Part 8 out of 24
--[Of this confidence the following instructions for me, which he
dictated to Duroc, afford sufficient proof:--
"1st. Citizen Bourrienne shall open all the letters addressed to
the First Consul, Vol, and present them to him three times a day, or
oftener in case of urgent business. The letters shall be deposited
in the cabinet when they are opened. Bourrienne is to analyse all
those which are of secondary interest, and write the First Consul's
decision on each letter. The hours for presenting the letters shall
be, first, when the Consul rises; second, a quarter of an hour
before dinner; and third, at eleven at night.
"2d. He is to have the superintendence of the Topographical office,
and of an office of Translation, in which there shall be a German
and an English clerk. Every day he shall present to the First
Consul, at the hours above mentioned the German and English
journals, together with a translation. With respect to the Italian
journals, it will only be necessary to mark what the First Consul is
"3d. He shall keep a register of appointments to offices under
Government; a second, for appointments to judicial posts; a third
for appointments to places abroad; and a fourth, for the situations
of receivers and great financial posts, where he is to inscribe the
names of all the individuals whom the First Consul may refer to him.
These registers must be written by his own hand, and must be kept
"4th. Secret correspondence, and the different reports of
surveillance, are to be addressed directly to Bourrienne, and
transmitted by him to the hand of the First Consul, by whom they
will be returned without the intervention of any third party.
"6th. There shall be a register for all that relates to secret
extraordinary expenditure. Bourrienne shall write the whole with
his own hand, in order that the business may be kept from the
knowledge of any one.
"7th. He shall despatch all the business which maybe referred to
him, either from Citizen Duroc, or from the cabinet of the First
Consul, taking care to arrange everything so as to secure secrecy.
"(Signed) "BONAPARTE, First Council.
"Paris, 13th Germinal, year VIII.
"(3d. April 1800.)"]--
Official business was not the only labour that devolved upon me. I had
to write to the dictation of the First Consul during a great part of the
day, or to decipher his writing, which was always the most laborious part
of my duty. I was so closely employed that I scarcely ever went out; and
when by chance I dined in town, I could not arrive until the very moment
of dinner, and I was obliged to run away immediately after it. Once a
month, at most, I went without Bonaparte to the Comedie Francaise, but I
was obliged to return at nine o'clock, that being the hour at which we
resumed business. Corvisart, with whom I was intimately acquainted,
constantly expressed his apprehensions about my health; but my zeal
carried me through every difficulty, and during our stay at the Tuileries
I cannot express how happy I was in enjoying the unreserved confidence of
the man on whom the eyes of all Europe were filed. So perfect was this
confidence that Bonaparte, neither as General, Consul, nor Emperor, ever
gave me any fixed salary. In money matters we were still comrades: I
took from his funds what was necessary to defray my expenses, and of this
Bonaparte never once asked me for any account.
He often mentioned his wish to regenerate public education, which he
thought was ill managed. The central schools did not please him; but he
could not withhold his admiration from the Polytechnic School, the finest
establishment of education that was ever founded, but which he afterwards
spoiled by giving it a military organisation. In only one college of
Paris the old system of study was preserved: this was the Louis-le-Grand,
which had received the name of Pritanee. The First Consul directed the
Minister of the Interior to draw up a report on that establishment; and
he himself went to pay an unexpected visit to the Pritanee, accompanied
by M. Lebrun and Duroc. He remained there upwards of an hour, and in the
evening he spoke to me with much interest on the subject of his visit.
"Do you know, Bourrienne," said he, "that I have been performing the
duties of professor?"--"you, General!"--"Yes! and I did not acquit
myself badly. I examined the pupils in the mathematical class; and I
recollected enough of my Bezout to make some demonstrations before them.
I went everywhere, into the bedrooms and the dining-room. I tasted the
soup, which is better than we used to have at Brienne. I must devote
serious attention to public education and the management of the colleges.
The pupils must have a uniform. I observed some well and others ill
dressed. That will not do. At college, above all places, there should
be equality. But I was much pleased with the pupils of the Pritanee.
I wish to know the names of those I examined, and I have desired Duroc to
report them to me. I will give them rewards; that stimulates young
people. I will provide for some of them."
On this subject Bonaparte did not confine himself to an empty scheme.
After consulting with the headmaster of the Pritanee, he granted pensions
of 200 francs to seven or eight of the most distinguished pupils of the
establishment, and he placed three of them in the department of Foreign
Affairs, under the title of diplomatic pupils.
--[This institution of diplomatic pupils was originally suggested by
M. de Talleyrand.]--
What I have just said respecting the First Consul's visit to the Pritanee
reminds me of a very extraordinary circumstance which arose out of it.
Among the pupils at the Pritanee there was a son of General Miackzinski,
who died fighting under the banners of the Republic. Young Miackzinski
was then sixteen or seventeen years of age. He soon quitted the college,
entered the army as a volunteer, and was one of a corps reviewed by
Bonaparte, in the plain of Sablons. He was pointed out to the First
Consul, who said to him. "I knew your father. Follow his example, and
in six months you shall be an officer." Six months elapsed, and
Miackzinski wrote to the First Consul, reminding him of his promise. No
answer was returned, and the young man then wrote a second letter as
You desired me to prove myself worthy of my father; I have done so.
You promised that I should be an officer in six months; seven have
elapsed since that promise was made. When you receive this letter I
shall be no more. I cannot live under a Government the head of
which breaks his word.
Poor Miackzinski kept his word but, too faithfully. After writing the
above letter to the First Consul he retired to his chamber and blew out
his brains with a pistol. A few days after this tragical event
Miackzinski's commission was transmitted to his corps, for Bonaparte had
not forgotten him. A delay in the War Office had caused the death of
this promising young man Bonaparte was much affected at the circumstance,
and he said to me, "These Poles have such refined notions of honour....
Poor Sulkowski, I am sure, would have done the same."
At the commencement of the Consulate it was gratifying, to see how
actively Bonaparte was seconded in the execution of plans for the social
regeneration of France all seemed animated with new life, and every one
strove to do good as if it were a matter of competition.
Every circumstance concurred to favour the good intentions of the
First Consul. Vaccination, which, perhaps, has saved as many lives
as war has sacrificed, was introduced into France by M. d Liancourt; and
Bonaparte, immediately appreciating the 'value of such a discovery, gave
it his decided approbation. At the same time a council of Prizes was
established, and the old members of the Constituent Assembly were invited
to return to France. It was for their sake and that of the Royalists
that the First Consul recalled them, but it was to please the Jacobins,
whom he was endeavouring to conciliate, that their return was subject to
restrictions. At first the invitation to return to France extended only
to those who could prove that they had voted in favour of the abolition
of nobility. The lists of emigrants were closed, and committees were
appointed to investigate their claims to the privilege of returning.
From the commencement of the month of Germinal the reorganisation of the
army of Italy had proceeded with renewed activity. The presence in Paris
of the fine corps of the Consular Guard, added to the desire of showing
themselves off in gay uniforms, had stimulated the military ardour of
many respectable young men of the capital. Taking advantage of this
circumstance the First Consul created a corps of volunteers destined for
the army of reserve, which was to remain at Dijon. He saw the advantage
of connecting a great number of families with his cause, and imbuing them
with the spirit of the army. This volunteer corps wore a yellow uniform
which, in some of the salons of Paris where it was still the custom to
ridicule everything, obtained for them the nickname of "canaries."
Bonaparte, who did not always relish a joke, took this in very ill part,
and often expressed to me his vexation at it. However, he was gratified
to observe in the composition of this corps a first specimen of
privileged soldiers; an idea which he acted upon when he created the
orderly gendarmes in the campaign of Jena, and when he organised the
guards of honour after the disasters of Moscow.
In every action of his life Bonaparte had some particular object in view.
I recollect his saying to me one day, "Bourrienne, I cannot yet venture
to do anything against the regicides; but I will let them see what I
think of them. To-morrow I shall have some business with Abrial
respecting the organisation of the court of Cassation. Target, who is
the president of that court, would not defend Louis XVI. Well, whom do
you think I mean to appoint in his place? . . . Tronchet, who did
defend the king. They may say what they please; I care not."
--[On this, as on many other occasions, the cynicism of Bonaparte's
language does, not admit of a literal translation.]--
Tronchet was appointed.
Nearly about the same time the First Consul, being informed of the escape
of General Mack, said to me, "Mack may go where he pleases; I am not
afraid of him. But I will tell you what I have been thinking. There are
some other Austrian officers who were prisoners with Mack; among the
number is a Count Dietrichstein, who belongs to a great family in Vienna.
I will liberate them all. At the moment of opening a campaign this will
have a good effect. They will see that I fear nothing; and who knows but
this may procure me some admirers in Austria." The order for liberating
the Austrian prisoners was immediately despatched. Thus Bonaparte's acts
of generosity, as well as his acts of severity and his choice of
individuals, were all the result of deep calculation.
This unvarying attention to the affairs of the Government was manifest in
all he did. I have already mentioned the almost simultaneous suppression
of the horrible commemoration of the month of January, and the permission
for the revival of the opera balls. A measure something similar to this
was the authorisation of the festivals of Longchamps, which had been
forgotten since the Revolution. He at the same time gave permission for
sacred music to be performed at the opera. Thus, while in public acts he
maintained the observance of the Republican calendar, he was gradually
reviving the old calendar by seasons of festivity. Shrove-Tuesday was
marked by a ball, and Passion-week by promenades and concerts.
The Memorial of St. Helena--Louis XVIII.'s first letter to Bonaparte
--Josephine, Hortense, and the Faubourg St. Germain--
Madame Bonaparte and the fortune-teller--Louis XVIII's second letter
--Bonaparte's answer--Conversation respecting the recall of Louis
XVIII.--Peace and war--A battle fought with pins-Genoa and Melas--
Realisation of Bonaparte's military plans--Ironical letter to
Berthier--Departure from Paris--Instructions to Lucien and
Cambaceres--Joseph Bonaparte appointed Councillor of State--
Travelling conversation--Alexander and Caesar judged by Bonaparte.
It sometimes happens that an event which passes away unnoticed at the
time of its occurrence acquires importance from events which subsequently
ensue. This reflection naturally occurs to my mind now that I am about
to notice the correspondence which passed between Louis XVIII. and the
First Consul. This is certainly not one of the least interesting
passages in the life of Bonaparte.
But I must first beg leave to make an observation on the 'Memorial of St.
Helena.' That publication relates what Bonaparte said respecting the
negotiations between Louis XVIII. and himself; and I find it necessary to
quote a few lines on the subject, in order to show how far the statements
contained in the Memorial differ from the autograph letters in my
At St. Helena Napoleon said that he never thought of the princes of the
House of Bourbon. This is true to a certain point. He did not think of
the princes of the House of Bourbon with the view of restoring them to
their throne; but it has been shown, in several parts of these Memoirs,
that he thought of them very often, and on more than one occasion their
very names alarmed him.
--[The Memorial states that "A letter was delivered to the First
Consul by Lebrun who received it from the Abbe de Montesquieu, the
secret agent of the Bourbons in Paris." This letter which was very
cautiously written, said:--
"You are long delaying the restoration of my throne. It is to be
feared you are suffering favourable moments to escape. You cannot
secure the happiness of France without me, and I can do nothing for
France without you. Hasten, then, to name the offices which you
would choose for your friends."
The answer, Napoleon said, was as follows:--
"I have received your royal highness' letter. I have always taken a
lively interest in your misfortunes, and those of your family. You
must not think of appearing in France; you could only return here by
trampling over a hundred thousand dead bodies. I shall always be
happy to do anything that can alleviate your fate and help to banish
the recollection of your misfortunes."--Bourrienne.]--
The substance of the two letters given in the 'Memorial of St. Helena' is
correct. The ideas are nearly the same as those of the original letters.
