Part 2 out of 2
and public functionaries. The principal apartments of the Tuileries's
presented the appearance of a fete. This gaiety formed a striking
contrast with the melancholy of Josephine, who felt that every step of
the First Consul towards the throne removed him farther from her.
She had to receive a party that evening, and though greatly depressed in
spirits she did the honours with her usual grace.
Let a Government be what it may, it can never satisfy everyone. At the
establishment of the Consulate for life, those who were averse to that
change formed but a feeble minority. But still they met, debated,
corresponded, and dreamed of the possibility of overthrowing the Consular
During the first six months of the year 1802 there were meetings of the
discontented, which Fouche, who was then Minister of the Police, knew and
would not condescend to notice; but, on the contrary, all the inferior
agents of the police contended for a prey which was easily seized, and,
with the view of magnifying their services, represented these secret
meetings as the effect of a vast plot against the Government. Bonaparte,
whenever he spoke to me on the subject, expressed himself weary of the
efforts which were made to give importance to trifles; and yet he
received the reports of the police agents as if he thought them of
consequence. This was because he thought Fouche badly informed, and he
was glad to find him at fault; but when he sent for the Minister of
Police the latter told him that all the reports he had received were not
worth a moment's attention. He told the First Consul all, and even a
great deal more than had been revealed to him, mentioning at the same
time how and from whom Bonaparte had received his information.
But these petty police details did not divert the First Consul's
attention from the great object he had in view. Since March 1802 he had
attended the sittings of the Council of State with remarkable regularity.
Even while we were at the Luxembourg he busied himself in drawing up a
new code of laws to supersede the incomplete collection of revolutionary
laws, and to substitute order for the sort of anarchy which prevailed in
the legislation. The man who were most distinguished for legal knowledge
had cooperated in this laborious task, the result of which was the code
first distinguished by the name of the Civil Code, and afterwards called
the Code Napoleon. The labours of this important undertaking being
completed, a committee was appointed for the presentation of the code.
This committee, of which Cambaceres was the president, was composed of
MM. Portalis, Merlin de Douai, and Tronchet. During all the time the
discussions were pending, instead of assembling as usual three times a
week, the Council of State assembled every day, and the sittings, which
on ordinary occasions only lasted two or three hours, were often
prolonged to five or six. The First Consul took such interest in these
discussions that, to have an opportunity of conversing upon them in the
evening, he frequently invited several members of the Council to dine
with him. It was during these conversations that I most admired the
inconceivable versatility of Bonaparte's genius, or rather, that superior
instinct which enabled him to comprehend at a glance, and in their proper
point of view, legislative questions to which he might have been supposed
a stranger. Possessing as he did, in a supreme degree, the knowledge of
mankind, ideas important to the science of government flashed upon his
mind like sudden inspirations.
Some time after his nomination to the Consulate for life, anxious to
perform a sovereign act, he went for the first time to preside at the
Senate. Availing myself that day of a few leisure moments I went out to
see the Consular procession. It was truly royal. The First Consul had
given orders that the military should-be ranged in the streets through
which he had to pass. On his first arrival at the Tuileries, Napoleon
had the soldiers of the Guard ranged in a single line in the interior of
the court, but he now ordered that the line should be doubled, and should
extend from the gate of the Tuileries to that of the Luxembourg.
Assuming a privilege which old etiquette had confined exclusively to the
Kings of France, Bonaparte now for the first time rode in a carriage
drawn by eight horses. A considerable number of carriages followed that
of the First Consul, which was surrounded by generals and aides de camp
on horseback. Louis XIV. going to hold a bed of justice at the
Parliament of Paris never displayed greater pomp than did Bonaparte in
this visit to the Senate. He appeared in all the parade of royalty; and
ten Senators came to meet him at the foot of the staircase of the
The object of the First Consul's visit to the Senate was the presentation
of five plans of 'Senatus-consultes'. The other two Consuls were present
at the ceremony, which took place about the middle of August.
Bonaparte returned in the same style in which he went, accompanied by M.
Lebrun, Cambaceres remaining at the Senate, of which he was President.
The five 'Senatus-consultes' were adopted, but a restriction was made in
that which concerned the forms of the Senate. It was proposed that when
the Consuls visited the Senate they should be received by a deputation of
ten members at the foot of the staircase, as the First Consul had that
day been received; but Bonaparte's brothers Joseph and Lucien opposed
this, and prevented the proposition from being adopted, observing that
the Second and Third Consuls being members of the Senate could not be
received with such honours by their colleagues. This little scene of
political courtesy, which was got up beforehand, was very well acted.
Bonaparte's visit to the Senate gave rise to a change of rank in the
hierarchy of the different authorities composing the Government.
Hitherto the Council of State had ranked higher in public opinion; but
the Senate, on the occasion of its late deputation to the Tuileries, had
for the first time, received the honour of precedency. This had greatly
displeased some of the Councillors of State, but Bonaparte did not care
for that. He instinctively saw that the Senate would do what he wished
more readily than the other constituted bodies, and he determined to
augment its rights and prerogatives even at the expense of the rights of
the Legislative Body. These encroachments of one power upon another,
authorised by the First Consul, gave rise to reports of changes in
ministerial arrangements. It was rumoured in Paris that the number of
the ministers was to be reduced to three, and that Lucien, Joseph, and M.
de Talleyrand were to divide among them the different portfolios. Lucien
helped to circulate these reports, and this increased the First Consul's
dissatisfaction at his conduct. The letters from Madrid, which were
filled with complaints against him, together with some scandalous
adventures, known in Paris, such as his running away with the wife of a
'limonadier', exceedingly annoyed Bonaparte, who found his own family
more difficult to govern than France.
France, indeed, yielded with admirable facility to the yoke which, the
First Consul wished to impose on her. How artfully did he undo all that
the Revolution had done, never neglecting any means of attaining his
object! He loved to compare the opinions of those whom he called the
Jacobins with the opinions of the men of 1789; and even them he found too
liberal. He felt the ridicule which was attached to the mute character
of the Legislative Body, which he called his deaf and dumb assembly. But
as that ridicule was favourable to him he took care to preserve the
assembly as it was, and to turn it into ridicule whenever he spoke of it.
In general, Bonaparte's judgment must not be confounded with his actions.
His accurate mind enabled him to appreciate all that was good; but the
necessity of his situation enabled him to judge with equal shrewdness
what was useful to himself.
What I have just said of the Senate affords me an opportunity of
correcting an error which has frequently been circulated in the chit-chat
of Paris. It has erroneously been said of some persons that they refused
to become members of the Senate, and among the number have been mentioned
M. Ducis, M. de La Fayette, and the Marechal de Rochambeau. The truth
is, that no such refusals were ever made. The following fact, however,
may have contributed to raise these reports and give them credibility.
Bonaparte used frequently to say to persons in his salon and in his
cabinet; "You should be a Senator--a man like you should be a Senator."
But these complimentary words did not amount to a nomination. To enter
the Senate certain legal forms were to be observed. It was necessary to
be presented by the Senate, and after that presentation no one ever
refused to become a member of the body, to which Bonaparte gave
additional importance by the creation of "Senatoreries."--[Districts
presided over by a Senator.]--This creation took place in the beginning
The intoxication of great men--Unlucky zeal--MM. Maret, Champagny,
and Savary--M. de Talleyrand's real services--Postponement of the
execution of orders--Fouche and the Revolution--The Royalist
committee--The charter first planned during the Consulate--Mission
to Coblentz--Influence of the Royalists upon Josephine--The statue
and the pedestal--Madame de Genlis' romance of Madame de la
Valliere--The Legion of Honour and the carnations--Influence of the
Faubourg St. Germain--Inconsiderate step taken by Bonaparte--Louis
XVIII's indignation--Prudent advice of the Abbe Andre--Letter from
Louis XVIII. to Bonaparte--Council held at Neuilly--The letter
delivered--Indifference of Bonaparte, and satisfaction of the
Perhaps one of the happiest ideas that ever were expressed was that of
the Athenian who said, "I appeal from Philip drunk to Philip sober."
