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The Private Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, Complete by Constant

Part 12 out of 15

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War recommenced before negotiations were finally broken, for the Duke of
Vicenza was still in communication with M. de Metternich. The Emperor,
as he mounted his horse, said to the numerous generals surrounding him
that he now marched to conquer a peace. But what hope could remain after
the declaration of war by Austria, and above all, when it was known that
the allied sovereigns had incessantly increased their pretensions in
proportion as the Emperor granted the concessions demanded? The Emperor
left Dresden at five o'clock in the afternoon, advancing on the road to
Koenigstein, and passed the next day at Bautzen, where he revisited the
battlefield, the scene of his last victory. There the king of Naples,
who did not wish royal honors to be rendered himself, came to rejoin the
Emperor at the head of the Imperial Guard, who presented as imposing an
appearance as in its pristine days.

We arrived at Gorlitz on the 18th, where the Emperor found the Duke of
Vicenza, who was returning from Bohemia. He confirmed the truth of the
report his Majesty had already received at Dresden, that the Emperor of
Austria had already decided to make common cause with the Emperor of
Russia and the Kings of Prussia and Sweden against the husband of his
daughter, the princess whom he had given to the Emperor as a pledge of
peace. It was also through the Duke of Vicenza that the Emperor learned
that General Blucher had just entered Silesia at the head of an army of
one hundred thousand men, and, in violation of most sacred promises, had
seized on Breslau the evening before the day fixed for the rupture of the
armistice. This same day General Jomini, Swiss by birth, but until
recently in the service of France, chief of staff to Marshal Ney, and
loaded with favors by the Emperor, had deserted his post, and reported at
the headquarters of the Emperor Alexander, who had welcomed him with
demonstrations of most intense satisfaction.

[Baron Henri Jomini, author of the celebrated treatise on the art
of war, was born in the Canton de Vaud, 1779; aide-de-camp to Ney,
1804; distinguished himself in several battles, and on his desertion
was made lieutenant-general and aide to Emperor Alexander; died

The Duke of Vicenza gave the particulars of this desertion, which seemed
to affect his Majesty more than all the other news. He told him, among
other things, that when General Jomini had entered the presence of
Alexander, he found this monarch surrounded by his chiefs, among whom
Moreau was pointed out to him. This was the first information the
Emperor had received of General Moreau's presence at the enemy's
headquarters. The Duke of Vicenza added, that when the Emperor Alexander
presented General Jomini to Moreau the latter saluted him coolly, and
Jomini replied only by a slight inclination of his head, and retired
without uttering a word, and the remainder of the evening remained in
gloomy silence in a corner of the saloon opposite to that occupied by
General Moreau. This constraint had not escaped the Emperor Alexander's
observation; and the next morning, as he was making his toilet, he
addressed Marshal Ney's ex-chief of staff: "General Jomini," said he,
"what is the cause of your conduct yesterday? It seems to me that it
would have been agreeable to you to meet General Moreau."--"Anywhere
else, Sire."--"What!"--"If I had been born a Frenchman, like the general,
I should not be to-day in the camp of your Majesty." When the Duke of
Vicenza had finished his report to the Emperor, his Majesty remarked with
a bitter smile, "I am sure that wretch Jomini thinks he has performed a
fine action! Ah, Caulaincourt, these desertions will destroy me!"
Perhaps Moreau, in welcoming General Jomini so coldly, was actuated by
the thought that were he still serving in the French army he would not
have betrayed it with arms in his hand; and after all it is not an
unusual thing to see two traitors each blush for the other, deluding
themselves at the same time in regard to their own treachery, not
comprehending that the sentiments they feel are the same as those they

However that may be, the news which M. de Caulaincourt brought caused the
Emperor to make some changes in his plans for the campaign. His Majesty
entirely abandoned the idea of repairing in person to Berlin, as he had
expressed his intention of doing, and, realizing the necessity of
ascertaining first of all the contemplated operations of the grand army
of Austria, commanded by the Prince of Schwarzenberg, penetrated into
Bohemia; but learning through the couriers of the army and his spies that
eighty thousand Russians still remained on the opposite side with a
considerable body of the Austrian army, he retraced his steps after a few
engagements in which his presence decided the victory, and on the 24th we
found ourselves again at Bautzen. His Majesty from this place sent the
King of Naples to Dresden, in order to restore the courage of the King of
Saxony and the inhabitants when they should find the enemy at the gates
of their city. The Emperor sent them the assurance that the enemy's
forces would not enter, since he had returned to defend its approaches,
and urged them at the same time not to allow themselves to be dismayed by
any sudden or unexpected attack made by isolated detachments. Murat
arrived at a most opportune moment, for we learned later that
consternation had become general in the city; but such was the prestige
attached to the Emperor's assurances that all took courage again on
learning of his presence.

