Bale because he did not observe the same precaution.
The figure of the Republic seated and holding a spear in her hand, which
at the commencement of the Consulate was stamped on official letters, was
speedily abolished. Happy would it have been if Liberty herself had not
suffered the same treatment as her emblem! The title of First Consul
made him despise that of Member of the Institute. He no longer
entertained the least predilection for that learned body, and
subsequently he regarded it with much suspicion. It was a body, an
authorised assembly; these were reasons sufficient for him to take
umbrage at it, and he never concealed his dislike of all bodies
possessing the privilege of meeting and deliberating.
While we were at the Luxembourg Bonaparte despatched Duroc on a special
mission to the King of Prussia. This happened, I think, at the very
beginning of the year 1800. He selected Duroc because be was a man of
good education and agreeable manners, and one who could express himself
with elegance and reserve, qualities not often met with at that period.
Duroc had been with us in Italy, in Egypt, and on board the 'Muiron',
and the Consul easily guessed that the King of Prussia would be delighted
to hear from an eye-witness the events of Bonaparte's campaigns,
especially the siege of St. Jean d'Acre, and the scenes which took place
during the months of March and May at Jaffa. Besides, the First Consul
considered it indispensable that such circumstantial details should be
given in a way to leave no doubt of their correctness. His intentions
were fully realised; for Duroc told me, on his return, that nearly the
whole of the conversation he had with the King turned upon St. Jean
d'Acre and Jaffa. He stayed nearly two whole hours with his Majesty, who,