The drunkenness here alluded to is not of that kind which degrades a man
to the level of a brute, but that intoxication which is occasioned by
success, and which produces in the heads of the ambitious a sort of
cerebral congestion. Ordinary men are not subject to this excitement,
and can scarcely form an idea of it. But it is nevertheless true that
the fumes of glory and ambition occasionally derange the strongest heads;
and Bonaparte, in all the vigour of his genius, was often subject to
aberrations of judgment; for though his imagination never failed him, his
judgment was frequently at fault.
This fact may serve to explain, and perhaps even to excuse the faults
with which the First Consul has been most seriously reproached. The
activity of his mind seldom admitted of an interval between the
conception and the execution of a design; but when he reflected coolly on
the first impulses of his imperious will, his judgment discarded what was
erroneous. Thus the blind obedience, which, like an epidemic disease,
infected almost all who surrounded Bonaparte, was productive of the most
fatal effects. The best way to serve the First Consul was never to
listen to the suggestions of his first ideas, except on the field of
battle, where his conceptions were as happy as they were rapid. Thus,
for example, MM. Maret, de Champagny, and Savary evinced a ready
obedience to Bonaparte's wishes, which often proved very unfortunate,
though doubtless dictated by the best intentions on their part. To this
fatal zeal may be attributed a great portion of the mischief which
Bonaparte committed. When the mischief was done, and past remedy,
Bonaparte deeply regretted it. How often have I heard him say that Maret
was animated by an unlucky zeal! This was the expression he made use of.
M. de Talleyrand was almost the only one among the ministers who did not
flatter Bonaparte, and who really served both the First Consul and the
Emperor. When Bonaparte said to M. de Talleyrand, "Write so and so, and
send it off by a special courier," that minister was never in a hurry to
obey the order, because he knew the character of the First Consul well
enough to distinguish between what his passion dictated and what his
reason would approve: in short, he appealed from Philip drunk to Philip
sober. When it happened that M. de Talleyrand suspended the execution of
an order, Bonaparte never evinced the least displeasure. When, the day
after he had received any hasty and angry order, M. de Talleyrand
presented himself to the First Consul, the latter would say, "Well, did
you send off the courier?"--"No," the minister would reply, "I took care
not to do so before I showed you my letter." Then the First Consul would
usually add, "Upon second thoughts I think it would be best not to send
it." This was the way to deal with Bonaparte. When M. de Talleyrand
postponed sending off despatches, or when I myself have delayed the
execution of an order which I knew had been dictated by anger, and had
emanated neither from his heart nor his understanding, I have heard him
say a hundred times, "It was right, quite right. You understand me:
Talleyrand understands me also. This is the way to serve me: the others
do not leave me time for reflection: they are too precipitate." Fouche
also was one of those who did not on all occasions blindly obey
Bonaparte's commands. His other ministers, on the other hand, when told
to send off a courier the next morning, would have more probably sent him
off the same evening. This was from zeal, but was not the First Consul
right in saying that such zeal was unfortunate?
Of Talleyrand and Fouche, in their connections with the First Consul, it
might be said that the one represented the Constituent Assembly, with a
slight perfume of the old regime, and the other the Convention in all its
brutality. Bonaparte regarded Fouche as a complete personification of
the Revolution. With him, therefore, Fouche's influence was merely the
influence of the Revolution. That great event was one of those which had
made the most forcible impression on Bonaparte's ardent mind, and he
imagined he still beheld it in a visible form as long as Fouche continued
at the head of his police. I am now of opinion that Bonaparte was in
some degree misled as to the value of Fouche's services as a minister.
No doubt the circumstance of Fouche being in office conciliated those of
the Revolutionary party who were his friends. But Fouche cherished an
undue partiality for them, because he knew that it was through them he
held his place. He was like one of the old Condottieri, who were made
friends of lest they should become enemies, and who owed all their power
to the soldiers enrolled under their banners.
Such was Fouche, and Bonaparte perfectly understood his situation. He
kept the chief in his service until he could find an opportunity of
disbanding his undisciplined followers. But there was one circumstance
which confirmed his reliance on Fouche. He who had voted the death of
the King of France, and had influenced the minds of those who had voted
with him, offered Bonaparte the best guarantee against the attempts of
the Royalists for raising up in favour of the Bourbons the throne which
the First Consul himself had determined to ascend. Thus, for different
reasons, Bonaparte and Fouche had common interests against the House of
Bourbon, and the master's ambition derived encouragement from the
supposed terror of the servant.
The First Consul was aware of the existence in Paris of a Royalist
committee, formed for the purpose of corresponding with Louis XVIII.
This committee consisted of men who must not be confounded with those
wretched intriguers who were of no service to their employers, and were
not unfrequently in the pay of both Bonaparte and the Bourbons.
The Royalist committee, properly so called, was a very different thing.
It consisted of men professing rational principles of liberty, such as
the Marquis de Clermont Gallerande, the Abbe de Montesqiou, M. Becquet,
and M. Royer Collard. This committee had been of long standing; the
respectable individuals whose names I have just quoted acted upon a
system hostile to the despotism of Bonaparte, and favourable to what they
conceived to be the interests of France. Knowing the superior wisdom of
Louis XVIII., and the opinions which he had avowed and maintained in the
Assembly of the Notables, they wished to separate that Prince from the
emigrants, and to point him out to the nation as a suitable head of a
reasonable Constitutional Government. Bonaparte, whom I have often heard
speak on the subject, dreaded nothing so much as these ideas of liberty,
in conjunction with a monarchy. He regarded them as reveries, called the
members of the committee idle dreamers, but nevertheless feared the
triumph of their ideas. He confessed to me that it was to counteract the
possible influence of the Royalist committee that he showed himself so
indulgent to those of the emigrants whose monarchical prejudices he knew
were incompatible with liberal opinions. By the presence of emigrants
who acknowledged nothing short of absolute power, he thought he might
paralyse the influence of the Royalists of the interior; he therefore
granted all such emigrants permission to return.
About this time I recollect having read a document, which had been
signed, purporting to be a declaration of the principles of Louis XVIII.
It was signed by M. d'Andre, who bore evidence to its authenticity.
The principles contained in the declaration were in almost all points
conformable to the principles which formed the basis of the charter.
Even so early as 1792, and consequently previous to the fatal 21st of
January, Louis XVI., who knew the opinions of M. de Clermont Gallerande,
sent him on a mission to Coblentz to inform the Princes from him, and the
Queen, that they would be ruined by their emigration. I am accurately
informed, and I state this fact with the utmost confidence. I can also
add with equal certainty that the circumstance was mentioned by M. de
Clermont Gallerande in his Memoirs, and that the passage relative to his
mission to Coblentz was cancelled before the manuscript was sent to
During the Consular Government the object of the Royalist committee was
to seduce rather than to conspire. It was round Madame Bonaparte in
particular that their batteries were raised, and they did not prove
ineffectual. The female friends of Josephine filled her mind with ideas
of the splendour and distinction she would enjoy if the powerful hand
which had chained the Revolution should raise up the subverted throne.
I must confess that I was myself, unconsciously, an accomplice of the
friends of the throne; for what they wished for the interest of the
Bourbons I then ardently wished for the interest of Bonaparte.
While endeavours were thus made to gain over Madame Bonaparte to the
interest of the royal family, brilliant offers were held out for the
purpose of dazzling the First Consul. It was wished to retemper for him
the sword of the constable Duguesclin; and it was hoped that a statue
erected to his honour would at once attest to posterity his spotless
glory and the gratitude of the Bourbons. But when these offers reached
the ears of Bonaparte he treated them with indifference, and placed no
faith in their sincerity. Conversing on the subject one day with M. de
La Fayette he said, "They offer me a statue, but I must look to the
pedestal. They may make it my prison." I did not hear Bonaparte utter
these words; but they were reported to me from a source, the authenticity
of which may be relied on.
About this time, when so much was said in the Royalist circles and in the
Faubourg St. Germain, of which the Hotel de Luynes was the headquarters,
about the possible return of the Bourbons, the publication of a popular
book contributed not a little to direct the attention of the public to
the most brilliant period of the reign of Louis XIV. The book was the
historical romance of Madame de la Valloire, by Madame de Genlis, who had
recently returned to France. Bonaparte read it, and I have since
understood that he was very well pleased with it, but he said nothing to
me about it. It was not until some time after that he complained of the
effect which was produced in Paris by this publication, and especially by
engravings representing scenes in the life of Louis XIV., and which were
exhibited in the shop-windows. The police received orders to suppress
these prints; and the order was implicitly obeyed; but it was not
Fouche's police. Fouche saw the absurdity of interfering with trifles.