After the King of Naples had gone to fulfill this mission, Colonel
Gourgaud was called during the morning into the Emperor's tent, where I
then was. "I will be tomorrow on the road to Pirna," said his Majesty;
"but I shall halt at Stolpen. As for you, hasten to Dresden; go with the
utmost speed; reach it this night. Interview on your arrival the King of
Naples, Durosnel, the Duke of Bassano, and Marshal Gouvion Saint-Cyr;
reassure them all. See also the Saxon minister Gersdorf. Say to him
that you could not see the king because you set out in such haste; but
that I can to-morrow bring forty thousand men into Dresden, and that I am
preparing to enter with all the army. Next day you will see the
commandant of the engineering corps; you will visit the redoubts and the
fortifications of the town; and when you have inspected everything, you
will return quickly and meet me at Stolpen. Report to me exactly the
real state of affairs, as well as the opinion of Marshal Saint-Cyr and
the Duke of Bassano. Set out." The colonel left immediately at a
gallop, though he had eaten nothing as yet that day.

The next evening at eleven o'clock, Colonel Gourgaud returned to the
Emperor, after performing all the requirements of his mission. Meanwhile
the allied army had descended into the plain of Dresden, and had already
made some attacks upon the advance posts. It resulted from information
given by the colonel that when the King of Naples arrived, the city,
which had been in a state of complete demoralization, now felt that its
only hope was in the Emperor's arrival.

In truth, hordes of Cossacks were already in sight of the faubourgs,
which they threatened to attack; and their appearance had compelled the
inhabitants of these faubourgs to take refuge in the interior of the
city. "As I left," said Colonel Gourgaud, "I saw a village in flames
half a league from the great gardens, and Marshal Gouvion Saint-Cyr was
preparing to evacuate that position."--"But after all," said the Emperor
eagerly, "what is the opinion of the Duke of Bassano?"--"Sire, the Duke
of Bassano does not think that we can hold out twenty-four hours."--"And
you?"--"I, Sire? I think that Dresden will be taken to-morrow if your
Majesty is not there."--"I can then rely upon what you tell me?"--
"Sire, I will answer for it with my head."

Then his Majesty summoned General Haxo, and said to him, his finger on
the map, "Vandamme is advancing by way of Pirna beyond the Elbe. The
eagerness of the enemy in penetrating as far as Dresden has been extreme.
Vandamme will find himself in his rear. I intend to sustain his movement
with my whole army; but I am uneasy as to the fate of Dresden, and am not
willing to sacrifice that city. I can reach it in a few hours, and I
shall do so, although it grieves me much to abandon a plan which if well
executed might furnish the means of routing all the allies at one blow.
Happily Vandamme is still in sufficient strength to supplement the
general movement by attacks at special points which will annoy the enemy.
Order him, then, to go from Pirna to Ghiesubel, to gain the defiles of
Peterswalde, and when intrenched in this impregnable position, to await
the result of operations under the walls of Dresden. I reserve for him
the duty of receiving the swords of the vanquished. But in order to do
this it is necessary that he should keep his wits about him, and pay no
attention to the tumult made by the terrified inhabitants. Explain to
General Vandamme exactly what I expect of him. Never will he have a
finer opportunity to gain the marshal's baton."

General Haxo set out instantly; and the Emperor made Colonel Gourgaud
reenter his apartment, and ordered him to take a fresh horse, and return
to Dresden more quickly than he had come, in order to announce his
arrival. "The old guard will precede me," said his Majesty. "I hope
that they will have no more fear when they see that."

On the morning of the 26th the Emperor was seated on his horse on the
bridge of Dresden, and began, amid cries of joy from both the young and
old guard, to make dispositions for the terrible battle which lasted
three days.