But it is not surprising that, after the lapse of so long an interval,
Napoleon's memory should somewhat have failed him. However, it will not,
I presume, be deemed unimportant if I present to the reader literal
copies of this correspondence; together with the explanation of some
curious circumstances connected with it.
The following is Louis XVIII's letter:--
SIR--Whatever may be their apparent conduct, men like you never
inspire alarm. You have accepted an eminent station, and I thank
you for having done so. You know better than any one how much
strength and power are requisite to secure the happiness of a great
nation. Save France from her own violence, and you will fulfil the
first wish of my heart. Restore her King to her, and future
generations will bless your memory. You will always be too
necessary to the State for me ever to be able to discharge, by
important appointments, the debt of my family and myself.
The First Consul was much agitated on the reception of this letter.
Though he every day declared his determination to have nothing to do with
the Princes, yet he hesitated whether or no he should reply to this
overture. The numerous affairs which then occupied his mind favoured
this hesitation. Josephine and Hortense conjured him to hold out hope to
the King, as by so doing he would in no way pledge himself, and would
gain time to ascertain whether he could not ultimately play a far greater
part than that of Monk. Their entreaties became so urgent that he said
to me, "These devils of women are mad! The Faubourg St. Germain has
turned their heads! They make the Faubourg the guardian angel of the
royalists; but I care not; I will have nothing to do with them."
Madame Bonaparte said she was anxious he should adopt the step she
proposed in order to banish from his mind all thought of making himself
King. This idea always gave rise to a painful foreboding which she could
In the First Consul's numerous conversations with me he discussed with
admirable sagacity Louis XVIII.'s proposition and its consequences.
"The partisans of the Bourbons," said he, "are deceived if they suppose
I am the man to play Monk's part." Here the matter rested, and the
King's letter remained on the table. In the interim Louis XVIII. wrote a
second letter, without any date. It was as follows:
You must have long since been convinced, General, that you possess
my esteem. If you doubt my gratitude, fix your reward and mark out
the fortune of your friends. As to my principles, I am a Frenchman,
merciful by character, and also by the dictates of reason.
No, the victor of Lodi, Castiglione, and Arcola, the conqueror of
Italy and Egypt, cannot prefer vain celebrity to real glory. But
you are losing precious time. We may ensure the glory of France.
I say we, because I require the aid of Bonaparte, and he can do
nothing without me.
General, Europe observes you. Glory awaits you, and I am impatient
to restore peace to my people.
This dignified letter the First Consul suffered to remain unanswered for
several weeks; at length he proposed to dictate an answer to me. I
observed, that as the King's letters were autographs, it would be more
proper that he should write himself. He then wrote with his own hand the
Sir--I have received your letter, and I thank you for the
compliments you address to me.
You must not seek to return to France. To do so you must trample
over a hundred thousand dead bodies.
Sacrifice your interest to the repose and happiness of France, and
history will render you justice.
I am not insensible to the misfortunes of your family. I shall
learn with pleasure, and shall willingly contribute to ensure, the
tranquillity of your retirement.
He showed me this letter, saying, "What do you think of it? is it not
good? "He was never offended when I pointed out to him an error of
grammar or style, and I therefore replied, "As to the substance, if such
be your resolution, I have nothing to say against it; but," added I,
"I must make one observation on the style. You cannot say that you shall
learn with pleasure to ensure, etc." On reading the passage over again
he thought he had pledged himself too far in saying that he would
willingly contribute, etc. He therefore scored out the last sentence,
and interlined, "I shall contribute with pleasure to the happiness and
tranquillity of your retirement."
The answer thus scored and interlined could not be sent off, and it lay
on the table with Bonaparte's signature affixed to it.
Some time after he wrote another answer, the three first paragraphs of
which were exactly alike that first quoted; but far the last paragraph he
substituted the following
"I am not insensible to the misfortunes of your family; and I shall
learn with pleasure that you are surrounded with all that can
contribute to the tranquillity of your retirement."
By this means he did not pledge himself in any way, not even in words,
for he himself made no offer of contributing, to the tranquillity of the
retirement. Every day which augmented his power and consolidated his
position diminished, he thought, the chances of the Bourbons; and seven
months were suffered to intervene between the date of the King's first
letter and the answer of the First Consul, which was written on the 2d
Vendemiaire, year IX. (24th September 1800) just when the Congress of
Luneville was on the point of opening.
Soma days after the receipt of Louis XVIII.'s letter we were walking in
the gardens of Malmaison; he was in good humour, for everything was going
on to his mind. "Has my wife been saying anything more to you about the
Bourbons?" said he.--"No, General."--"But when you converse with her you
concur a little in her opinions. Tell me why you wish the Bourbons back?
You have no interest in their return, nothing to expect from them. Your
family rank is not high enough to enable you to obtain any great post.
You would be nothing under them. Through the patronage of M. de
Chambonas you got the appointment of Secretary of Legation at Stuttgart;
but had it not been for the change you would have remained all your life
in that or some inferior post. Did you ever know men rise by their own
merit under kings? Everything depends on birth, connection, fortune, and
intrigue. Judge things more accurately; reflect more maturely on the
future."--"General," replied I, "I am quite of your opinion on one
point. I never received gift, place, or favour from the Bourbons; and
I have not the vanity to believe that I should ever have attained any
important Appointment. But you must not forget that my nomination as
Secretary of Legation at Stuttgart preceded the overthrow of the throne
only by a few days; and I cannot infer, from what took place under
circumstances unfortunately too certain, what might have happened in the
reverse case. Besides, I am not actuated by personal feelings;
I consider not my own interests, but those of France. I wish you to hold
the reins of government as long as you live; but you have no children,
and it is tolerably certain that you will have none by Josephine: What
will become of us when you are gone? You talk of the future; but what
will be the future fate of France? I have often heard you say that your
brothers are not--"--"You are right," said he, abruptly interrupting
me. "If I do not live thirty years to complete my work you will have a
long series of civil wars after my death. My brothers will not suit
France; you know what they are. A violent conflict will therefore arise
among the most distinguished generals, each of whom will think himself
entitled to succeed me."--"Well, General, why not take means to obviate
the mischief you foresee?"--"Do you imagine I do not think of it? But
look at the difficulties that stand in my way. How are so many acquired-
rights and material results to be secured against the efforts of a family
restored to power, and returning with 80,000 emigrants and the influence
of fanaticism? What would become of those who voted for the death, of
the King--the men who acted a conspicuous part in the Revolution--the
national domains, and a multitude of things that have been done during
twelve years? Can you see how far reaction would extend?"--"General,
need I remind you that Louis, in his letter, guarantees the contrary of
all you apprehend? I know what will be your answer; but are you not able
to impose whatever conditions you may think fit? Grant what is asked of
you only at that price. Take three or four years; in that time you may
ensure the happiness of France by institutions conformable to her wants.
Custom and habit would give them a power which it would not be easy to
destroy; and even supposing such a design were entertained, it could not
be accomplished. I have heard you say it is wished you should act the
part of Monk; but you well know the difference between a general opposing
the usurper of a crown, and one whom victory and peace have raised above
the ruins of a subverted throne, and who restores it voluntarily to those
who have long occupied it. You are well aware what you call ideology
will not again be revived; and--"--"I know what you are going to say;
but it all amounts to nothing. Depend upon it, the Bourbons will think
they have reconquered their inheritance, and will dispose of it as they
please. The most sacred pledges, the most positive promises, will be
violated. None but fools will trust them. My resolution is formed;
therefore let us say no more on the subject. But I know how these women
torment you. Let them mind their knitting, and leave me to do what I
Every one knows the adage, 'Si vis pacem para bellum'. Had Bonaparte
been a Latin scholar he would probably have reversed it and said, 'Si vis
bellum para pacem'. While seeking to establish pacific relations with
the powers of Europe the First Consul was preparing to strike a great
blow in Italy. As long as Genoa held out, and Massena continued there,
Bonaparte did not despair of meeting the Austrians in those fields which
not four years before had been the scenes of his success. He resolved to
assemble an army of reserve at Dijon. Where there was previously nothing
he created everything. At that period of his life the fertility of his
imagination and the vigour of his genius must have commanded the
admiration of even his bitterest enemies. I was astonished at the
details into which he entered. While every moment was engrossed by the
most important occupations he sent 24,000 francs to the hospital of Mont
St. Bernard. When he saw that his army of reserve was forming, and
everything was going on to his liking, he said to me, "I hope to fall on
the rear of Melas before he is aware I am in Italy . . . that is to
say, provided Genoa holds out. But MASSENA is defending it."
On the 17th of March, in a moment of gaiety and good humour, he desired
me to unroll Chauchard's great map of Italy. He lay down upon it, and
desired me to do likewise. He then stuck into it pins, the heads of
which were tipped with wax, some red and some black. I silently observed
him; and awaited with no little curiosity the result of this plan of
campaign. When he had stationed the enemy's corps, and drawn up the pins
with red heads on the points where he hoped to bring his own troops, he
said to me, "Where do you think I shall beat Melas?"--"How the devil
should I know?"--"Why, look here, you fool! Melas is at Alessandria with
his headquarters. There he will remain until Genoa surrenders. He has
in Alessandria his magazines, his hospitals, his artillery, and his
reserves. Crossing the Alps here (pointing to the Great Mont St.
Bernard) I shall fall upon Melas, cut off his communications with
Austria, and meet him here in the plains of Scrivia" (placing a red, pin
at San Giuliano). Finding that I looked on this manoeuvre of pins as
mere pastime, he addressed to me some of his usual compliments, such as
fool, ninny, etc., and then proceeded to demonstrate his plans more
clearly on the map. At the expiration of a quarter of an hour we rose;
I folded up the map, and thought no more of the matter.
Four months after this, when I was at San Giuliano with Bonaparte's
portfolio and despatches, which I had saved from the rout which had taken
place during the day, and when that very evening I was writing at Torre
di Galifolo the bulletin of the battle to Napoleon's dictation, I frankly
avowed my admiration of his military plans. He himself smiled at the
accuracy of his own foresight.
The First Consul was not satisfied with General Berthier as War Minister,
and he superseded him by Carnot,
--[There were special reasons for the appointment of Carnot,
Berthier was required with his master in Italy, while Carnot, who
had so long ruled the armies of the Republic, was better fitted to
influence Moreau, at this time advancing into Germany. Carnot
probably fulfilled the main object of his appointment when he was
sent to Moreau, and succeeded in getting that general, with natural
reluctance, to damage his own campaign by detaching a large body of
troops into Italy. Berthier was reappointed to the Ministry on the
8th of October 1800,--a very speedy return if he had really been
who had given great proofs of firmness and integrity, but who,
nevertheless, was no favourite of Bonaparte, on account of his decided
republican principles. Berthier was too slow in carrying out the
measures ordered, [duplicated line removed here D.W.] and too lenient in
the payment of past charges and in new contracts. Carnot's appointment
took place on the 2d of April 1800; and to console Berthier, who, he
knew, was more at home in the camp than in the office, he dictated to me
the following letter for him:--
PARIS, 2d April 1800.
CITIZEN-GENERAL,--The military talents of which you have given so
many proofs, and the confidence of the Government, call you to the
command of an army. During the winter you have REORGANISED the War
Department, and you have provided, as far as circumstances would
permit, for the wants of our armies. During the spring and summer
it must be your task to lead our troops to victory, which is the
effectual means of obtaining peace and consolidating the Republic.
Bonaparte laughed heartily while he dictated this epistle, especially
when he uttered the word which I have marked in italics [CAPS]. Berthier
set out for Dijon, where he commenced the formation of the army of
The Consular Constitution did not empower the First Consul to command an
army out of the territory of France. Bonaparte therefore wished to keep
secret his long-projected plan of placing himself at the head of the army
of Italy, which, he then for the first time called the grand army. I
observed that by his choice of Berthier nobody could be deceived, because
it must be evident that he would have made another selection had he not
intended to command in person. He laughed at my observation.