I recollect that immediately after the creation of the Legion of Honour,
it being summer, the young men of Paris indulged in the whim of wearing a
carnation in a button-hole, which at a distance had rather a deceptive
effect. Bonaparte took this very seriously. He sent for Fouche, and
desired him to arrest those who presumed thus to turn the new order into
ridicule. Fouche merely replied that he would wait till the autumn; and
the First Consul understood that trifles were often rendered matters of
importance by being honoured with too much attention.
But though Bonaparte was piqued at the interest excited by the engravings
of Madame de Genlis' romance he manifested no displeasure against that
celebrated woman, who had been recommended to him by MM. de Fontanes and
Fievee and who addressed several letters to him. As this sort of
correspondence did not come within the routine of my business I did not
see the letters; but I heard from Madame Bonaparte that they contained a
prodigious number of proper names, and I have reason to believe that they
contributed not a little to magnify, in the eyes of the First Consul, the
importance of the Faubourg St. Germain, which, in spite of all his
courage, was a scarecrow to him.
Bonaparte regarded the Faubourg St. Germain as representing the whole
mass of Royalist opinion; and he saw clearly that the numerous erasures
from the emigrant list had necessarily increased dissatisfaction among
the Royalists, since the property of the emigrants had not been restored
to its old possessors, even in those cases in which it had not been sold.
It was the fashion in a certain class to ridicule the unpolished manners
of the great men of the Republic compared with the manners of the
nobility of the old Court. The wives of certain generals had several
times committed themselves by their awkwardness. In many circles there
was an affectation of treating with contempt what are called the
parvenus; those people who, to use M. de Talleyrand's expression, do not
know how to walk upon a carpet. All this gave rise to complaints against
the Faubourg St. Germain; while, on the other hand, Bonaparte's brothers
spared no endeavours to irritate him against everything that was
calculated to revive the recollection of the Bourbons.
Such were Bonaparte's feelings, and such was the state of society during
the year 1802. The fear of the Bourbons must indeed have had a powerful
influence on the First Consul before he could have been induced to take a
step which may justly be regarded as the most inconsiderate of his whole
life. After suffering seven months to elapse without answering the first
letter of Louis XVIII., after at length answering his second letter in
the tone of a King addressing a subject, he went so far as to write to
Louis, proposing that he should renounce the throne of his ancestors in
his, Bonaparte's, favour, and offering him as a reward for this
renunciation a principality in Italy, or a considerable revenue for
himself and his family.
--[Napoleon seems to have always known, as with Cromwell and the
Stuarts, that if his dynasty failed the Bourbons must succeed him.
"I remember," says Metternich, "Napoleon said to me, 'Do you know
why Louis XVIII. is not now sitting opposite to you? It is only
because it is I who am sitting here. No other person could maintain
his position; and if ever I disappear in consequence of a
catastrophe no one but a Bourbon could sit here.'" (Metternich, tome
i. p. 248). Farther, he said to Metternich, "The King overthrown,
the Republic was master of the soil of France. It is that which I
have replaced. The old throne of France is buried under its
rubbish. I had to found a new one. The Bourbons could not reign
over this creation. My strength lies in my fortune. I am new, like
the Empire; there is, therefore, a perfect homogeneity between the
Empire and myself."--"However," says Metternich, "I have often
thought that Napoleon, by talking in this way, merely sought to
study the opinion of others, or to confuse it, and the direct
advance which he made to Louis XVIII., in 1804 seemed to confirm
this suspicion. Speaking to me one day of this advance he said,
'Monsieur's reply was grand; it was full of fine traditions. There
is something in legitimate rights which appeals to more than the
mere mind. If Monsieur had consulted his mind only he would have
arranged with me, and I should have made for him a magnificent
future'" (Metternich, tome i, p. 276). According to Iung's Lucien
(tome ii. p. 421), the letter written and signed by Napoleon, but
never sent, another draft being substituted, is still in the French
archives. Metternich speaks of Napoleon making a direct advance to
Louis XVIII. in 1804. According to Colonel Iung (Lucien Bonaparte,
tome ii. pp. 4211-426) the attempt was made through the King of
Prussia in 1802, the final answer of Louis being made on the 28th
February 1803, as given in the text, but with a postscript of his
nephew in addition, "With the permission of the King, my uncle, I
adhere with heart and soul to the contents of this note.
"(signed) LOUIS ANTOINE, Due d'Angouleme."
The reader will remark that there is no great interval between this
letter and the final break with the Bourbons by the death of the Duc
d'Enghien. At this time, according to Savory (tome iii. p. 241),
some of the Bourbons were receiving French pensions. The Prince de
Conti, the Duchesse de Bourbon, and the Duchesse d'Orleans, when
sent out of France by the Directory, were given pensions of from
20,000 to 26,000 francs each. They lived in Catalonia. When the
French troops entered Spain in 1808 General Canclaux, a friend of
the Prince de Conti, brought to the notice of Napoleon that the
tiresome formalities insisted on by the pestilent clerks of all
nations were observed towards these regal personages. Gaudin, the
Minister of Finance, apparently on his own initiative, drew up a
decree increasing the pensions to 80,000 francs, and doing away with
the formalities. "The Emperor signed at once, thanking the Minister
of Finance." The reader, remembering the position of the French
Princes then, should compare this action of Napoleon with the
failure of the Bourbons in 1814 to pay the sums promised to
Napoleon, notwithstanding the strong remonstrances made at Vienna to
Talleyrand by Alexander and Lord Castlereagh. See Talleyrand's
Correspondence with Louis XVIII., tome ii. pp. 27, 28; or French
edition, pp. 285, 288.]--
The reader will recollect the curious question which the First Consul put
to me on the subject of the Bourbons when we were walking in the park of
Malmaison. To the reply which I made to him on that occasion I attribute
the secrecy he observed towards me respecting the letter just alluded to.
I am indeed inclined to regard that letter as the result of one of his
private conferences with Lucien; but I know nothing positive on the
subject, and merely mention this as a conjecture. However, I had an
opportunity of ascertaining the curious circumstances which took place at
Mittau, when Bonaparte's letter was delivered to Louis XVIII.
That Prince was already much irritated against Bonaparte by his delay in
answering his first letter, and also by the tenor of his tardy reply;
but on reading the First Consul's second letter the dethroned King
immediately sat down and traced a few lines forcibly expressing his
indignation at such a proposition. The note, hastily written by Louis
XVIII. in the first impulse of irritation, bore little resemblance to the
dignified and elegant letter which Bonaparte received, and which I shall
presently lay before the reader. This latter epistle closed very happily
with the beautiful device of Francis I., "All is lost but honour." But
the first letter was stamped with a more chivalrous tone of indignation.
The indignant sovereign wrote it with his hand supported on the hilt of
his sword; but the Abbe Andre, in whom Louis XVIII. reposed great
confidence, saw the note, and succeeded, not without some difficulty,
in soothing the anger of the King, and prevailing on him to write the
I do not confound M. Bonaparte with those who have preceded him.
I esteem his courage and his military talents. I am grateful for
some acts of his government; for the benefits which are conferred on
my people will always be prized by me.
But he errs in supposing that he can induce me to renounce my
rights; so far from that, he would confirm them, if they could
possibly be doubtful, by the step he has now taken.
I am ignorant of the designs of Heaven respecting me and my
subjects; but I know the obligations which God has imposed upon me.
As a Christian, I will fulfil my duties to my last breath--as the
son of St. Louis, I would, like him, respect myself even in chains--
as the successor of Francis I., I say with him--'Tout est perdu fors
MITTAU, 1802. LOUIS.
Louis XVIII.'s letter having reached Paris, the Royalist committee
assembled, and were not a little embarrassed as to what should be done.
The meeting took place at Neuilly. After a long deliberation it was
suggested that the delivery of the letter should be entrusted to the
Third Consul, with whom the Abby de Montesqiou had kept up acquaintance
since the time of the Constituent Assembly. This suggestion was adopted.