It was ten o'clock in the morning when the inhabitants of Dresden, now
reduced to despair, and speaking freely of capitulation, witnessed his
Majesty's arrival. The scene changed suddenly; and to the most complete
discouragement succeeded most entire confidence, especially when the
haughty cuirassiers of Latour-Maubourg defiled over the bridge, holding
their heads high, and their eyes fixed on the neighboring hillsides
covered by the enemy's lines. The Emperor immediately alighted at the
palace of the king, who was preparing to seek an asylumn in the new town,
but whose intentions were changed by the arrival of this great man. The
interview was extremely touching.

I cannot undertake to describe all the occurrences of those memorable
days, in which the Emperor covered himself with glory, and was more
exposed to danger than he had ever been at any time. Pages, equerries,
and aides-decamp fell dead around him, balls pierced the stomach of his
horse, but nothing could touch him. The soldiers saw this and redoubled
their ardor, and also their confidence and admiration. I shall simply
state that the Emperor did not re-enter the chateau until midnight, and
then spent the hours until daylight dictating orders, while promenading
up and down the room with great strides, until at break of day he
remounted his horse. The weather was horrible, and the rain lasted the
whole day. In the evening, the enemy being completely routed, the
Emperor returned to the palace in a frightful condition. From the time
he mounted his horse, at six o'clock in the morning, the rain had not
ceased a single instant, and he was so wet that it could be said without
any figure of speech that the water ran down into his boots from the
collar of his coat, for they were entirely filled with it. His hat of
very fine beaver was so ruined that it fell down over his shoulders, his
buff belt was perfectly soaked with water; in fact a man just drawn out
of the river would not be wetter than the Emperor. The King of Saxony,
who awaited him, met him in this condition, and embraced him as a
cherished son who had just escaped a great danger; and this excellent
prince's eyes were full of tears as he pressed the saviour of his capital
to his heart. After a few reassuring and tender words from the Emperor,
his Majesty entered his apartments, leaving everywhere traces of the
water which dripped from every part of his clothing, and I had much
difficulty in undressing him. Knowing that the Emperor greatly enjoyed a
bath after a fatiguing day, I had it prepared; but as he felt unusually
fatigued, and in addition to this began to shiver considerably, his
Majesty preferred retiring to his bed, which I hurriedly warmed. Hardly
had the Emperor retired, however, than he had Baron Fain, one of his
secretaries, summoned to read his accumulated correspondence, which was
very voluminous. After this he took his bath, but had remained in it
only a few moments when he was seized with a sudden sickness accompanied
by vomiting, which obliged him to retire to bed.

His Majesty said to me, "My dear Constant, a little rest is absolutely
indispensable to me; see that I am not awaked except for matters of the
gravest importance; say this to Fain." I obeyed the Emperor's orders,
after which I took my position in the room in front of his Majesty's
chamber, watching with the attention of a sentinel on duty lest he should
be awakened, or any one should even approach his apartment.

The next morning the Emperor rang very early, and I entered his room
immediately, anxious to know how he had passed the night. I found him
almost entirely restored, and in fine spirits. He told me, however, that
he had had a short attack of fever. I must here remark that it was the
only time the Emperor had fever, and during the whole time I was with him
I never saw him ill enough to keep his bed for twenty-four hours. He
rose at his usual hour, and when he descended was intensely gratified by
the fine appearance made by the battalion on duty. Those brave
grenadiers, who the evening before had served as his escort, and
reentered Dresden with him in a most pitiable condition, this morning he
saw ranged in the court of the palace in splendid condition, and bearing
arms as brilliant as if it were a day of parade on the Place du
Carrousel. These brave fellows had spent the night polishing their arms,
and drying themselves around great fires which they had kindled for the
purpose, having thus preferred the satisfaction of presenting themselves
in faultless condition before their Emperor's eyes to the sleep and rest
which they must so greatly have needed.

One word of approbation repaid them for their fatigue, and it may be
truly said never was a military chief so much beloved by his soldiers as
his Majesty.