Our departure from Paris was fixed for the 6th of May, or, according to
the republican calendar, the 16th Floreal Bonaparte had made all his
arrangements and issued all his orders; but still he did not wish it to
be known that he was going to take the command of the army. On the eve
of our departure, being in conference with the two other Consuls and the
Ministers, he said to Lucien, "Prepare, to-morrow morning, a circular to
the prefects, and you, Fouche, will publish it in the journals. Say I am
gone to Dijon to inspect the army of reserve. You may add that I shall
perhaps go as far as Geneva; but you must affirm positively that I shall
not be absent longer than a fortnight: You, Cambaceres, will preside to-
morrow at the Council of State. In my absence you are the Head of the
Government. State that my absence will be but of short duration, but
specify nothing. Express my approbation of the Council of State; it has
already rendered great services, and I shall be happy to see it continue
in the course it has hitherto pursued. Oh! I had nearly forgotten--you
will at the same time announce that I have appointed Joseph a Councillor
of State. Should anything happen I shall be back again like a
thunderbolt. I recommend to you all the great interests of France, and I
trust that I shall shortly be talked of in Vienna and in London."
We set out at two in the morning, taking the Burgundy road, which we had
already so often travelled under very different circumstances.
On the journey Bonaparte conversed about the warriors of antiquity,
especially Alexander, Caesar, Scipio, and Hannibal. I asked him which he
preferred, Alexander or Caesar. "I place Alexander in the first rank,"
said he, "yet I admire Caesar's fine campaign in Africa. But the ground
of my preference for the King of Macedonia is the plan, and above all the
execution, of his campaign in Asia. Only those who are utterly ignorant
of war can blame Alexander for having spent seven months at the siege of
Tyre. For my part, I would have stayed there seven years had it been
necessary. This is a great subject of dispute; but I look upon the siege
of Tyre, the conquest of Egypt, and the journey to the Oasis of Ammon as
a decided proof of the genius of that great captain. His object was to
give the King of Persia (of whose force he had only beaten a feeble
advance-guard at the Granicus and Issus) time to reassemble his troops,
so that he might overthrow at a blow the colossus which he had as yet
only shaken. By pursuing Darius into his states Alexander would have
separated himself from his reinforcements, and would have met only
scattered parties of troops who would have drawn him into deserts where
his army would have been sacrificed. By persevering in the taking of
Tyre he secured, his communications with Greece, the country he loved as
dearly as I love France, and in whose glory he placed his own. By taking
possession of the rich province of Egypt he forced Darius to come to
defend or deliver it, and in so doing to march half-way to meet him.
By representing himself as the son of Jupiter he worked upon the ardent
feelings of the Orientals in a way that powerfully seconded his designs.
Though he died at thirty-three what a name he has left behind him!"
Though an utter stranger to the noble profession of arms, yet I could
admire Bonaparte's clever military plans and his shrewd remarks on the
great captains of ancient and modern times. I could not refrain from
saying, "General, you often reproach me for being no flatterer, but now I
tell you plainly I admire you." And certainly, I really spoke the true
sentiments of my mind.
MEMOIRS OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE, VOLUME 5.
By LOUIS ANTOINE FAUVELET DE BOURRIENNE
His Private Secretary
Edited by R. W. Phipps
Colonel, Late Royal Artillery
CHAPTER I. to CHAPTER VIII., 1800-1803
Bonaparte's confidence in the army--'Ma belle' France--The convent
of Bernadins--Passage of Mont St. Bernard--Arrival at the convent--
Refreshments distributed to the soldiers--Mont Albaredo--Artillery
dismounted--The fort of Bard--Fortunate temerity--Bonaparte and
Melas--The spy--Bonaparte's opinion of M. Necker--Capitulation of
Genoa--Intercepted despatch--Lannes at Montebello--Boudet succeeded
by Desaix--Coolness of the First Consul to M. Collot--Conversation
and recollections--The battle of Marengo--General Kellerman--Supper
sent from the Convent del Bosco--Particulars respecting the death of
Desaix--The Prince of Lichtenstein--Return to Milan--Savary and
It cannot be denied that if, from the 18th Brumaire to the epoch when
Bonaparte began the campaign, innumerable improvements had been made in
the internal affairs of France, foreign affairs could not be seen with
the same satisfaction. Italy had been lost, and from the frontiers of
Provence the Austrian camp fires were seen. Bonaparte was not ignorant
of the difficulties of his position, and it was even on account of these
very difficulties that, whatever might be the result of his hardy
enterprise, he wished to escape from it as quickly as possible. He
cherished no illusions, and often said all must be staked to gain all.
The army which the First Consul was preparing to attack was numerous,
well disciplined, and victorious.
His, with the exception of a very small number of troops, was composed of
conscripts; but these conscripts were commanded by officers whose ardour
was unparalleled. Bonaparte's fortune was now to depend on the winning
or losing of a battle. A battle lost would have dispelled all the dreams
of his imagination, and with them would have vanished all his immense
schemes for the future of France. He saw the danger, but was not
intimidated by it; and trusting to his accustomed good fortune, and to
the courage and fidelity of his troops, he said, "I have, it is true,
many conscripts in my army, but they are Frenchmen. Four years ago did I
not with a feeble army drive before me hordes of Sardinians and
Austrians, and scour the face of Italy? We shall do so again. The sun
which now shines on us is the same that shone at Arcola and Lodi. I rely
on Massena. I hope he will hold out in Genoa. But should famine oblige
him to surrender, I will retake Genoa in the plains of the Scrivia. With
what pleasure shall I then return to my dear France! Ma belle France."
At this moment, when a possible, nay, a probable chance, might for ever
have blasted his ambitious hopes, he for the first time spoke of France
as his. Considering the circumstances in which we then stood, this use
of the possessive pronoun "my" describes more forcibly than anything that
can be said the flashes of divination which crossed Bonaparte's brain
when he was wrapped up in his chimerical ideas of glory and fortune.
In this favourable disposition of mind the First Consul arrived at
Martigny on the 20th of May. Martigny is a convent of Bernardins,
situated in a valley where the rays of the sun scarcely ever penetrate.
The army was in full march to the Great St. Bernard. In this gloomy
solitude did Bonaparte wait three days, expecting the fort of Bard,
situated beyond the mountain and covering the road to Yvree, to
surrender. The town was carried on the 21st of May, and on the third day
he learned that the fort still held out, and that there were no
indications of its surrender. He launched into complaints against the
commander of the siege, and said, "I am weary of staying in this convent;
those fools will never take Bard; I must go myself and see what can be
done. They cannot even settle so contemptible an affair without me!"
He immediately gave orders for our departure.
The grand idea of the invasion of Italy by crossing Mont St. Bernard
emanated exclusively from the First Consul. This miraculous achievement
justly excited the admiration of the world. The incredible difficulties
it presented did not daunt the courage of Bonaparte's troops. His
generals, accustomed as they had been to brave fatigue and danger,
regarded without concern the gigantic enterprise of the modern Hannibal.
A convent or hospice, which had been established on the mountain for the
purpose of affording assistance to solitary travellers, sufficiently
bespeaks the dangers of these stormy regions. But the St. Bernard was
now to be crossed, not by solitary travellers, but by an army. Cavalry,
baggage, limbers, and artillery were now to wend their way along those
narrow paths where the goat-herd cautiously picks his footsteps. On the
one hand masses of snow, suspended above our heads, every moment
threatened to break in avalanches, and sweep us away in their descent.
On the other, a false step was death. We all passed, men and horse, one
by one, along the goat paths. The artillery was dismounted, and the
guns, put into excavated trunks of trees, were drawn by ropes.
I have already mentioned that the First Consul had transmitted funds to
the hospice of the Great St. Bernard. The good fathers had procured from
the two valleys a considerable supply of cheese, bread, and wine. Tables
were laid out in front of the hospice, and each soldier as he defiled
past took a glass of wine and a piece of bread and cheese, and then
resigned his place to the next. The fathers served, and renewed the
portions with admirable order and activity.
The First Consul ascended the St. Bernard with that calm self-possession
and that air of indifference for which he was always remarkable when he
felt the necessity of setting an example and exposing himself to danger.
He asked his guide many questions about the two valleys, inquired what
were the resources of the inhabitants, and whether accidents were as
frequent as they were said to be. The guide informed him that the
experience of ages enabled the inhabitants to foresee good or bad
weather, and that they were seldom deceived.
Bonaparte, who wore his gray greatcoat, and had his whip in his hand,
appeared somewhat disappointed at not seeing any one come from the valley
of Aorta to inform him of the taking of the fort of Bard. I never left
him for a moment during the ascent. We encountered no personal danger,
and escaped with no other inconvenience than excessive fatigue.
On his arrival at the convent the First Consul visited the chapel and the
three little libraries. He had time to read a few pages of an old book,
of which I have forgotten the title.
Our breakfast-dinner was very frugal. The little garden was still
covered with snow, and I said to one of the fathers, "You can have but
few vegetables here."--"We get our vegetables from the valleys," he
replied; "but in the month of August, in warm seasons, we have a few
lettuces of our own growing."
When we reached the summit of the mountain we seated ourselves on the
snow and slid down. Those who went first smoothed the way for those who
came behind them. This rapid descent greatly amused us, and we were only
stopped by the mud which succeeded the snow at the distance of five or
six hundred toises down the declivity.
We crossed, or rather climbed up, Mont Albaredo to avoid passing under
the fort of Bard, which closes the valley of Aorta. As it was impossible
to get the artillery up this mountain it was resolved to convey it
through the town of Bard, which was not fortified. For this operation we
made choice of night, and the wheels of the cannon and caissons, and even
the horses' feet, being wrapped in straw, the whole passed quietly
through the little town. They were, indeed, under the fire of the fort;
however, it did not so completely command the street but that the houses
would have protected them against any very fatal consequences. A great
part of the army had passed before the surrender of the fort, which so
completely commands the narrow valley leading to Aorta that it is
difficult to comprehend the negligence of the Austrians in not throwing
up more efficient works; by very simple precautions they might have
rendered the passage of St. Bernard unavailing.
On the 23d we came within sight of the fort of Bard, which commands the
road bounded by the Doria Baltea on the right and Mont Albaredo on the
left. The Doria Baltea is a small torrent which separates the town of
Bard from the fort. Bonaparte, whose retinue was not very numerous,
crossed the torrent. On arriving within gunshot of the fort he ordered
us to quicken our pace to gain a little bridle-path on the left, leading
to the summit of Mont Albaredo, and turning the town and fort of Bard.
We ascended this path on foot with some difficulty. On reaching the
summit of the mountain, which commands the fort, Bonaparte levelled his
telescope on the grass, and stationing himself behind some bushes, which
served at once to shelter and conceal him, he attentively reconnoitered
the fort. After addressing several questions to the persons who had come
to give him information, he mentioned, in a tone of dissatisfaction, the
faults that had been committed, and ordered the erection of a new battery
to attack a point which he marked out, and from whence, he guaranteed,
the firing of a few shots would oblige the fort to surrender. Having
given these orders he descended the mountain and went to sleep that night
at Yvree. On the 3d of June he learned that the fort had surrendered the
The passage of Mont St. Bernard must occupy a great place in the annals
of successful temerity. The boldness of the First Consul seemed, as it
were, to have fascinated the enemy, and his enterprise was so unexpected
that not a single Austrian corps defended the approaches of the fort of
Bard. The country was entirely exposed, and we only encountered here and
there a few feeble parties, who were incapable of checking our march upon
Milan. Bonaparte's advance astonished and confounded the enemy, who
thought of nothing but marching back the way he came, and renouncing the
invasion of France. The bold genius which actuated Bonaparte did not
inspire General Melas, the commander-in-chief of the Austrian forces.