The recollections of the commencement of his career, under Chancellor
Maupeou, had always caused M. Lebrun to be ranked in a distinct class by
the Royalists. For my part, I always looked upon him as a very honest
man, a warm advocate of equality, and anxious that it should be protected
even by despotism, which suited the views of the First Consul very well.
The Abbe de Montesquiou accordingly waited upon M. Lebrun, who undertook
to deliver the letter. Bonaparte received it with an air of
indifference; but whether that indifference were real or affected, I am
to this day unable to determine. He said very little to me about the ill
success of the negotiation with Louis XVIII. On this subject he dreaded,
above all, the interference of his brothers, who created around him a
sort of commotion which he knew was not without its influence, and which
on several occasions had excited his anger.
The letter of Louis XVIII. is certainly conceived in a tone of dignity
which cannot be too highly admired; and it may be said that Bonaparte on
this occasion rendered a real service to Louis by affording him the
opportunity of presenting to the world one of the finest pages in the
history of a dethroned King. This letter, the contents of which were
known in some circles of Paris, was the object of general approbation to
those who preserved the recollection of the Bourbons, and above all, to
the Royalist committee. The members of that committee, proud of the
noble spirit evinced by the unfortunate monarch, whose return they were
generously labouring to effect, replied to him by a sort of manifesto, to
which time has imparted interest, since subsequent events have fulfilled
the predictions it contained.
The day after my disgrace--Renewal of my duties--Bonaparte's
affected regard for me--Offer of an assistant--M. de Meneval--My
second rupture with Bonaparte--The Due de Rovigo's account of it--
Letter from M. de Barbe Marbois--Real causes of my separation from
the First Consul--Postscript to the letter of M. de Barbe Marbois--
The black cabinet--Inspection of letters dining the Consulate--
I retire to St. Cloud--Communications from M. de Meneval--A week's
conflict between friendship and pride--My formal dismissal--Petty
revenge--My request to visit England--Monosyllabic answer--Wrong
suspicion--Burial of my papers--Communication from Duroc--My letter
to the First Consul--The truth acknowledged.
I shall now return to the circumstances which followed my first disgrace,
of which I have already spoken. The day after that on which I had
resumed my functions I went as usual to awaken the First Consul at seven
in the morning. He treated me just the same as if nothing had happened
between us; and on my part I behaved to him just as usual, though I
really regretted being obliged to resume labours which I found too
oppressive for me. When Bonaparte came down into his cabinet he spoke to
me of his plans with his usual confidence, and I saw, from the number of
letters lying in the basket, that during the few days my functions had
been suspended Bonaparte had not overcome his disinclination to peruse
this kind of correspondence. At the period of this first rupture and
reconciliation the question of the Consulate for life was yet unsettled.
It was not decided until the 2d of August, and the circumstances to which
I am about to refer happened at the end of February.
I was now restored to my former footing of intimacy with the First
Consul, at least for a time; but I soon perceived that, after the scene
which M. de Talleyrand had witnessed, my duties in the Tuileries were
merely provisional, and might be shortened or prolonged according to
circumstances. I saw at the very first moment that Bonaparte had
sacrificed his wounded pride to the necessity (for such I may, without
any vanity, call it) of employing my services. The forced preference he
granted to me arose from the fact of his being unable to find any one
able to supply my place; for Duroc, as I have already said, showed a
disinclination to the business. I did not remain long in the dark
respecting the new situation in which I stood. I was evidently still
under quarantine; but the period of my quitting the port was
A short time after our reconciliation the First Consul said to me, in a
cajoling tone of which I was not the dupe, "My dear Bourrienne, you
cannot do everything. Business increases, and will continue to increase.
You know what Corvisart says. You have a family; therefore it is right
you should take care of your health. You must not kill yourself with
work; therefore some one must be got to assist you. Joseph tells me that
he can recommend a secretary, one of whom he speaks very highly. He
shall be under your direction; he can make out your copies, and do all
that can consistently be required of him. This, I think, will be a great
relief to you."--"I ask for nothing better," replied I, "than to have the
assistance of some one who, after becoming acquainted with the business,
may, some time or other, succeed me." Joseph sent M. de Meneval, a young
man who, to a good education, added the recommendations of industry and
prudence. I had every reason to be satisfied with him.
It was now that Napoleon employed all those devices and caresses which
always succeeded so well with him, and which yet again gained the day, to
put an end to the inconvenience caused to him by my retirement, and to
retain me. Here I call every one who knew me as witnesses that nothing
could equal my grief and despair to find myself obliged to again begin my
troublesome work. My health had suffered much from it. Corvisart was a
clever counsellor, but it was only during the night that I could carry
out his advice. To resume my duties was to renounce all hope of rest,
and even of health.
--[There is considerable truth in this statement about the effect on
his health. His successor, Meneval, without the same amount of
work, broke down and had to receive assistance (Meneval, tome i. p.
I soon perceived the First Consul's anxiety to make M. de Meneval
acquainted with the routine of business, and accustomed to his manner.
Bonaparte had never pardoned me for having presumed to quit him after he
had attained so high a degree of power; he was only waiting for an
opportunity to punish me, and he seized upon an unfortunate circumstance
as an excuse for that separation which I had previously wished to bring
I will explain this circumstance, which ought to have obtained for me the
consolation and assistance of the First Consul rather than the forfeiture
of his favour. My rupture with him has been the subject of various
misstatements, all of which I shall not take the trouble to correct;
I will merely notice what I have read in the Memoirs of the Duc de
Rovigo, in which it is stated that I was accused of peculation. M. de
Rovigo thus expresses himself:
Ever since the First Consul was invested with the supreme power his
life had been a continued scene of personal exertion. He had for
his private secretary M. de Bourrienne, a friend and companion of
his youth, whom he now made the sharer of all his labours. He
frequently sent for him in the dead of the night, and particularly
insisted upon his attending him every morning at seven. Bourrienne
was punctual in his attendance with the public papers, which he had
previously glanced over. The First Consul almost invariably read
their contents himself; he then despatched some business, and sat
down to table just as the clock struck nine. His breakfast, which
lasted six minutes, was no sooner over than he returned to his
cabinet, only left it for dinner, and resumed his close occupation
immediately after, until ten at night, which was his usual hour for
retiring to rest.
Bourrienne was gifted with a most wonderful memory; he could speak
and write many languages, and would make his pen follow as fast as
words were uttered. He possessed many other advantages; he was well
acquainted with the administrative departments, was versed in the
law of nations, and possessed a zeal and activity which rendered his
services quite indispensable to the First Consul. I have known the
several grounds upon which the unlimited confidence placed in him by
his chief rested, but am unable to speak with equal assurance of the
errors which occasioned his losing that confidence.
Bourrienne had many enemies; some were owing to his personal
character, a greater number to the situation which he held.
Others were jealous of the credit he enjoyed with the Head of the
Government; others, again, discontented at his not making that
credit subservient to their personal advantage. Some even imputed
to him the want of success that had attended their claims. It was
impossible to bring any charge against him on the score of
deficiency of talent or of indiscreet conduct; his personal habits
were watched--it was ascertained that he engaged in financial
speculations. An imputation could easily be founded on this
circumstance. Peculation was accordingly laid to his charge.
This was touching the most tender ground, for the First Consul held
nothing in greater abhorrence than unlawful gains. A solitary
voice, however, would have failed in an attempt to defame the
character of a man for whom he had so long felt esteem and
affection; other voices, therefore, were brought to bear against
him. Whether the accusations were well founded or otherwise, it is
beyond a doubt that all means were resorted to for bringing them to
the knowledge of the First Consul.
The most effectual course that suggested itself was the opening a
correspondence either with the accused party direct, or with those
with whom it was felt indispensable to bring him into contact; this
correspondence was carried on in a mysterious manner, and related to
the financial operations that had formed the grounds of a charge
against him.--Thus it is that, on more than one occasion, the very
channels intended for conveying truth to the knowledge of a
sovereign have been made available to the purpose of communicating
false intelligence to him. To give an instance.
Under the reign of Louis XV., and even under the Regency, the Post
Office was organized into a system of minute inspection, which did
not indeed extend to every letter, but was exercised over all such
as afforded grounds for suspicion. They were opened, and, when it
was not deemed safe to suppress them, copies were taken, and they
were returned to their proper channel without the least delay. Any
individual denouncing another may, by the help of such an
establishment, give great weight to his denunciation. It is
sufficient for his purpose that he should throw into the Post Office
any letter so worded as to confirm the impression which it is his
object to convey. The worthiest man may thus be committed by a
letter which he has never read, or the purport of which is wholly
unintelligible to him.