The last courier who had returned from Paris to Dresden, and whose
dispatches were read, as I have said, to the Emperor, bore several
letters for me written by my family and two or three of my friends; and
all who have accompanied his Majesty on his campaigns, in whatever rank
or employment, well know how we valued news received from home. These
letters informed me, I remember, of a famous lawsuit going on in the
court of assizes between the banker Michel and Reynier, which scandalous
affair caused much comment in the capital, and almost divided with the
news from the army the interest and attention of the public; and also of
the journey the Empress was about to make to Cherbourg, to be present at
the opening of the dikes, and filling the harbor with water from the
ocean. This journey, as may well be imagined, had been suggested by the
Emperor, who sought every opportunity of putting the Empress forward, and
making her perform the duties of a sovereign, as regent of the Empire.
She summoned and presided over the council of ministers, and more than
once I heard the Emperor congratulate himself after the declaration of
war with Austria that his Louise, as he called her, acted solely for the
interests of France, and had nothing Austrian but her birth. He also
allowed her the satisfaction of herself publishing and in her own name
all the official news of the army. The bulletins were no longer issued;
but the news was transmitted to her all ready for publication, which was
doubtless an attention on the part of his Majesty in order to render the
Empress Regent more popular, by making her the medium of communication
between the government and the public. Moreover, it is a fact, that we
who were on the spot, although we knew at once whether the battle was
gained or lost, often did not know the entire operations of the different
corps maneuvering on an immense line of battle, except through the
journals of Paris; and our eagerness to read them may well be imagined.


During the second day of the battle of Dresden, at the end of which the
Emperor had the attack of fever I mentioned in the preceding chapter, the
King of Naples, or rather Marshal Murat, performed prodigies of valor.
Much has been said of this truly extraordinary prince; but only those who
saw him personally could form a correct idea of him, and even they never
knew him perfectly until they had seen him on a field of battle. There
he seemed like those great actors who produce a complete illusion amid
the fascinations of the stage, but in whom we no longer find the hero
when we encounter them in private life. While at Paris I attended a
representation of the death of 'Hector' by Luce de Lancival, and I could
never afterwards hear the verses recited in which the author describes
the effect produced on the Trojan army by the appearance of Achilles
without thinking of Prince Murat; and it may be said without exaggeration
that his presence produced exactly this effect the moment he showed
himself in front of the Austrian lines. He had an almost gigantic
figure, which alone would have sufficed to make him remarkable, and in
addition to this sought every possible means to draw attention to
himself, as if he wished to dazzle those who, might have intended to
attack him. His regular and strongly marked features, his handsome blue
eyes rolling in their orbits, enormous mustaches, and black hair falling
in long ringlets over the collar of a kurtka with narrow sleeves, struck
the attention at first sight. Add to this the richest and most elegant
costume which one would wear even at the theater,--a Polish coat richly
embroidered, and encircled by a gilded belt from which hung the scabbard
of a light sword, with a straight and pointed blade, without edge and
without guard; large amaranth-colored pantaloons embroidered in gold on
the seams, and nankeen boots; a large hat embroidered in gold with a
border of white feathers, above which floated four large ostrich plumes
with an exquisite heron aigrette in the midst; and finally the king's
horse, always selected from the strongest and handsomest that could be
found, was covered with an elegantly embroidered sky-blue cloth which
extended to the ground, and was held in place by a Hungarian or Turkish
saddle of the richest workmanship, together with a bridle and stirrups
not less magnificent than the rest of the equipment. All these things
combined made the King of Naples a being apart, an object of terror and
admiration. But what, so to speak, idealized him was his truly
chivalrous bravery, often carried to the point of recklessness, as if
danger had no existence for him. In truth, this extreme courage was by
no means displeasing to the Emperor; and though he perhaps did not always
approve of the manner in which it was displayed, his Majesty rarely
failed to accord it his praise, especially when he thought necessary to
contrast it with the increasing prudence shown by some of his old
companions in arms.

On the 28th the Emperor visited the battlefield, which presented a
frightful spectacle, and gave orders that everything possible should be
done to alleviate the sufferings of the wounded, and also of the
inhabitants and peasants who had been ravaged and pillaged, and their
fields and houses burned, and then ascended the heights from which he
could follow the course of the enemy's retreat. Almost all the household
followed him in this excursion. A peasant was brought to him from
Nothlitz, a small village where the Emperor Alexander and the King of
Prussia had their headquarters during the two preceding days. This
peasant, when questioned by the Duke of Vicenza, said he had seen a great
personage brought into Nothlitz, who had been wounded the evening before
on the staff of the allies. He was on horseback, and beside the Emperor
of Russia, at the moment he was struck. The Emperor of Russia appeared
to take the deepest interest in his fate. He had been carried to the
headquarters of Nothlitz on lances of the Cossacks interlaced, and to
cover him they could find only a cloak wet through with the rain. On his
arrival at Nothlitz the Emperor Alexander's surgeon came to perform the
amputation, and had him carried on an extending chair to Dippoldiswalde,
escorted by several Austrian, Prussian, and Russian detachments.