If Melas had had the firmness which ought to belong to the leader of an
army--if he had compared the respective positions of the two parties--if
he had considered that there was no longer time to regain his line of
operations and recover his communication with the Hereditary States, that
he was master of all the strong places in Italy, that he had nothing to
fear from Massena, that Suchet could not resist him:--if, then, following
Bonaparte's' example, he had marched upon Lyons, what would have become
of the First Consul? Melas would have found few obstacles, and almost
everywhere open towns, while the French army would have been exhausted
without having an enemy to fight. This is, doubtless, what Bonaparte
would have done had he been Melas; but, fortunately for us, Melas was not
We arrived at Milan on the 2d of June, the day on which the First Consul
heard that the fort of Bard was taken. But little resistance was opposed
to our entrance to the capital of Lombardy, and the term "engagements"
can scarcely be applied to a few affairs of advance posts, in which
success could not be for a moment doubtful; the fort of Milan was
immediately blockaded. Murat was sent to Piacenza, of which he took
possession without difficulty, and Lannes beat General Ott at Montebello.
He was far from imagining that by that exploit he conquered for himself a
The First Consul passed six days at Milan. On the day after our arrival
there a spy who had served us very well in the first campaign in Italy
was announced. The First Consul recollected him, and ordered him to be
shown into his cabinet.--"What, are you here?" he exclaimed; "so you are
not shot yet!"--"General," replied the spy, "when the war recommenced I
determined to serve the Austrians because you were far from Europe.
I always follow the fortunate; but the truth is, I am tired of the trade.
I wish to have done with it, and to get enough to enable me to retire.
I have been sent to your lines by General Melas, and I can render you an
important service. I will give an exact account of the force and the
position of all the enemy's corps, and the names of their commanders.
I can tell you the situation in which Alessandria now is. You know me
I will not deceive you; but, I must carry back some report to my general.
You need not care for giving me some true particulars which I can
communicate to him."--"Oh! as to that," resumed the First Consul, "the
enemy is welcome to know my forces and my positions, provided I know his,
and he be ignorant of my plans. You shall be satisfied; but do not
deceive me: you ask for 1000 Louis, you shall have them if you serve me
well." I then wrote down from the dictation of the spy, the and the
names of the corps, their amount, their positions, names of the generals
commanding them. The Consul stuck pins in the map to mark his plans on
places respecting which he received information from the spy. We also
learned that Alexandria was without provisions, that Melas was far from
expecting a siege, that many of his troops were sick, and that be wanted
medicines. Berthier was ordered to draw up for the spy a nearly accurate
statement of our positions.
The information given by this man proved so accurate and useful that on
his return from Marengo Bonaparte ordered me to pay him the 1000 Louis.
The spy afterwards informed him that Melas was delighted with the way in
which he had served him in this affair, and had rewarded him handsomely.
He assured us that he had bidden farewell to his odious profession. The
First Consul regarded this little event as one of the favours of fortune.
In passing through Geneva the First Consul had an interview with M.
--[Madame de Stael briefly mention this interview in her
'Considerations sur la Revolution Francaise' "M. Necker," she says,
"had an interview with Bonaparte, when he was on his way to Italy by
the passage of Mont. St. Bernard, a few days before the battle of
Marengo, During this conversation, which lasted two hours, the First
Consul made a very favourable impression on my father by the
confident way he spoke of his future projects."--Bourrienne.]--
I know not how it happened, but at the time he did not speak to me of
this interview. However, I was curious to know what be thought of a man
who had acquired much celebrity in France. One evening, when we were
talking of one thing and another, I managed to turn the conversation on
that subject. M. Necker," said he, "appears to me very far below his
reputation. He did not equal the idea I had formed of him. I tried all
I could to get him to talk; but he said nothing remarkable. He is an
--[This was a constant term of reproach with Bonaparte. He set all
the metaphysicians of the Continent against him by exclaiming, "Je
ne veux point d'ideologues."]--
a banker. It is impossible that such a man can have any but narrow
views; and, besides, most celebrated people lose on a close view."--
"Not always, General," observed I--"Ah!" said he, smiling, "that is not
bad, Bourrienne. You are improving. I see I shall make something of you
The day was approaching when all was to be lost or won. The First Consul
made all his arrangements, and sent off the different corps to occupy the
points be had marked out. I have already mentioned that Murat's task was
the occupation of Piacenza. As soon as he was in possession of that town
he intercepted a courier of General Melas. The despatch, which was
addressed to the Aulic Council of Vienna, was delivered to us on the
night of the 8th of June. It announced the capitulation of Genoa, which
took place on the 4th, after the long and memorable defence which
reflected so much honour on Massena. Melas in his despatch spoke of what
he called our pretended army of reserve with inconceivable contempt, and
alluded to the presence of Bonaparte in Italy as a mere fabrication. He
declared he was still in Paris. It was past three in the morning when
Murat's courier arrived. I immediately translated the despatch, which
was in German. About four o'clock I entered the chamber of the First
Consul, whom I was obliged to shake by the arm in order to wake him. He
had desired me; as I have already mentioned, never to respect his repose
an the arrival of bad news; but on the receipt of good news to let him
sleep. I read to him the despatch, and so much was he confounded by this
unexpected event that his first exclamation was, "Bah! you do not
understand German." But hardly had be uttered these words when he arose,
and by eight o'clock in the morning orders were despatched for repairing
the possible consequences of this disaster, and countermanding the march
of the troops on the Scrivia. He himself proceeded the same day to
I have seen it mentioned in some accounts that the First Consul in person
gained the battle of Montebello. This is a mistake. He did not leave
Milan until the 9th of June, and that very day Lannes was engaged with
the enemy. The conflict was so terrible that Lannes, a few days after,
describing it in my presence to M. Collot, used these remarkable words,
which I well remember: "Bones were cracking in my division like a shower
of hail falling on a skylight."
By a singular chance Desaix, who was to contribute to the victory and
stop the rout of Marengo, arrived from Egypt at Toulon, on the very day
on which we departed from Paris. He was enabled to leave Egypt in
consequence of the capitulation of El-Arish, which happened on the 4th of
January 1800. He wrote me a letter, dated 16th Floreal, year VIII. (6th
of May 1800), announcing his arrival. This letter I did not receive
until we reached Martigny. I showed it to the First Consul. "Ah!"
exclaimed he, "Desaix in Paris!" and he immediately despatched an order
for him to repair to the headquarters of the army of Italy wherever they
might be. Desaix arrived at Stradella on the morning of the 11th of
June. The First Consul received him with the warmest cordiality, as a
man for whom he had a high esteem, and whose talents and character
afforded the fairest promise of what might one day be expected of him.
Bonaparte was jealous of some generals, the rivalry of whose ambition he
feared; but on this subject Desaix gave him no uneasiness; equally
remarkable for his unassuming disposition, his talent, and information,
he proved by his conduct that he loved glory for her own sake, and that
every wish for the possession of political power was foreign to his mind.
Bonaparte's friendship for him was enthusiastic. At this interview at
Stradella, Desaix was closeted with the First Consul for upwards of three
hours. On the day after his arrival an order of the day communicated to
the army that Desaix was appointed to the command of Boudet's division.
--[Boudet was on terms of great intimacy with Bonaparte, who, no
doubt, was much affected at his death. However, the only remark he
made on receiving the intelligence, was "Who the devil shall I get
to supply Boudet's place?"--Bourrienne.
The command given to Desaix was a corps especially formed of the two
divisions of Boudet and Monnier (Savary, tome i. p. 262). Boudet
was not killed at Marengo, still less before (see Erreurs, tome i.
I expressed to Bonaparte my surprise at his long interview with Desaix.
"Yes," replied he, "he has been a long time with me; but you know what a
favourite he is. As soon as I return to Paris I will make him War
Minister. I would make him a prince if I could. He is quite an antique
character." Desaix died two days after he had completed his thirty-third
year, and in less than a week after the above observations.
About this time M. Collot came to Italy and saw Bonaparte at Milan. The
latter received him coldly, though he had not yet gained the battle of
Marengo. M. Collot hed been on the most intimate footing with Bonaparte,
and had rendered him many valuable services. These circumstances
sufficiently accounted for Bonaparte's coolness, for he would never
acknowledge himself under obligations to any one, and he did not like
those who were initiated into certain family secrets which he had
resolved to conceal.
--[The day after the interview I had a long conversation with M.
Collot while Bonaparte was gone to review some corps stationed at
Milan. M. Collot perfectly understood the cause of the unkind
treatment he had experienced, and of which he gave me the following
Some days before the Consulate--that is to say, two or three days
after our return from Egypt,--Bonaparte, during his jealous fit,
spoke to M. Collot about his wife, her levities, and their
publicity. "Henceforth," said Bonaparte, "I will have nothing to do
with her."--"What, would you part from her?"--"Does not her conduct
justify me in so doing?"--"I do not know; but is this the time to
think of such a thing, when the eyes of all France are fixed upon
you? These domestic squabbles will degrade you in the eyes of the
people, who expect you to be wholly devoted to their interests; and
you will be laughed at, like one of Moliere's husbands, if you are
displeased with your wife's conduct you can call her to account when
you have nothing better to do. Begin by raising up the state.
After that you may find a thousand reasons for your resentment when
now you would not find one. You know the French people well enough
to see how important it is that you should not commence with this
By these and other similar remarks M. Collot thought he had produced
some impression, when Bonaparte suddenly exclaimed: "No, my
determination is fixed; she shall never again enter my house. I
care not what people say. They will gossip about the affair for two
days, and on the third it will be forgotten. She shall go to
Malmaison, and I will live here. The public know enough, not to be
mistaken as to the reasons of her removal."
M. Collot vainly endeavoured to calm his irritation. Bonaparte
vented a torrent of reproaches upon Josephine. "All this violence,"
observed M. Collot, "proves that you still love her. Do but see
her, she will explain the business to your satisfaction and you will
forgive her."--"I forgive her! Never! Collot, you know me. If I
were not sure of my own resolution, I would tear out this heart, and
cast it into the fire." Here anger almost choked his utterance, and
he made a motion with his hand as if tearing his breast.
When this violent paroxysm had somewhat subsided M. Collot withdrew;
but before he went away Bonaparte invited him to breakfast on the
At ten o'clock M. Collot was there, and as he was passing through
the courtyard he was informed that Madame Bonaparte, who, as I have
already mentioned, had gone to Lyons without meeting the General,
had returned during the night. On M. Collot's entrance Bonaparte
appeared considerably embarrassed. He led him into a side room, not
wishing to bring him into the room where I was writing. "Well,"
said Bonaparte to M. Collot, "she is here."--"I rejoice to hear it.
You have done well for yourself as well as for us."--"But do not
imagine I have forgiven her. As long as I live I shall suspect.
The fact is, that on her arrival I desired her to be gone; but that
fool Joseph was there. What could I do, Collot? I saw her descend
the staircase followed by Eugine and Hortense. They were all
weeping; and I have not a heart to resist tears Eugene was with me
in Egypt. I have been accustomed to look upon him as my adopted
son. He is a fine brave lad. Hortense is just about to be
introduced into society, and she is admired by all who know her.
I confess, Collot, I was deeply moved; I could not endure the
distress of the two poor children. 'Should they,' thought I,
'suffer for their mother's faults?' I called back Eugene and
Hortense, and their mother followed them. What could I say, what
could I do? I should not be a man without some weakness."--
"Be assured they will reward you for this."--"They ought, Collot
they ought; for it has cost me a hard struggle." After this
dialogue Bonaparte and M. Collot entered the breakfast-parlour,
where I was then sitting. Eugene breakfasted with us, but neither
Josephine nor Hortense. I have already related how I acted the part
of mediator in this affair. Next day nothing was wanting to
complete the reconciliation between the Conqueror of Egypt and the
charming woman who conquered Bonaparte.--Bourrienne.]--
On the 13th the First Consul slept at Torre di Galifolo. During the
evening he ordered a staff-officer to ascertain whether the Austrians had
a bridge across the Bormida. A report arrived very late that there was
none. This information set Bonaparte's mind at rest, and he went to bed
very well satisfied; but early next morning, when a firing was heard, and
he learned that the Austrians had debouched on the plain, where the
troops were engaged, he flew into a furious passion, called the staff-
officer a coward, and said he had not advanced far enough. He even spoke
of bringing the matter to an investigation.