I am speaking from personal experience. It once happened that a
letter addressed to myself, relating to an alleged fact which had
never occurred, was opened. A copy of the letter so opened was also
forwarded to me, as it concerned the duties which I had to perform
at that time; but I was already in possession of the original,
transmitted through the ordinary channel. Summoned to reply to the
questions to which such productions had given rise, I took that
opportunity of pointing out the danger that would accrue from
placing a blind reliance upon intelligence derived from so hazardous
a source. Accordingly, little importance was afterwards attached to
this means of information; but the system was in operation at the
period when M. de Bourrienne was disgraced; his enemies took care to
avail themselves of it; they blackened his character with M. de
Barbe Marbois, who added to their accusations all the weight of his
unblemished character. The opinion entertained by this rigid public
functionary, and many other circumstances, induced the First Consul
to part with his secretary (tome i. p. 418).
Peculation is the crime of those who make a fraudulent use of the public
money. But as it was not in my power to meddle with the public money, no
part of which passed through my hands, I am at loss to conceive how I can
be charged with peculation! The Due de Rovigo is not the author, but
merely the echo, of this calumny; but the accusation to which his Memoirs
gave currency afforded M. de Barbe Marbois an opportunity of adding one
more to the many proofs he has given of his love of justice.
I had seen nothing of the Memoirs of the Due de Rovigo except their
announcement in the journals, when a letter from M. de Barbe Marbois was
transmitted to me from my family. It was as follows:
SIR--My attention has been called to the enclosed article in a
recent publication. The assertion it contains is not true, and I
conceive it to be a duty both to you and myself to declare that I
then was, and still am, ignorant of the causes of the separation in
question:--I am, etc.
I need say no more in my justification. This unsolicited testimony of M.
de Marbois is a sufficient contradiction to the charge of peculation
which has been raised against me in the absence of correct information
respecting the real causes of my rupture with the First Consul.
M. le Due de Rovigo also observes that my enemies were numerous. My
concealed adversaries were indeed all those who were interested that the
sovereign should not have about him, as his confidential companion, a man
devoted to his glory and not to his vanity. In expressing his
dissatisfaction with one of his ministers Bonaparte had said, in the
presence of several individuals, among whom was M. Maret, "If I could
find a second Bourrienne I would get rid of you all." This was
sufficient to raise against me the hatred of all who envied the
confidence of which I was in possession.
The failure of a firm in Paris in which I had invested a considerable sum
of money afforded an opportunity for envy and malignity to irritate the
First Consul against me. Bonaparte, who had not yet forgiven me for
wishing to leave him, at length determined to sacrifice my services to a
new fit of ill-humour.
A mercantile house, then one of the moat respectable in Patna, had among
its speculations undertaken some army contracts. With the knowledge of
Berthier, with whom, indeed, the house had treated, I had invested some
money in this business. Unfortunately the principals were, unknown to
me, engaged in dangerous speculations in the Funds, which in a short time
so involved them as to occasion their failure for a heavy amount. This
caused a rumour that a slight fall of the Funds, which took place at that
period, was occasioned by the bankruptcy; and the First Consul, who never
could understand the nature of the Funds, gave credit to the report. He
was made to believe that the business of the Stock Exchange was ruined.
It was insinuated that I was accused of taking advantage of my situation
to produce variations in the Funds, though I was so unfortunate as to
lose not only my investment in the bankrupt house, but also a sum of
money for which I had become bound, by way of surety, to assist the house
in increasing its business. I incurred the violent displeasure of the
First Consul, who declared to me that he no longer required my services.
I might, perhaps have cooled his irritation by reminding him that he
could not blame me for purchasing an interest in a contract, since he
himself had stipulated for a gratuity of 1,500,000 francs for his brother
Joseph out of the contract for victualling the navy. But I saw that for
some time past M. de Meneval had begun to supersede me, and the First
Consul only wanted such an opportunity as this for coming to a rupture
Such is a true statement of the circumstances which led to my separation
from Bonaparte. I defy any one to adduce a single fact in support of the
charge of peculation, or any transaction of the kind; I fear no
investigation of my conduct. When in the service of Bonaparte I caused
many appointments to be made, and many names to be erased from the
emigrant list before the 'Senatus-consulte' of the 6th Floreal, year X.;
but I never counted upon gratitude, experience having taught me that it
was an empty word.
The Duc de Rovigo attributed my disgrace to certain intercepted letters
which injured me in the eyes of the First Consul. I did not know this at
the time, and though I was pretty well aware of the machinations of
Bonaparte's adulators, almost all of whom were my enemies, yet I did not
contemplate such an act of baseness. But a spontaneous letter from M. de
Barbe Marbois at length opened my eyes, and left little doubt on the
subject. The following is the postscript to that noble peer's letter:
I recollect that one Wednesday the First Consul, while presiding at
a Council of Ministers at St. Cloud, opened a note, and, without
informing us what it contained, hastily left the Board, apparently
much agitated. In a few minutes he returned and told us that your
functions had ceased.
Whether the sudden displeasure of the First Consul was excited by a false
representation of my concern in the transaction which proved so
unfortunate to me, or whether Bonaparte merely made that a pretence for
carrying into execution a resolution which I am convinced had been
previously adopted, I shall not stop to determine; but the Due de Rovigo
having mentioned the violation of the secrecy of letters in my case, I
shall take the opportunity of stating some particulars on that subject.
Before I wrote these Memoirs the existence in the Post Office of the
cabinet, which had obtained the epithet of black, had been denounced in
the chamber of deputies, and the answer was, that it no longer existed,
which of course amounted to an admission that it had existed. I may
therefore, without indiscretion, state what I know respecting it.
The "black cabinet" was established in the reign of Louis XV., merely for
the purpose of prying into the scandalous gossip of the Court and the
capital. The existence of this cabinet soon became generally known to
every one. The numerous postmasters who succeeded each other, especially
in latter times, the still more numerous Post Office clerks, and that
portion of the public who are ever on the watch for what is held up as
scandalous, soon banished all the secrecy of the affair, and none but
fools were taken in by it. All who did not wish to be committed by their
correspondence chose better channels of communication than the Post; but
those who wanted to ruin an enemy or benefit a friend long continued to
avail themselves of the black cabinet, which, at first intended merely to
amuse a monarch's idle hours, soon became a medium of intrigue, dangerous
from the abuse that might be made of it.
Every morning, for three years, I used to peruse the portfolio containing
the bulletins of the black cabinet, and I frankly confess that I never
could discover any real cause for the public indignation against it,
except inasmuch as it proved the channel of vile intrigue. Out of 30,000
letters, which daily left Paris to be distributed through France and all
parts of the world, ten or twelve, at most, were copied, and often only a
few lines of them.
Bonaparte at first proposed to send complete copies of intercepted
letters to the ministers whom their contents might concern; but a few
observations from me induced him to direct that only the important
passages should be extracted and sent. I made these extracts, and
transmitted them to their destinations, accompanied by the following
words: "The First Consul directs me to inform you that he has just
received the following information," etc. Whence the information came
was left to be guessed at.
The First Consul daily received through this channel about a dozen
pretended letters, the writers of which described their enemies as
opponents of the Government, or their friends as models of obedience and
fidelity to the constituted authorities. But the secret purpose of this
vile correspondence was soon discovered, and Bonaparte gave orders that
no more of it should be copied. I, however, suffered from it at the time
of my disgrace, and was well-nigh falling a victim to it at a subsequent
The letter mentioned by M. de Marbois, and which was the occasion of this
digression on the violation of private correspondence, derived importance
from the circumstance that Wednesday, the 20th of October, when Bonaparte
received it, was the day on which I left the Consular palace.
I retired to a house which Bonaparte had advised me to purchase at St.