From motives of delicacy I refrain from mentioning the dame of the
officer here alluded to.
Bonaparte mounted his horse and proceeded immediately to the scene of
action. I did not see him again until six in tine evening. In obedience
to his instructions; I repaired to San Giuliano, which is not above two
leagues from the place where the engagement commenced. In the course of
the afternoon I saw a great many wounded passing through the village, and
shortly afterwards a multitude of fugitives. At San Giuliano nothing was
talked of but a retreat, which, it was said, Bonaparte alone firmly
opposed. I was then advised to leave San Giuliano, where I had just
received a courier for the General-in-Chief. On the morning of the 14th
General Desaix was sent towards Novi to observe the road to Genoa, which
city had fallen several days before, in spite of the efforts of its
illustrious defender, Massena. I returned with this division to San
Giuliano. I was struck with the numerical weakness of the corps which
was marching to aid an army already much reduced and dispersed. The
battle was looked upon as lost, and so indeed it was. The First Consul
having asked Desaix what he thought of it, that brave General bluntly
replied, "The battle is completely lost; but it is only two o'clock, we
have time to gain another to-day." I heard this from Bonaparte himself
the same evening. Who could have imagined that Desaix's little corps,
together with the few heavy cavalry commanded by General Kellerman,
would, about five o'clock, have changed the fortune of the day? It
cannot be denied that it was the instantaneous inspiration of Kellerman
that converted a defeat into a victory, and decided the battle of
That memorable battle, of which the results were incalculable, has been
described in various ways. Bonaparte had an account of it commenced no
less than three times; and I must confess that none of the narratives are
more correct than that contained in the 'Memoirs of the Duke of Rovigo'.
The Emperor Napoleon became dissatisfied with what had been said by the
First Consul Bonaparte. For my part, not having had the honour to bear a
sword, I cannot say that I saw any particular movement executed this or
that way; but I may mention here what I heard on the evening of the
battle of Marengo respecting the probable chances of that event. As to
the part which the First Consul took in it, the reader, perhaps, is
sufficiently acquainted with his character to account for it. He did not
choose that a result so decisive should be attributed to any other cause
than the combinations of his genius, and if I had not known his
insatiable thirst for glory I should have been surprised at the sort of
half satisfaction evinced at the cause of the success amidst the joy
manifested for the success itself. It must be confessed that in this he
was very unlike Jourdan, Hoche, Kleber, and Moreau, who were ever ready
to acknowledge the services of those who had fought under their orders.
Within two hours of the time when the divisions commanded by Desaix left
San Giuliano I was joyfully surprised by the triumphant return of the
army, whose fate, since the morning, had caused me so much anxiety.
Never did fortune within so short a time show herself under two such
various faces. At two o'clock all denoted the desolation of a defeat,
with all its fatal consequences; at five victory was again faithful to
the flag of Arcola. Italy was reconquered by a single blow, and the
crown of France appeared in the perspective.
At seven in the evening, when I returned with the First Consul to
headquarters, he expressed to me his sincere regret for the loss of
Desaix, and then he added, "Little Kellerman made a lucky charge. He did
it at just the right moment. We are much indebted to him. You see what
trifling circumstances decide these affairs."
These few words show that Bonaparte sufficiently appreciated the services
of Kellerman. However, when that officer approached the table at which
were seated the First Consul and a number of his generals, Bonaparte
merely said, "You made a pretty good charge." By way of counter-
balancing this cool compliment he turned towards Bessieres, who commanded
the horse grenadiers of the Guard, and said, "Bessieres, the Guard has
covered itself with glory." Yet the fact is, that the Guard took no part
in the charge of Kellerman, who could assemble only 500 heavy cavalry;
and with this handful of brave men he cut in two the Austrian column,
which had overwhelmed Desaix's division, and had made 6000 prisoners.
The Guard did not charge at Marengo until nightfall.
Next day it was reported that Kellerman, in his first feeling of
dissatisfaction at the dry congratulation he had received, said to the
First Consul, "I have just placed the crown on your head!" I did not
hear this, and I cannot vouch for the truth of its having been said. I
could only have ascertained that fart through Bonaparte, and of
course I could not, with propriety, remind him of a thing which must have
been very offensive to him. However, whether true or not, the
observation was circulated about, verbally and in writing, and Bonaparte
knew it. Hence the small degree of favour shown to Kellerman, who was
not made a general of division on the field of battle as a reward for his
charge at Marengo.
--[If Savary's story be correct, and he was then aide de camp to
Desaix, and Bourrienne acknowledges his account to be the best, the
inspiration of the charge did not come from the young Kellerman.
Savary says that Desaix sent him to tell Napoleon that he could not
delay his attack, and that he must be supported by some cavalry.
Savary was then sent by Napoleon to a spot where he was told he
would find Kellerman, to order him to charge in support of Desaix.
Desaix and Kellerman were so placed as to be out of sight of each
other (Savary, tome i. pp. 279-279). Thiers (tome i, p. 445)
It may here be mentioned that Savary, in his account of the battle,
expressly states that he carried the order from Bonaparte to
Kellerman to make this charge. He also makes the following
observations on the subject:--
After the fall of the Imperial Government some pretended friends of
General Kellerman have presumed to claim for him the merit of
originating the charge of cavalry. That general, whose share of
glory is sufficiently brilliant to gratify his most sanguine wishes,
can have no knowledge of so presumptuous a pretension. I the more
readily acquit him from the circumstance that, as we were conversing
one day respecting that battle, I called to his mind my having
brought, to him the First Consul's orders, and he appeared not to
have forgotten that fact. I am far from suspecting his friends of
the design of lessening the glory of either General Bonaparte or
General Desaix; they know as well as myself that theirs are names so
respected that they can never be affected by such detractions, and
that it would be as vain to dispute the praise due to the Chief who
planned the battle was to attempt to depreciate the brilliant share
which General Kellerman had in its successful result. I will add to
the above a few observations.
"From the position which he occupied General Desaix could not see
General Kellerman; he had even desired me to request the First
Consul to afford him the support of some cavalry. Neither could
General Kellerman, from the point where he was stationed, perceive
General Desaix's division; it is even probable that he was not aware
of the arrival of that General, who had only joined the army two
days before. Both were ignorant of each other's position, which the
First Consul was alone acquainted with; he alone could introduce
harmony into their movements; he alone could make their efforts
respectively conduce to the same object.
"The fate of the battle was decided by Kellerman's bold charge; had
it, however, been made previously to General Desaix's attack, in all
probability it would have had a quite different result. Kellerman
appears to have been convinced of it, since he allowed the Austrian
column to cross our field of battle and extend its front beyond that
of the troops we had still in line without making the least attempt
to impede its progress. The reason of Kellerman's not charging it
sooner was that it was too serious a movement, and the consequences
of failure would have been irretrievable: that charge, therefore,
could only enter into a general combination of plans, to which he
was necessarily a stranger" (Memoirs of the Duke of Rovigo, tome i.
M. Delaforet, the Postmaster-general, sometimes transacted business with
the First Consul. The nature of this secret business may easily be
--[When M. Delaforet was replaced soon after this by Lavalette,
Napoleon ordered the discontinuance of the practice followed until
then of allowing letters to be opened by subordinate officials.
This right was restricted, as in England, to the Minister. However
bad this practice, it was limited, not extended, in his reign. See
Mineval, tome iii. pp. 60-62, and Lavalette, tome ii. p. 10.]--
On the occasion of one of their interviews the First Consul saw a letter
from Kellerman to Lasalle, which contained the following passage: "Would
you believe, my friend, that Bonaparte has not made me a general of
division though I have just placed the crown on his head?" The letter
was sealed again and sent to its address; but Bonaparte never forgot its
Whether Kellerman did or did not give the crown of France to the First
Consul, it is very certain that on the evening of the battle of Marengo
he gave him a supper, of which his famishing staff and the rest of us
partook. This was no inconsiderable service in the destitute condition
in which we were. We thought ourselves exceeding fortunate in profiting
by the precaution of Kellerman, who had procured provisions from one of
those pious retreats which are always well supplied, and which soldiers
are very glad to fall in with when campaigning. It was the convent del
Bosco which on this occasion was laid under contribution; and in return
for the abundance of good provisions and wine with which they supplied
the commander of the heavy cavalry the holy fathers were allowed a guard
to protect them against pillage and the other disastrous concomitants of
After supper was over the First Consul dictated to me the bulletin of the
battle. When we were alone I said to him, "General, here is a fine
victory! You recollect what you said the other day about the pleasure
with which you would return to France after striking a grand blow in
Italy; surely you must be satisfied now?"--"Yes, Bourrienne, I am
satisfied. --But Desaix! . . . Ah, what a triumph would this have
been if I could have embraced him to-night on the field of battle!"
As he uttered these words I saw that Bonaparte was on the point of
shedding tears, so sincere and profound was his grief for the death of
Desaix. He certainly never loved, esteemed, or regretted any man so
The death of Desaix has been variously related, and I need not now state
that the words attributed to him in the bulletin were imaginary. Neither
did he die in the arms of his aide de camp, Lebrun, as I wrote from the
dictation of the First Consul. The following facts are more correct, or
at all events more probable:--the death of Desaix was not perceived at
the moment it took place. He fell without saying a word, at a little
distance from Lefebre-Desnouettes. A sergeant of battalion of the 9th
brigade light infantry, commanded by Barrois, seeing him extended on the
ground, asked permission to pick up his cloak. It was found to be
perforated behind; and this circumstance leaves it doubtful whether
Desaix was killed by some unlucky inadvertency, while advancing at the
head of his troops, or by the enemy when turning towards his men to
encourage them. However, the event was so instantaneous, the disorder so
complete, and the change of fortune so sudden, that it is not surprising
there should be no positive account of the circumstances which attended
Early next morning the Prince of Liechtenstein came from General Melas
with negotiations to the First Consul. The propositions of the General
did not suit Bonaparte, and he declared to the Prince that the army shut
up in Alessandria should evacuate freely, and with the honours of war;
but on those conditions, which are well known, and by which Italy was to
be fully restored to the French domination. That day were repaired the
faults of Scherer, whose inertness and imbecility had paralysed
everything, and who had fled, and been constantly beaten, from the
Adriatic to Mont Cenis. The Prince of Liechtenstein begged to return to
render an account of his mission to General Melas. He came back in the
evening, and made many observations on the hard nature of the conditions.
"Sir," replied the First Consul, in a tone of marked impatience, "carry
my final determination to your General, and return quickly. It is
irrevocable! Know that I am as well acquainted with your position as you
are yourselves. I did not begin to learn the art of war yesterday. You
are blocked up in Alessandria; you have many sick and wounded; you are in
want of provisions and medicines. I occupy the whole of your rear. Your
finest troops are among the killed and wounded. I might insist on harder
conditions; my position would warrant me in so doing; but I moderate my
demands in consideration of the gray hairs of your General, whom I
This reply was delivered with considerable dignity and energy. I showed
the Prince out, and he said to me, "These conditions are very hard,
especially that of giving up Genoa, which surrendered to us only a
fortnight ago, after so long a siege." It is a curious fact that the
Emperor of Austria received intelligence of the capitulation and
restitution of Genoa at the same time.
When the First Consul returned to Milan he made Savary and Rapp his aides
de camp. They had previously served in the same rank under Desaix. The
First Consul was at first not much disposed to take them, alleging that
he had aides de camp enough. But his respect for the choice of Desaix,
added to a little solicitation on my part, soon removed every obstacle.