Cloud, and for the fitting up and furnishing of which he had promised to
pay. We shall see how he kept this promise! I immediately sent to
direct Landoire, the messenger of Bonaparte's cabinet, to place all
letters sent to me in the First Consul's portfolio, because many intended
for him came under cover for me. In consequence of this message I
received the following letter from M. de Meneval:
MY DEAR BOURRIENNE--I cannot believe that the First Consul would
wish that your letters should be presented to him. I presume you
allude only to those which may concern him, and which come addressed
under cover to you. The First Consul has written to citizens
Lavallette and Mollien directing them to address their packets to
him. I cannot allow Landoire to obey the order you sent.
The First Consul yesterday evening evinced great regret. He
repeatedly said, "How miserable I am! I have known that man since
he was seven years old." I cannot but believe that he will
reconsider his unfortunate decision. I have intimated to him that
the burden of the business is too much for me, and that he must be
extremely at a loss for the services of one to whom he was so much
accustomed, and whose situation, I am confident, nobody else can
satisfactorily fill. He went to bed very low-spirited. I am, etc.
19 Vendemiaire, an X.
(21st October 1802.)
Next day I received another letter from M. Meneval as follows:--
I send you your letters. The First Consul prefers that you should
break them open, and send here those which are intended for him. I
enclose some German papers, which he begs you to translate.
Madame Bonaparte is much interested in your behalf; and I can assure
you that no one more heartily desires than the First Consul himself
to see you again at your old post, for which it would be difficult
to find a successor equal to you, either as regards fidelity or
fitness. I do not relinquish the hope of seeing you here again.
A whole week passed away in conflicts between the First Consul's
friendship and pride. The least desire he manifested to recall me was
opposed by his flatterers. On the fifth day of our separation he
directed me to come to him. He received me with the greatest kindness,
and after having good-humouredly told me that I often expressed myself
with too much freedom--a fault I was never solicitous to correct--he
added: "I regret your absence much. You were very useful to me. You are
neither too noble nor too plebeian, neither too aristocratic nor too
Jacobinical. You are discreet and laborious. You understand me better
than any one else; and, between ourselves be it said, we ought to
consider this a sort of Court. Look at Duroc, Bessieres, Maret.
However, I am very much inclined to take you back; but by so doing I
should confirm the report that I cannot do without you."
Madame Bonaparte informed me that she had heard persons to whom Bonaparte
expressed a desire to recall me observe, "What would you do? People will
say you cannot do without him. You have got rid of him now; therefore
think no more about him: and as for the English newspapers, he gave them
more importance than they really deserved: you will no longer be troubled
with them." This will bring to mind a scene--which occurred at Malmaison
on the receipt of some intelligence in the 'London Gazette'.
I am convinced that if Bonaparte had been left to himself he would have
recalled me, and this conviction is warranted by the interval which
elapsed between his determination to part with me and the formal
announcement of my dismissal. Our rupture took place on the 20th of
October, and on the 8th of November following the First Consul sent me
the following letter:
CITIZEN BOURRIENNE, MINISTER OF STATE--I am satisfied with the
services which you have rendered me during the time yon have been
with me; but henceforth they are no longer necessary. I wish you to
relinquish, from this time, the functions and title of my private
secretary. I shall seize an early opportunity of providing for you
in a way suited to your activity and talents, and conducive to the
If any proof of the First Consul's malignity were wanting it would be
furnished by the following fact:--A few days after the receipt of the
letter which announced my dismissal I received a note from Duroc; but,
to afford an idea of the petty revenge of him who caused it to be
written, it will be necessary first to relate a few preceding
When, with the view of preserving a little freedom, I declined the offer
of apartments which Madame Bonaparte had prepared at Malmaison for myself
and my family, I purchased a small house at Ruel: the First Consul had
given orders for the furnishing of this house, as well as one which I
possessed in Paris. From the manner in which the orders were given I had
not the slightest doubt but that Bonaparte intended to make me a present
of the furniture. However, when I left his service he applied to have it
returned. As at first I paid no attention to his demand, as far as it
concerned the furniture at Ruel, he directed Duroc to write the following
letter to me:
The First Consul, my dear Bourrienne, has just ordered me to send
him this evening the keys of your residence in Paris, from which the
furniture is not to be removed.
He also directs me to put into a warehouse whatever furniture you
may have at Ruel or elsewhere which you have obtained from
I beg of you to send me an answer, so as to assist me in the
execution of these orders. You promised me to have everything
settled before the First Consul's return. I must excuse myself in
the best way I can.
24 Brumaire, an X.
(15th November 1802.)
Believing myself to be master of my own actions, I had formed the design
of visiting England, whither I was called by some private business.
However, I was fully aware of the peculiarity of my situation, and I was
resolved to take no step that should in any way justify a reproach.
On the 11th of January I therefore wrote to Duroc:
My affairs require my presence in England for some time. I beg of
you, my dear Duroc, to mention my intended journey to the First
Consul, as I do not wish to do anything inconsistent with his views.
I would rather sacrifice my own interest than displease him. I rely
on your friendship for an early answer to this, for uncertainty
would be fatal to me in many respects.
The answer, which speedily arrived, was as follows:--
MY DEAR BOURRIENNE--I have presented to the First Consul the letter
I just received from you. He read it, and said, "No!"
That is the only answer I can give you. (Signed) DUROC.
This monosyllable was expressive. It proved to me that Bonaparte was
conscious how ill he had treated me; and, suspecting that I was actuated
by the desire of vengeance, he was afraid of my going to England, lest I
should there take advantage of that liberty of the press which he had so
effectually put down in France. He probably imagined that my object was
to publish statements which would more effectually have enlightened the
public respecting his government and designs than all the scandalous
anecdotes, atrocious calumnies, and ridiculous fabrications of Pelletier,
the editor of the 'Ambigu'. But Bonaparte was much deceived in this
supposition; and if there can remain any doubt on that subject, it will
be removed on referring to the date of these Memoirs, and observing the
time at which I consented to publish them.
I was not deceived as to the reasons of Bonaparte's unceremonious refusal
of my application; and as I well knew his inquisitorial character,
I thought it prudent to conceal my notes. I acted differently from
Camoens. He contended with the sea to preserve his manuscripts; I made
the earth the depository of mine. I carefully enclosed my most valuable
notes and papers in a tin box, which I buried under ground. A yellow
tinge, the commencement of decay, has in some places almost obliterated
It will be seen in the sequel that my precaution was not useless, and
that I was right in anticipating the persecution of Bonaparte, provoked
by the malice of my enemies. On the 20th of April Duroc sent me the
I beg, my dear Bourrienne, that you will come to St. Cloud this
morning. I have something to tell you on the part of the First
This note caused me much anxiety. I could not doubt but that my enemies
had invented some new calumny; but I must say that I did not expect such
baseness as I experienced.
As soon as Duroc had made me acquainted with the business which the First
Consul had directed him to communicate, I wrote on the spot the subjoined
letter to Bonaparte:
At General Duroc's desire I have this moment waited upon him, and he
informs me that you have received notice that a deficit of 100,000
francs has been discovered in the Treasury of the Navy, which you
require me to refund this day at noon.
Citizen First Consul, I know not what this means! I am utterly
ignorant of the matter. I solemnly declare to you that this charge
is a most infamous calumny. It is one more to be added to the
number of those malicious charges which have been invented for the
purpose of destroying any influence I might possess with you.
I am in General Duroc's apartment, where I await your orders.
Duroc carried my note to the First Consul as soon as it was written. He
speedily returned. "All's right!" said he. "He has directed me to say
it was entirely a mistake!--that he is now convinced he was deceived!
that he is sorry for the business, and hopes no more will be said about
The base flatterers who surrounded Bonaparte wished him to renew his
Egyptian extortions upon me; but they should have recollected that the
fusillade employed in Egypt for the purpose of raising money was no
longer the fashion in France, and that the days were gone by when it was
the custom to 'grease the wheels of the revolutionary car.'
The First Consul's presentiments respecting the duration of peace--
England's uneasiness at the prosperity of France--Bonaparte's real
wish for war--Concourse of foreigners in Paris--Bad faith of
England--Bonaparte and Lord Whitworth--Relative position of France
and England-Bonaparte's journey to the seaboard departments--
Breakfast at Compiegne--Father Berton--Irritation excited by the
presence of Bouquet--Father Berton's derangement and death--Rapp
ordered to send for me--Order countermanded.
The First Consul never anticipated a long peace with England. He wished
for peace merely because, knowing it to be ardently desired by the
people, after ten years of war he thought it would increase his
popularity and afford him the opportunity of laying the foundation of his
government. Peace was as necessary to enable him to conquer the throne
of France as war was essential to secure it, and to enlarge its base at
the expense of the other thrones of Europe. This was the secret of the
peace of Amiens, and of the rupture which so suddenly followed, though
that rupture certainly took place sooner than the First Consul wished.
On the great questions of peace and war Bonaparte entertained elevated
ideas; but in discussions on the subject he always declared himself in
favour of war. When told of the necessities of the people, of the
advantages of peace, its influence on trade, the arts, national industry,
and every branch of public prosperity, he did not attempt to deny the
argument; indeed, he concurred in it; but he remarked, that all those
advantages were only conditional, so long as England was able to throw
the weight of her navy into the scale of the world, and to exercise the
influence of her gold in all the Cabinets of Europe. Peace must be
broken; since it was evident that England was determined to break it.
Why not anticipate her? Why allow her to have all the advantages of the
first step? We must astonish Europe! We must thwart the policy of the
Continent! We must strike a great and unexpected blow. Thus reasoned
the First Consul, and every one may judge whether his actions agreed with
The conduct of England too well justified the foresight of Bonaparte's
policy; or rather England, by neglecting to execute her treaties, played
into Bonaparte's hand, favoured his love for war, and justified the
prompt declaration of hostilities in the eyes of the French nation, whom
he wished to persuade that if peace were broken it would be against his
wishes. England was already at work with the powerful machinery of her
subsidies, and the veil beneath which she attempted to conceal her
negotiations was still sufficiently transparent for the lynx eye of the
First Consul. It was in the midst of peace that all those plots were
hatched, while millions who had no knowledge of their existence were
securely looking forward to uninterrupted repose.
Since the Revolution Paris had never presented such a spectacle as during
the winter of 1802-3. At that time the concourse of foreigners in the
French capital was immense. Everything wore the appearance of
satisfaction, and the external signs of public prosperity. The visible
regeneration in French society exceedingly annoyed the British Ministry.
The English who flocked to the Continent discovered France to be very
different from what she was described to be by the English papers. This
caused serious alarm on the other side of the Channel, and the English
Government endeavoured by unjust complaints to divert attention from just
dissatisfaction, which its own secret intrigues excited. The King of
England sent a message to Parliament, in which he spoke of armaments
preparing in the ports of France, and of the necessity of adopting
precautions against meditated aggressions. This instance of bad faith
highly irritated the First Consul, who one day, in a fit of displeasure,
thus addressed Lord Whitworth in the salon, where all the foreign
Ambassadors were assembled:
"What is the meaning of this? Are you then tired of peace? Must Europe
again be deluged with blood? Preparations for war indeed! Do you think
to overawe us by this? You shall see that France may be conquered,
perhaps destroyed, but never intimidated--never!"
The English Ambassador was astounded at this unexpected sally, to which
he made no reply. He contented himself with writing to his Government an
account of an interview in which the First Consul had so far forgotten
himself,-whether purposely or not I do not pretend to say.
That England wished for war there could be no doubt. She occupied Malta,
it is true, but she had promised to give it up, though she never had any
intention of doing so. She was to have evacuated Egypt, yet there she
still remained; the Cape of Good Hope was to have been surrendered, but
she still retained possession of it. England had signed, at Amiens, a
peace which she had no intention of maintaining. She knew the hatred of
the Cabinets of Europe towards France, and she was sure, by her intrigues
and subsidies, of arming them on her side whenever her plans reached
maturity. She saw France powerful and influential in Europe, and she
knew the ambitious views of the First Consul, who, indeed, had taken
little pains to conceal them.
The First Consul, who had reckoned on a longer duration of the peace of
Amiens, found himself at the rupture of the treaty in an embarrassing
situation. The numerous grants of furloughs, the deplorable condition
of the cavalry, and the temporary absence of artillery, in consequence of
a project for refounding all the field-pieces, caused much anxiety to
Bonaparte. He had recourse to the conscription to fill up the
deficiencies of the army; and the project of refounding the artillery was
abandoned. Supplies of money were obtained from the large towns, and
Hanover, which was soon after occupied, furnished abundance of good
horses for mounting the cavalry.
War had now become inevitable; and as soon as it was declared the First
Consul set out to visit Belgium and the seaboard departments to ascertain
the best means of resisting the anticipated attacks of the English. In
passing through Compiegne he received a visit from Father Berton,
formerly principal of the military school of Brienne. He was then rector
of the school of arts at Compiegne, a situation in which he had been
placed by Bonaparte. I learned the particulars of this visit through
Josephine. Father Berton, whose primitive simplicity of manner was
unchanged since the time when he held us under the authority of his
ferule, came to invite Bonaparte and Josephine to breakfast with him,
which invitation was accepted. Father Berton had at that time living
with him one of our old comrades of Brienne, named Bouquet; but he
expressly forbade him to show himself to Bonaparte or any one of his
suite, because Bouquet, who had been a commissary at headquarters in
Italy, was in disgrace with the First Consul. Bouquet promised to
observe Father Berton's injunctions, but was far from keeping his
promise. As soon as he saw Bonaparte's carriage drive up, he ran to the
door and gallantly handed out Josephine. Josephine, as she took his
hand, said, "Bouquet,--you have ruined yourself!" Bonaparte, indignant
at what he considered an unwarrantable familiarity, gave way to one of
his uncontrollable fits of passion, and as soon as he entered the room
where the breakfast was laid, he seated himself, and then said to his
wife in an imperious tone, "Josephine, sit there!" He then commenced
breakfast, without telling Father Becton to sit down, although a third
plate had been laid for him. Father Becton stood behind his old pupil's
chair apparently confounded at his violence. The scene produced such an
effect on the old man that he became incapable of discharging his duties
at Compiegne. He retired to Rheims, and his intellect soon after became
deranged. I do not pretend to say whether this alienation of mind was
caused by the occurrence I have just related, and the account of which I
received from Josephine. She was deeply afflicted at what had passed.
Father Berton died insane. What I heard from Josephine was afterwards
confirmed by the brother of Father Becton. The fact is, that in
proportion as Bonaparte acquired power he was the more annoyed at the
familiarity of old companions; and, indeed, I must confess that their
familiarity often appeared very ridiculous.
The First Consul's visit to the northern coast took place towards the end
of the year 1803, at which time the English attacked the Dutch
settlements of Surinam, Demerara, and Essequibo, and a convention of
neutrality was concluded between France, Spain, and Portugal. Rapp
accompanied the First Consul, who attentively inspected the preparations
making for a descent on England, which it was never his intention to
effect, as will be shortly shown.
On the First Consul's return I learned from Rapp that I had been spoken
of during the journey, and in the following way:--Bonaparte, being at
Boulogne, wanted some information which no one there could give, him.
Vexed at receiving no satisfactory answer to his inquiries he called
Rapp, and said, "Do you know, Rapp, where Bourrienne is?"--"General, he
is in Paris."--" Write to him to come here immediately, and send off one
of my couriers with the letter." The rumour of the First Consul's sudden
recollection of me spread like lightning, and the time required to write
the letter and despatch the courier was more than sufficient for the
efforts of those whom my return was calculated to alarm. Artful
representations soon checked these spontaneous symptoms of a return to
former feelings and habits. When Rapp carried to the First Consul the
letter he had been directed to write the order was countermanded.
However, Rapp advised me not to leave Paris, or if I did, to mention the
place where I might be found, so that Duroc might have it in his power to
seize on any favourable circumstance without delay. I was well aware of
the friendship of both Rapp and Duroc, and they could as confidently rely
Vast works undertaken--The French and the Roman soldiers--Itinerary
of Bonaparte's journeys to the coast--Twelve hours on horseback--
Discussions in Council--Opposition of Truguet--Bonaparte'a opinion
on the point under discussion--Two divisions of the world--Europe a
province--Bonaparte's jealousy of the dignity of France--The
Englishman in the dockyard of Brest--Public audience at the
Tuilleries--The First Consul's remarks upon England--His wish to
enjoy the good opinion of the English people--Ball at Malmaison--
Lines on Hortense's dancing--Singular motive for giving the ball.