These two officers served him to the last hour of his political career
with unfailing zeal and fidelity.
I have seen nothing in the Memoirs of the Due de Rovigo (Savary) about my
having had anything to do with his admission to the honour. I can
probably tell the reason why one of the two aides de camp has risen
higher than the other. Rapp had an Alsatian frankness which always
Suspension of hostilities--Letter to the Consuls--Second Occupation
of Milan--Bonaparte and Massena--Public acclamations and the voice
of Josephine--Stray recollections--Organization of Piedmont--Sabres
of honour--Rewards to the army of the Rhine--Pretended army of
reserve--General Zach--Anniversary of the 14th of July--Monument to
Desaix--Desaix and Foy--Bonaparte's speech in the Temple of Mars--
Arrival of the Consular Guard--The bones of marshal Turenne--
Lucien's successful speech--Letter from Lucien to Joseph Bonaparte--
The First Consul's return to Paris--Accidents on the road--
Difficulty of gaining lasting fame--Assassination of Kleber--
Situation of the terrace on which Kleber was stabbed--Odious rumours
--Arrival of a courier--A night scene--Bonaparte's distress on
perusing the despatches from Egypt.
What little time, and how few events sometimes suffice to change the
destiny of nations! We left Milan on the 13th of June, Marengo on the
14th, and on the 15th Italy was ours! A suspension of hostilities
between the French and Austrian armies was the immediate result of a
single battle; and by virtue of a convention, concluded between Berthier
and Melas, we resumed possession of all the fortified places of any
importance, with the exception of Mantua. As soon as this convention was
signed Bonaparte dictated to me at Torre di Galifolo the following letter
to his colleagues:
The day after the battle of Marengo, CITIZENS CONSULS, General Melas
transmitted a message to our advance posts requesting permission to
send General Skal to me. During the day the convention, of which I
send you a copy, was drawn up, and at night it was signed by
Generals Berthier and Melas. I hope the French people will be
satisfied with the conduct, of their army.
The only thing worthy of remark in this letter would be the concluding
sentence, in which the First Consul still affected to acknowledge the
sovereignty of the people, were it not that the words "Citizens Consuls"
were evidently foisted in with a particular design. The battle was
gained; and even in a trifling matter like this it was necessary that the
two, other Consuls should feel that they were not so much the colleagues
as the subordinates of the First Consul.
We returned to Milan, and our second occupation of that, city was marked
by continued acclamations wherever the First Consul showed himself.
At Milan the First Consul now saw Massena for the first time since our
departure for Egypt. Bonaparte lavished upon, him the highest praises,
but not higher than he deserved, for his admirable, defence of Genoa.
He named him his successor in the command of the army of Italy. Moreau
was on the Rhine, and therefore none but the conqueror of Zurich could
properly have succeeded the First Consul in that command. The great blow
was struck; but there might still occur an emergency requiring the
presence of a skillful experienced general, well acquainted with the
country. And besides, we could not be perfectly at ease, until it was
ascertained what conditions would be adhered to by the Cabinet of Vienna,
which was then entirely under the influence of the Cabinet of London.
After our return from the battle the popular joy was general and
heartfelt not only among the higher and middle ranks of society, but in
all classes; and the affection evinced from all quarters to the First
Consul was unfeigned. In what a tone of sincerity did he say to me one
day, when returning from the parade, "Bourrienne, do you hear the
acclamations still resounding? That noise is as sweet to me as the sound
of Josephine's voice. How happy and proud I am to be loved by such a
During our stay at Milan Bonaparte had arranged a new government for
Piedmont; he had ever since cherished the wish to unite that rich and
fertile country to the French territory because some Piedmontese
provinces had been possessed by Louis XIV. That monarch was the only
king whom the First Consul really admired. "If," said he one day, "Louis
XIV. had not been born a king, he would have been a great man. But he
did not know mankind; he could not know them, for he never knew
misfortune." He admired the resolution of the old King, who would rather
bury himself under the ruins of the monarchy than submit to degrading
conditions, after having commanded the sovereigns of Europe. I recollect
that Bonaparte was extremely pleased to see in the reports which he
ordered to be made that in Casal, and in the valleys of Pignerol, Latour,
and Luzerne, there still existed many traces of the period when those
countries belonged to France; and that the French language was yet
preserved there. He already began to identify himself with the past; and
abusing the old kings of France was not the way to conciliate his favour.
The First Consul appointed for the government of Piedmont a Council
which, as may naturally be imagined; he composed of those Piedmontese who
were the declared partisans of France. He stated as the grounds of this
arrangement that it was to give to Piedmont a new proof of the affection
and attachment of the French people. He afterwards appointed General.
Dupont President of the Council, with the title of Minister-Extraordinary
of the French government. I will here mention a secret step taken by
Bonaparte towards the overthrowing of the Republic. In making the first
draught of General Dupont's appointment I had mechanically written,
"Minister-Extraordinary of the French Republic."--"No! no!" said
Bonaparte, "not of the Republic; say of the Government."
On his return to Paris the First Consul gave almost incredible proofs of
his activity. The day after his arrival he promulgated a great number of
decrees, and afterwards allotted the rewards to his soldiers. He
appointed Kellerman General of division which, on every principle of
justice, he ought to have done on the field of battle. He distributed
sabres of honour, with the following inscription, highly complimentary to
"Battle of Maringo,--[spelt for some time, I do not know why, as,
Maringo--Bourrienne]-- commanded in person by the First Consul.
--Given by the Government of the Republic to General Lannes."
Similar sabres where presented to Generals Victor, Watrin, Gardanne, and
Murat; and sabres of less value to other officers: and also muskets and
drumsticks of honour to the soldiers and drummers who had distinguished
themselves at Marengo, or in the army of the Rhine; for Bonaparte took
care that the officers and men who had fought under Moreau should be
included among those to whom the national rewards were presented. He
even had a medal struck to perpetuate the memory of the entry of the
French army into Munich. It is worthy of remark that while official
fabrications and exaggerated details of facts were published respecting
Marengo and the short campaign of Italy, by a feigned modesty the
victorious army of Marengo received the unambitious title of 'Army of
Reserve'. By this artifice the honour of the Constitution was saved.
The First Consul had not violated it. If he had marched to the field,
and staked everything on a chance it was merely accidentally, for he
commanded only an "Army of Reserve," which nevertheless he had greeted
with the title of Grand Army before he entered upon the campaign. It is
scarcely conceivable that Bonaparte, possessing as he did an
extraordinary mind, should have descended to such pitiful artifices.
--[ Thiers (tome. vi., p. 70) says the title Grande Armee was first
given by Napoleon to the force prepared in 1805 for the campaign
against Austria. The Constitution forbad the First Consul to
command the armies in person. Hence the title, "Army of Reserve,"
gives to the force which fought Marengo.]--
Even foreigners and prisoners were objects of Bonaparte's designing
intentions. I recollect one evening his saying to me; "Bourrienne, write
to the Minister of War, and tell him to select a fine brace of pistols,
of the Versailles manufacture, and send them, in my name, to General
Zach. He dined with me to-day, and highly praised our manufacture of
arms. I should like to give him a token of remembrance; besides,--the,
matter will be talked of at Vienna, and may perhaps do good!"
As soon as the news of the battle of Marengo reached Paris Lucien
Bonaparte, Minister of the Interior, ordered preparations for the
festival, fixed for the 14th of July, in commemoration of the first
Federation. This festival and that of the 1st Vendemiaire were the only
ones preserved by the Consular Government. Indeed, in those memorable
days, when the Revolution appeared in its fairest point of view, France
had never known such joy as that to which the battle of Marengo gave
rise. Still, amidst all this popular transport there was a feeling of
regret. The fame of Desaix, his heroic character, his death, the words
attributed to him and believed to be true, caused mourning to be mingled
with joy. It was agreed to open a subscription for erecting a national
monument to his memory. A reflection naturally arises here upon the
difference between the period referred to and the present time. France
has endowed with nearly a million the children of one of her greatest
orators and most eloquent defenders of public liberty, yet, for the
monument to the memory of Desaix scarcely 20,000 francs were subscribed.
Does not this form a singular contrast with the patriotic munificence
displayed at the death of General Foy? The pitiful monument to Desaix,
on the Place Dauphins, sufficiently attests the want of spirit on the
part of the subscribers. Bonaparte, who was much dissatisfied with it,
gave the name of Desaix to a new quay, the first stone of which was laid
with great solemnity on the 14th of July.
On that day the crowd was immense in the Champ-de-Mars and in the Temple
of Mars, the name which at that the Church of the Invalides still
preserved. Lucien delivered a speech on the encouraging prospects of
France, and Lannes made an appropriate address on presenting to the
Government the flags taken at Marengo. Two more followed; one from an
aide de cramp of Massena, and the other from an aide de camp of Lecourbe;
and after the distribution of some medals the First Consul then delivered
the following address:--
CITIZENS! SOLDIERS!--The flags presented to the Government, in the
presence of the people of this immense capital, attest at once the
genius of the Commanders-in-Chief Moreau, Massena, and Berthier; the
military talents of the generals, their lieutenants; and bravery of
the French soldiers.
On your return to the camp tell your comrades that for the 1st
Vendemiaire, when we shall celebrate the anniversary of the
Republic, the French people expect either peace or, if the enemy
obstinately refuse it, other flags, the fruit of fresh victories.
After this harangue of the First Consul, in which he addressed to the
military in the name of the people, and ascribed to Berthier the glory of
Marengo, a hymn was chanted, the words of which were written by M. de
Fontanes and the music composed by Mehul. But what was most remarkable
in this fete was neither the poetry, music, nor even the panegyrical
eloquence of Lucien, -- it was the arrival at the Champ-de-Mars, after
the ceremony at the Invalides, of the Consular Guard returning from
Marengo. I was at a window of the Ecole-Militaire, and I can never
forget the commotion, almost electrical, which made the air resound with
cries of enthusiasm at their appearance. These soldiers did not defile
before the First Consul in fine uniforms as at a review. Leaving the
field of battle when the firing ceased, they had crossed Lombardy,
Piedmont, Mont Cenis, Savoy, and France in the space of twenty-nine days.
They appeared worn by the fatigue of a long journey, with faces browned
by the summer sun of Italy, and with their arms and clothing showing the
effects of desperate struggles. Do you wish to have an idea of their
appearance? You will find a perfect type in the first grenadier put by
Gerard at one side of his picture of the battle of Austerlitz.
At the time of this fete, that is to say, in the middle of the month of
July, the First Consul could not have imagined that the moderate
conditions he had proposed after the victory would not be accepted by
Austria. In the hope, therefore, of a peace which could not but be
considered probable, he, for the first time since the establishment of
the Consular Government, convoked the deputies of the departments, and
appointed their time of assembling in Paris for the 1st Vendemiaire, a
day which formed the close of one remarkable century and marked the
commencement of another.
The remains of Marshal Turenne; to which Louis XIV. had awarded the
honours of annihilation by giving them a place among the royal tombs in
the vaults of St. Denis, had been torn from their grave at the time of
the sacrilegious violation of the tombs. His bones, mingled
indiscriminately with others, had long lain in obscurity in a garret of
the College of Medicine when M. Lenoir collected and restored them to the
ancient tomb of Turenne in the Mussee des Petits Augustins. Bonaparte-
resolved to enshrine these relics in that sculptured marble with which
the glory of Turenne could so well dispense. This was however, intended
as a connecting link between the past days of France and the future to
which he looked forward. He thought that the sentiments inspired by the
solemn honours rendered to the memory of Turenne would dispose the
deputies of the departments to receive with greater enthusiasm the
pacific communications he hoped to be able to make.
However, the negotiations did not take the favourable turn which the
First Consul had expected; and, notwithstanding all the address of
Lucien, the communication was not heard without much uneasiness. But
Lucien had prepared a speech quite to the taste of the First Consul.