At the time of the rupture with England Bonaparte was, as I have
mentioned, quite unprepared in most branches of the service; yet
everything was created as if by magic, and he seemed to impart to others
a share of his own incredible activity. It is inconceivable how many
things had been undertaken and executed since the rupture of the peace.
The north coast of France presented the appearance of one vast arsenal;
for Bonaparte on this occasion employed his troops like Roman soldiers,
and made the tools of the artisan succeed to the arms of the warrior.
On his frequent journeys to the coast Bonaparte usually set off at night,
and on the following morning arrived at the post office of Chantilly,
where he breakfasted. Rapp, whom I often saw when he was in Paris,
talked incessantly of these journeys, for he almost always accompanied
the First Consul, and it would have been well had he always been
surrounded by such men. In the evening the First Consul supped at
Abbeville, and arrived early next day at the bridge of Brique. "It would
require constitutions of iron to go through what we do," said Rapp.
"We no sooner alight from the carriage than we mount on horseback, and
sometimes remain in our saddles for ten or twelve hours successively.
The First Consul inspects and examines everything, often talks with the
soldiers. How he is beloved by them! When shall we pay a visit to
London with those brave fellows?"
Notwithstanding these continual journeys the First Consul never neglected
any of the business of government, and was frequently present at the
deliberations of the Council. I was still with him when the question as
to the manner in which the treaties of peace should be concluded came
under the consideration of the Council. Some members, among whom Truguet
was conspicuous, were of opinion that, conformably with an article of the
Constitution, the treaties should be proposed by the Head of the
Government, submitted to the Legislative Body, and after being agreed to
promulgated as part of the laws. Bonaparte thought differently. I was
entirely of his opinion, and he said to me, "It is for the mere pleasure
of opposition that they appeal to the Constitution, for if the
Constitution says so it is absurd. There are some things which cannot
become the subject of discussion in a public assembly; for instance, if I
treat with Austria, and my Ambassador agrees to certain conditions, can
those conditions be rejected by the Legislative Body? It is a monstrous
absurdity! Things would be brought to a fine pass in this way!
Lucchesini and Markow would give dinners every day like Cambaceres;
scatter their money about, buy men who are to be sold, and thus cause our
propositions to be rejected. This would be a fine way to manage
When Bonaparte, according to his custom, talked to me in the evening of
what had passed in the Council, his language was always composed of a
singular mixture of quotations from antiquity, historical references, and
his own ideas. He talked about the Romans, and I remember when Mr. Fox
was at Paris that he tried to distinguish himself before that Foreign
Minister, whom he greatly esteemed. In his enlarged way of viewing the
world Bonaparte divided it into two large states, the East and the West:
"What matters," he would often say, "that two countries are separated by
rivers or mountains, that they speak different languages? With very
slight shades of variety France, Spain, England, Italy, and Germany, have
the same manners and customs, the same religion, and the same dress. In
them a man can only marry one wife; slavery is not allowed; and these are
the great distinctions which divide the civilised inhabitants of the
globe. With the exception of Turkey, Europe is merely a province of the
world, and our warfare is but civil strife. There is also another way of
dividing nations, namely, by land and water." Then he would touch on all
the European interests, speak of Russia, whose alliance he wished for,
and of England, the mistress of the seas. He usually ended by alluding
to what was then his favourite scheme--an expedition to India.
When from these general topics Bonaparte descended to the particular
interests of France, he still spoke like a sovereign; and I may truly say
that he showed himself more jealous than any sovereign ever was of the
dignity of France, of which he already considered himself the sole
representative. Having learned that a captain of the English navy had
visited the dockyard of Brest passing himself off as a merchant, whose
passport he had borrowed, he flew into a rage because no one had ventured
to arrest him.--[see James' Naval History for an account of Sir Sidney
Smith's daring exploit.]--Nothing was lost on Bonaparte, and he made
use of this fact to prove to the Council of State the necessity of
increasing the number of commissary-generals of police. At a meeting of
the Council he said, "If there had been a commissary of police at Brest
he would have arrested the English captain and sent him at once to Paris.
As he was acting the part of a spy I would have had him shot as such.
No Englishman, not even a nobleman, or the English Ambassador, should be
admitted into our dockyards. I will soon regulate all this." He
afterwards said to me, "There are plenty of wretches who are selling me
every day to the English without my being subjected to English spying."
--[During the short and hollow peace of Amiens Bonaparte sent over
to England as consuls and vice-consuls, a number of engineers and
military men, who were instructed to make plans of all the harbours
and coasts of the United Kingdom. They worked in secrecy, yet not
so secretly but that they were soon suspected: the facts were
proved, and they were sent out of the country without ceremony.--
Editor of 1836 edition.]--
He had on one occasion said before an assemblage of generals, senators,
and high officers of State, who were at an audience of the Diplomatic
Body, "The English think that I am afraid of war, but I am not." And
here the truth escaped him, in spite of himself. "My power will lose
nothing by war. In a very short time I can have 2,000,000 of men at my
disposal. What has been the result of the first war? The union of
Belgium and Piedmont to France. This is greatly to our advantage; it
will consolidate our system. France shall not be restrained by foreign
fetters. England has manifestly violated the treaties! It would be
better to render homage to the King of England, and crown him King of
France at Paris, than to submit to the insolent caprices of the English
Government. If, for the sake of preserving peace, at most for only two
months longer, I should yield on a single point, the English would become
the more treacherous and insolent, and would enact the more in proportion
as we yield. But they little know me! Were we to yield to England now,
she would next prohibit our navigation in certain parts of the world.
She would insist on the surrender of par ships. I know not what she
would not demand; but I am not the man to brook such indignities. Since
England wishes for war she shall have it, and that speedily!"
On the same day Bonaparte said a great deal more about the treachery of
England. The gross calumnies to which he was exposed in the London
newspapers powerfully contributed to increase his natural hatred of the
liberty of the press; and he was much astonished that such attacks could
be made upon him by English subjects when he was at peace with the
I had one day a singular proof of the importance which Bonaparte attached
to the opinion of the English people respecting any misconduct that was
attributed to him. What I am about to state will afford another example
of Bonaparte's disposition to employ petty and roundabout means to gain
his ends. He gave a ball at Malmaison when Hortense was in the seventh
month of her pregnancy.
--[This refers to the first son of Louis and of Hortense, Napoleon
Charles, the intended successor of Napoleon, who was born 1802, died
1807, elder brother of Napoleon III.]--
I have already mentioned that he disliked to see women in that situation,
and above all could not endure to see them dance. Yet, in spite of this
antipathy, he himself asked Hortense to dance at the ball at Malmaison.
She at first declined, but Bonaparte was exceedingly importunate, and
said to her in a tone of good-humoured persuasion, "Do, I beg of you;
I particularly wish to see you dance. Come, stand up, to oblige me."
Hortense at last consented. The motive for this extraordinary request I
will now explain.
On the day after the ball one of the newspapers contained some verses on
Hortense's dancing. She was exceedingly annoyed at this, and when the
paper arrived at Malmaison she expressed, displeasure at it. Even
allowing for all the facility of our newspaper wits, she was nevertheless
at a loss to understand how the lines could have been written and printed
respecting a circumstance which only occurred the night before.
Bonaparte smiled, and gave her no distinct answer. When Hortense knew
that I was alone in the cabinet she came in and asked me to explain the
matter; and seeing no reason to conceal the truth, I told her that the
lines had been written by Bonaparte's direction before the ball took
place. I added, what indeed was the fact, that the ball had been
prepared for the verses, and that it was only for the appropriateness of
their application that the First Consul had pressed her to dance. He
adopted this strange contrivance for contradicting an article which
appeared in an English journal announcing that Hortense was delivered.
Bonaparte was highly indignant at that premature announcement, which he
clearly saw was made for the sole purpose of giving credit to the
scandalous rumours of his imputed connection with Hortense. Such were
the petty machinations which not unfrequently found their place in a mind
in which the grandest schemes were revolving.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
Ability in making it be supposed that he really possessed talent
Absurdity of interfering with trifles
Admired him more for what he had the fortitude not to do
Animated by an unlucky zeal
Put some gold lace on the coats of my virtuous republicans
Trifles honoured with too much attention
Were made friends of lest they should become enemies
Would enact the more in proportion as we yield