After dilating for some time on the efforts of the Government to obtain
peace he deplored the tergiversations of Austria, accused the fatal
influence of England, and added in a more elevated and solemn tone,
"At the very moment when, the Consuls were leaving the Palace of the
Government a courier arrived bearing despatches which the First Consul
has directed me to communicate to you." He then read a note declaring
that the Austrian Government consented to surrender to France the three
fortresses of Ulm, Philipsburg, and Ingolstadt. This was considered as a
security for the preliminaries of peace being speedily signed. The news
was received with enthusiasm, and that anxious day closed in a way highly
gratifying to the First Consul.
Whilst victory confirmed in Italy the destinies of the First Consul, his
brothers were more concerned about their own interests than the affairs
of France. They loved money as much as Bonaparte loved glory. A letter
from Lucien to his brother Joseph, which I shall subjoin, shows how ready
they always were to turn to their own advantage the glory and fortune of
him to whom they were indebted for all their importance. I found this
letter among my papers, but I cannot tell why and how I preserved it.
It is interesting, inasmuch as it shows, the opinion that family of
future kings entertained of their own situation, and of what their fate
would have been had Bonaparte, like Desaix, fallen on the field of
Marengo. It is, besides, curious to observe the, philosopher Lucien
causing Te Deum, to be chanted with the view of influencing the public
funds. At all events I copy Lucien's letter as he wrote it, giving the
words marked in italics [CAPS] and the numerous notes of exclamation
which distinguish the original.
MY BROTHER--I send you a courier; I particularly wish that the First
Consul would give me notice of his arrival twenty-four hours
beforehand, and that he would inform ME ALONE of the barrier by which
he will enter. The city wishes to prepare triumphal arches for him,
and it deserves not to be disappointed.
AT MY REQUEST a Te Deum was chanted yesterday. There were 60,000
The intrigues of Auteuil continue.
--[This intrigue, so called from Talleyrand one of its heads, living
in the suburb of Auteuil, arose from the wish of many of the most
influential men to be prepared in case of the death of Napoleon in
any action in Italy: It was simply a continuation of the same
combinations which had been attempted or planned in 1799, till the
arrival of Bonaparte from Egypt made the party choose him as the
instrument for the overthrow of the Directors. There was little
secrecy about their plans; see Miot de Melito (tome i p. 276),
where Joseph Bonaparte tells his friends all that was being proposed
in case his brother fell. Carnot seems to have been the most
probable choice as leader and replacer of Bonaparte. In the above
letter "C----," stands for Carrot, "La F----" for La Fayette, the
"High Priest" is Sieyes, and the "friend of Auteuil" is Talleyrand;
see Iung's Lucien, tome i. p. 411. The postscript seems to refer to
a wretched scandal about Caroline, and Lucien; see Iung's Lucien,
tome i. pp. 411, 432-433. The reader should remark the retention
of this and other documents by Bourrienne, which forms one of the
charges brought against him farther on.]--
--It has been found difficult to decide between C---- and La F----.
The latter has proposed his daughter in marriage to me. Intrigue has
been carried to the last extreme. I do not know yet whether the High
Priest has decided for one party or the other. I believe that he would
cheat them both for an Orleans, and your friend of Auteuil was at the
bottom of all. The news of the battle of Marengo petrified them, and yet
next day the High Priest certainly spent three hours with your friend of
Auteuil. As to us, had the victory of Marengo closed the First Consul's
career we should now have been Proscribed.
Your letters say nothing of what I expected to hear. I hope at least to
be informed of the answer from Vienna before any one. I am sorry you
have not paid me back for the battle of Marengo.
The festival of the 14th of July will be very gratifying. We expect
peace as a certainty, and the triumphant return of the First Consul.
The family is all well. Your wife and all her family are at
Mortfontaine. Ney is at Paris. Why do you return with the First Consul?
Peace! and Italy! Think of our last interview. I embrace you.
On the margin is written--
P.S.--Read the letter addressed to the Consul, and give it to him AFTER
YOU HAVE CAREFULLY CLOSED IT.
Forward the enclosed. Madame Murat never lodged in my house. Her
husband is a fool, whom his wife ought to punish by not writing to him
for a month.
(Signed) LUCIEN BONAPARTE
Bonaparte, confirmed in his power by the victory of Marengo, remained
some days longer at Milan to settle the affairs of Italy. He directed
one to furnish Madame Grassini with money to pay her expenses to Paris.
We departed amidst the acclamations of the inhabitants, and took the road
to Turin. The First Consul stopped at Turin for some hours, and
inspected the citadel, which had bean surrendered to us in pursuance of
the capitulation of Alessandria. In passing over Mont Cenis we observed
the carriage of Madame Kellerman, who was going to meet her husband.
Bonaparte on recognizing the lady stopped his carriage and congratulated
her on the gallant conduct of her husband at the battle of Marengo.
On our arrival at Lyons we alighted at the Hotel des Celestins, and the
loud acclamations of a numerous multitude assembled round the hotel
obliged Bonaparte to show himself on the balcony. Next day he proceeded
to the Square of Bellecour, where, amidst the plaudits of the people, he
laid the first stone of some new buildings destined to efface one of the
disasters of the Revolution.
We left Lyons that evening and continued our journey by way of Dijon.
On our arrival in that town the joy of the inhabitants was very great.
I never saw a more graceful and captivating sight than that which was
presented by a group of beautiful young females, crowned with flowers,
who accompanied Bonaparte's carriage, and which at that period, when the
Revolution had renewed all the republican recollections of Greece and
Rome, looked like the chorus of females dancing around the victor at the
But all our journey was not so agreeable. Some accidents awaited us.
The First Consul's carriage broke down between Villeneuve-le-Roi and
Sens. He sent a courier to inform my mother that he would stop at her
house till his carriage was repaired. He dined there, and we started
again at seven in the evening.
But we had other disasters to encounter. One of our off-wheels came off,
and as we were driving at a very rapid pace the carriage was overturned
on the bridge at a short distance from Montreau-Faut-Yonne. The First
Consul, who sat on my left, fell upon me, and sustained no injury. My
head was slightly hurt by striking against some things which were in the
pocket of the carriage; but this accident was not worth stopping for, and
we arrived at Paris on the same night, the 2d of July. Duroc, who was
the third in the carriage, was not hurt.
I have already mentioned that Bonaparte was rather talkative when
travelling; and as we were passing through Burgundy, on our return to
Paris from Marengo, he said exultingly, "Well, a few more events like
this campaign, and I may go down to posterity."--"I think," replied I,
"that you have already done enough to secure great and lasting fame."--
"Yes," resumed he, "I have done enough, it is true. In less than two
years I have won Cairo, Paris, and Milan; but for all that, my dear
fellow, were I to die to-morrow I should not at the end of ten centuries
occupy half a page of general history!"
On the very day when Desaix fell on the field of Marengo Kleber was
assassinated by a fanatical Mussulman, named Soleiman Haleby, who stabbed
him with a dagger, and by that blow decided the fate of Egypt.
--["This fellah was, at most, eighteen or twenty years of age: he
was a native of Damascus, and declared that he had quitted his
native city by command of the grand vizier, who had entrusted him
with the commission of repairing to Egypt and killing the grand
sultan of the French [Bonaparte being probably intended]. That for
this purpose alone he had left his family, and performed the whole
journey on foot and had received from the grand vizier no other
money than what was absolutely requisite for the exigencies of the
journey. On arriving at Cairo he had gone forthwith to perform his
devotions in the great mosque, and it was only on the eve of
executing his project that he confided it to one of the scherifs of
the mosque" (Duc de Rovigo's Memoirs, tome 1. p. 367)]--
Thus was France, on the same day, and almost at the same hour, deprived
of two of her most distinguished generals. Menou, as senior in command,
succeeded Kleber, and the First Consul confirmed the appointment. From
that moment the loss of Egypt was inevitable.
I have a few details to give respecting the tragical death of Kleber.
The house of Elfy Bey, which Bonaparte occupied at Cairo, and in which
Kleber lived after his departure; had a terrace leading from a salon to
an old ruined cistern, from which, down a few steps, there was an
entrance into the garden. The terrace commanded a view of the grand
square of El Beguyeh, which was to the right on coming out of the salon,
while the garden was on the left. This terrace was Bonaparte's favourite
promenade, especially in the evenings, when he used to walk up and down
and converse with the persons about him, I often advised him to fill up
the reservoir, and to make it level with the terrace. I even showed him,
by concealing myself in it, and coming suddenly behind him, how easy it
would be for any person to attempt his life and then escape, either by
jumping into the square, or passing through the garden. He told me I was
a coward, and was always in fear of death; and he determined not to make
the alteration I suggested, which, however, he acknowledged to be
advisable. Kleber's assassin availed himself of the facility which I so
often apprehended might be fatal to Bonaparte.
I shall not atop to refute all the infamous rumours which were circulated
respecting Kleber's death. When the First Consul received the unexpected
intelligence he could scarcely believe it. He was deeply affected; and
on reading the particulars of the assassination he instantly called to
mind how often he had been in the same situation as that in which Kleber
was killed, and all I had said respecting the danger of the reservoir--
a danger from which it is inconceivable he should have escaped,
especially after his Syrian expedition had excited the fury of the
natives. Bonaparte's knowledge of Kleber's talents--the fact of his
having confided to him the command of the army, and the aid which he
constantly endeavoured to transmit to him, repelled at once the horrible
suspicion of his having had the least participation in the crime, and the
thought that he was gratified to hear of it.
It is very certain that Bonaparte's dislike of Kleber was as decided as
the friendship he cherished for Desaix. Kleber's fame annoyed him, for
he was weak enough to be annoyed at it. He knew the manner in which
Kleber spoke of him, which was certainly not the most respectful. During
the long and sanguinary siege of St. Jean d'Acre Kleber said to me, "That
little scoundrel Bonaparte, who is no higher than my boot, will enslave
France. See what a villainous expedition he has succeeded in involving
us in." Kleber often made the same remark to others as well as to me.
I am not certain that it was ever reported to Bonaparte; but there is
reason to believe that those who found it their interest to accuse others
did not spare Kleber.
Kleber, who was a sincere republican, saw and dreaded for his country's
sake the secret views and inordinate ambition of Bonaparte. He was a
grumbler by nature; yet he never evinced discontent in the discharge of
his duties as a soldier. He swore and stormed, but marched bravely to
the cannon's mouth: he was indeed courage personified. One day when he
was in the trench at St. Jean d'Acre, standing up, and by his tall
stature exposed to every shot, Bonaparte called to him, "Stoop down,
Kleber, stoop down!"--"Why;" replied he, "your confounded trench does
not reach to my knees." He never regarded the Egyptian expedition with a
favourable eye. He thought it too expensive, and utterly useless to
France. He was convinced that in the situation in which we stood,
without a navy or a powerful Government, it would have been better to
have confined our attention to Europe than to have wasted French blood
and money on the banks of the Nile, and among the ruined cities of Syria.
Kleber, who was a cool, reflecting man, judged Bonaparte without
enthusiasm, a thing somewhat rare at that time, and he was not blind to
any of his faults.
Bonaparte alleged that Kleber said to him, "General, you are as great as
the world!" Such a remark is in direct opposition to Kleber's character.
He was too sincere to say anything against his conviction. Bonaparte,
always anxious to keep Egypt, of which the preservation alone could
justify the conquest, allowed Kleber to speak because he acted at the
same time. He knew that Kleber's sense of military duty would always
triumph over any opposition he might cherish to his views and plans.
Thus the death of his lieutenant, far from causing Bonaparte any feeling
of satisfaction, afflicted him the more, because it almost totally
deprived him if the hope of preserving a conquest which had cost France
so dear, and which was his work.
The news of the death of Kleber arrived shortly after our return to
Paris. Bonaparte was anxiously expecting accounts from Egypt, none
having been received for a considerable time. The arrival of the courier
who brought the fatal intelligence gave rise to a scene which I may
relate here. It was two o'clock in the morning when the courier arrived
at the Tuileries. In his hurry the First Consul could not wait to rouse
any one to call me up. I had informed him some days before that if he
should want me during the night he should send for me to the corridor, as
I had changed my bedchamber on account of my wife's accouchement. He
came up himself and instead of knocking at my door knocked at that of my
secretary. The latter immediately rose, and opening the door to his
surprise saw the First Consul with a candle in his hand, a Madras
handkerchief on his head, and having on his gray greatcoat. Bonaparte,
not knowing of the little step down into the room, slipped and nearly
fell, "Where is Bourrienne?" asked he. The surprise of my secretary at
the apparition of the First Consul can be imagined. "What; General, is
it you?"--" Where is Bourrienne?" Then my secretary, in his shirt, showed
the First Consul my door. After having told him that he was sorry at
having called him up, Napoleon came to me. I dressed in a hurry, and we
went downstairs to my usual room. We rang several times before they
opened the door for us. The guards were not asleep, but having heard so
much running to and fro feared we were thieves. At last they opened the
door, and the First Consul threw on the table the immense packet of
despatches which he had just received. They had been fumigated and
steeped in vinegar. When he read the announcement of the death of Kleber
the expression of his countenance sufficiently denoted the painful
feelings which arose in his mind. I read in his face; EGYPT IS LOST!
Bonaparte's wish to negotiate with England and Austria--
An emigrant's letter--Domestic details--The bell--Conspiracy of
Ceracchi, Arena, Harrel, and others--Bonaparte's visit to the opera
--Arrests--Rariel appointed commandant of Vincennes--The Duc
d'Enghien's foster-sister--The 3d Nivoise--First performance of
Haydn's "Creation"--The infernal machine--Congratulatory addresses--
Arbitrary condemnations--M. Tissot erased from the list of the
banished--M. Truguet--Bonapartes' hatred of the Jacobins explained--
The real criminals discovered--Justification of Fouche--Execution of
St. Regent and Carbon--Caesar, Cromwell, and Bonaparte--Conversation
between Bonaparte and Fouche--Pretended anger--Fouche's
dissimulation--Lucien's resignation--His embassy to Spain--War
between Spain and Portugal--Dinner at Fouche's--Treachery of Joseph
Bonaparte--A trick upon the First Consul--A three days' coolness--
The happy events of the campaign of Italy had been crowned by the
armistice, concluded on the 6th of July. This armistice was broken on
the 1st of September, and renewed after the battle of Hohenlinden. On
his return from Marengo Bonaparte was received with more enthusiasm than
ever. The rapidity with which, in a campaign of less than two months, he
had restored the triumph of the French standard, excited universal
astonishment. He then actively endeavoured to open negotiations with
England and Austria; but difficulties opposed him in every direction. He
frequently visited the theatre, where his presence attracted prodigious
throngs of persons, all eager to see and applaud him.
The immense number of letters which were at this time addressed to the
First Consul is scarcely conceivable. They contained requests for
places, protestations of fidelity, and, in short, they were those
petitionary circulars that are addressed to all persons in power. These
letters were often exceedingly curious, and I have preserved many of
them; among the rest was one from Durosel Beaumanoir, an emigrant who had
fled to Jersey. This letter contains some interesting particulars
relative to Bonaparte's family. It is dated Jersey, 12th July 1800, and
the following are the moat remarkable passages it contains:
I trust; General, that I may, without indiscretion, intrude upon
your notice, to remind you of what, I flatter myself, you have not
totally forgotten, after having lived eighteen or nineteen years at
Ajaccio. But you will, perhaps, be surprised that so trifling an
item should be the subject of the letter which I have the honour to
address to you. You cannot have forgotten, General, that when your
late father was obliged to take your brothers from the college of
Autun, from whence he went to see you at Brienne, he was unprovided
with mousy, and he asked me for twenty-five louis, which I lent him
with pleasure. After his return he had no opportunity of paying me,
and when I left Ajaccio your mother offered to dispose of some plate
in order to pay the debt. To this I objected, and told her that I
would wait until she could pay me at her convenience, and previous
to the breaking out of the revolution I believe it was not in her
power to fulfil her wish of discharging the debt.
I am sorry, General, to be obliged to trouble yon about such a
trifle. But such is my unfortunate situation that even this trifle
is of some importance to me. Driven from my country, and obliged to
take refuge in this island, where everything is exceedingly
expensive, the little sum I have mentioned, which was formerly a
matter of indifference, would now be of great service to me.
You will understand, General, that at the age of eighty-six, after
serving served my country well for sixty years, without the least
interruption, not counting the time of emigration, chased from every
place, I have been obliged to take refuge here, to subsist on the
scanty succour given by the English Government to the French
emigrant. I say emigrant because I have been forced to be one.
I had no intention of being one, but a horde of brigands, who came
from Caen to my house to assassinate me, considered I had committed
the great crime in being the senior general of the canton and in
having the Grand Cross of St. Louis: this was too much for them; if
it had not been for the cries of my neighbours, my door would have
been broken open, and I should have been assassinated; and I had but
time to fly by a door at the back, only carrying away what I had on
me. At first I retired to Paris, but there they told me that I
could do nothing but go into a foreign country, so great was the
hate entertained for me by my fellow-citizens, although I lived in
retirement, never having any discussion with any one. Thus,
General; I have abandoned all I possessed, money and goods, leaving
them at the mercy of what they call the nation, which has profited a
good deal by this, as I have nothing left in the world, not even a
spot to put my foot on. If even a horse had been reserved for me,
General, I could ask for what depends on you, for I have heard it
said that some emigrants have been allowed to return home. I do not
even ask this favour, not having a place to rest my foot. And,
besides, I have with me here an exiled brother, older than I am,
very ill and in perfect second childhood, whom I could not abandon.
I am resigned to my own unhappy fate, but my sole and great grief is
that not only I myself have been ill-treated, but that my fate has,
contrary to the law, injured relations whom I love and respect. I
have a mother-in-law, eighty years old, who has been refused the
dower I had given her from my property, and this will make me die a
bankrupt if nothing is changed, which makes me miserable.
I acknowledge, General, that I know little of the new style, but,
according to the old form, I am your humble servant,
I read this letter to the First Consul, who immediately said,
"Bourrienne, this is sacred! Do not lose a minute. Send the old man ten
times the sum. Write to General Durosel that he shall be immediately
erased from the list of emigrants. What mischief those brigands of the
Convention have done! I can never repair it all." Bonaparte uttered
these words with a degree of emotion which I rarely saw him evince. In
the evening he asked me whether I had executed his orders, which I had
done without losing a moment. The death of M. Froth had given me a
lesson as to the value of time!
Availing myself of the privilege I have already frequently taken of
making abrupt transitions from one subject to another, according as the
recollection of past circumstances occurs to my mind, I shall here note
down a few details, which may not improperly be called domestic, and
afterwards describe a conspiracy which was protected by the very man
against whom it was hatched.
At the Tuileries, where the First Consul always resided during the winter
and sometimes a part of the summer, the grand salon was situated between
his cabinet and the Room in which he received the persons with whom he
had appointed audiences. When in this audience-chamber, if he wanted
anything or had occasion to speak to anybody, he pulled a bell which was
answered by a confidential servant named Landoire, who was the messenger
of the First Consul's cabinet. When Bonaparte's bell rung it was usually
for the purpose of making some inquiry of me respecting a paper, a name,
a date, or some matter of that sort; and then Landoire had to pass
through the cabinet and salon to answer the bell and afterwards to return
and to tell me I was wanted. Impatient at the delay occasioned by this
running about, Bonaparte, without saying anything to me, ordered the bell
to be altered so that it should ring within the cabinet; and exactly
above my table. Next morning when I entered the cabinet I saw a man
mounted-upon a ladder. "What are you doing here?" said I. "I am hanging
a bell, sir." I called Landoire and asked him who had given the order.
"The First Consul," he replied. I immediately ordered the man to come
down and remove the ladder, which he accordingly did. When I went,
according to custom, to awaken the First Consul and read the newspapers
to him I said, "General, I found a man this morning hanging a bell in
your cabinet. I was told it was by your orders; but being convinced
there must be some mistake I sent him away. Surely the bell was not
intended for you, and I cannot imagine it was intended for me: who then
could it be for?--"What a stupid fellow that Landoire is!" said
Bonaparte. "Yesterday, when Cambaceres was with me, I wanted you.
Landoire did not come when I touched the bell. I thought it was broken,
and ordered him to get it repaired. I suppose the bell-hanger was doing
it when you saw him, for you know the wire passes through the cabinet."
I was satisfied with this explanation, though I was not deceived, by it.
For the sake of appearance he reproved Landoire, who, however, had done
nothing more than execute the order he had received. How could he
imagine I would submit to such treatment, considering that we had been
friends since our boyhood, and that I was now living on full terms of
confidence and familiarity with him?
Before I speak of the conspiracy of Ceracchi, Arena, Topino-Lebrun, and
others, I must notice a remark made by Napoleon at St. Helena. He said,
or is alleged to have said, "The two attempts which placed me in the
greatest danger were those of the sculptor Ceracchi and of the fanatic of
Schoenbrun." I was not at Schoenbrun at the time; but I am convinced
that Bonaparte was in the most imminent danger. I have been informed on
unquestionable authority that Staps set out from Erfurth with the
intention of assassinating the Emperor; but he wanted the necessary
courage for executing the design. He was armed with a large dagger, and
was twice sufficiently near Napoleon to have struck him. I heard this
from Rapp, who seized Stags, and felt the hilt of the dagger under his
coat. On that occasion Bonaparte owed his life only to the irresolution
of the young 'illuminato' who wished to sacrifice him to his fanatical
fury. It is equally certain that on another occasion, respecting which
the author of the St. Helena narrative observes complete silence, another
fanatic--more dangerous than Steps attempted the life of Napoleon.
--[At the time of this attempt I was not with Napoleon; but he
directed me to see the madmen who had formed the design of
assassinating him. It will be seen in the coarse of these Memoirs
what were has plans, and what was the result of them--Bourrienne]--
The following is a correct statement of the facts relative to Ceracchi's
conspiracy. The plot itself was a mere shadow; but it was deemed
advisable to give it substance, to exaggerate, at least in appearance,
the danger to which the First Consul had been exposed:--
There was at that time in Paris an idle fellow called Harrel; he had been
a 'chef de battalion', but he had been dismissed the service, and was
consequently dissatisfied. He became connected with Cerracchi, Arena,
Topino-Lebrun, and Demerville. From different motives all these
individuals were violently hostile to the First Consul, who on his part,
was no friend to Cerracchi and Arena, but scarcely knew the two others.
These four individuals formed, in conjunction with Harrel, the design of
assassinating the First Consul, and the time fixed for the perpetration
of the deed was one evening when Bonaparte intended to visit the opera.
On the 20th of September 1804 Harrel came to me at the Tuileries. He
revealed to me the plot in which he was engaged, and promised that his
accomplices should be apprehended in the very act if I would supply him
with money to bring the plot to maturity. I knew not how to act upon
this disclosure, which I, however, could not reject without incurring too
great a responsibility. I immediately communicated the business to the
First Consul, who ordered me to supply Harrel with money; but not to
mention the affair to Fouche, to whom he wished to prove that he knew
better how to manage the police than he did.
Harrel came nearly every evening at eleven o'clock to inform me of the
progress of the conspiracy, which I immediately communicated to the First
Consul, who was not sorry to find Arena and Ceracchi deeply committed.
But the time passed on, and nothing was done. The First Consul began to
grow impatient. At length Harrel came to say that they had no money to
purchase arms. Money was given him. He, however, returned next day to
say that the gunsmith refused to sell them arms without authority. It
was now found necessary to communicate the business to Fouche in order
that he might grant the necessary permission to the gunsmith, which I was