On learning these particulars the Emperor was persuaded that the Prince
von Schwarzenberg was the person in question. "He was a brave man," said
he; "and I regret him." Then after a silent pause, "It is then he,"
resumed his Majesty, "who is the victim of the fatality! I have always
been oppressed by a feeling that the events of the ball were a sinister
omen, but it is very evident now that it was he whom the presage

While the Emperor gave himself up to these conjectures, and recalled his
former presentiments, prisoners who were brought before his Majesty had
been questioned; and he learned from their reports that the Prince von
Schwarenzberg had not been wounded, but was well, and was directing the
retreat of the Austrian grand army. Who was, then, the important
personage struck by a French cannonball? Conjectures were renewed on
this point, when the Prince de Neuchatel received from the King of Saxony
a collar unfastened from the neck of a wandering dog which had been found
at Nothlitz. On the collar was written these words, "I belong to General
Moreau." This furnished, of course, only a supposition; but soon exact
information arrived, and confirmed this conjecture.

Thus Moreau met his death the first occasion on which he bore arms
against his native country,--he who had so often confronted with impunity
the bullets of the enemy. History has judged him severely; nevertheless,
in spite of the coldness which had so long divided them, I can assert
that the Emperor did not learn without emotion the death of Moreau,
notwithstanding his indignation that so celebrated a French general could
have taken up arms against France, and worn the Russian cockade. This
unexpected death produced an evident effect in both camps, though our
soldiers saw in it only a just judgment from Heaven, and an omen
favorable to the Emperor. However that may be, these are the
particulars, which I learned a short time after, as they were related by
the valet de chambre of General Moreau.

The three sovereigns of Russia, Austria, and Prussia had been present on
the 27th at the battle on the heights of Nothlitz, but had retired as
soon as they saw that the battle was lost. That very day General Moreau
was wounded by a cannon-ball near the intrenchments in front of Dresden,
and about four o'clock in the afternoon was conveyed to Nothlitz, to the
country house of a merchant named Salir, where the Emperors of Austria
and Russia had established their headquarters. Both limbs of the general
were amputated above the knee. After the amputation, as he requested
something to eat and a cup of tea, three eggs were brought him on a
plate; but he took only the tea. About seven o'clock he was placed on a
litter, and carried to Passendorf by Russian soldiers, and passed the
night in the country house of M. Tritschier, grand master of forests.
There he took only another cup of tea, and complained greatly of the
sufferings he endured. The next day, the 28th of August, at four o'clock
in the morning, he was conveyed, still by Russian soldiers, from
Passendorf to Dippodiswalde, where he took a little white bread and a
glass of lemonade at the house of a baker named Watz. An hour after he
was carried nearer to the frontiers of Bohemia, borne by Russian soldiers
in the body of a coach taken off the wheels. During the entire route he
incessantly uttered cries which the extremity of his sufferings drew from

These are the details which I learned in regard to Moreau; and, as is
well known, he did not long survive his wound. The same ball which broke
both his legs carried off an arm from Prince Ipsilanti, then aide-de-camp
to the Emperor Alexander; so that if the evil that is done can be
repaired by the evil received, it might be said that the cannon-shot
which tore away from us General Kirgener and Marshal Duroc was this day
sent back on the enemy. But alas! it is a sad sort of consolation that
is drawn from reprisals.

It may be seen from the above, and especially from the seemingly decisive
benefits arising from the battle of Dresden, that since the resumption of
hostilities, in every place where our troops had been sustained by the
all-powerful presence of the Emperor, they had obtained successes; but
unfortunately this was not the case at points distant from the main line
of operations. Nevertheless, seeing the allies routed by the army which
he commanded in person, and certain, moreover, that General Vandamme had
held the position which he had indicated to him through General Haxo, his
Majesty returned to his first idea of marching on Berlin, and already
even had disposed his troops with this intention, when the fatal news
arrived that Vandamme, the victim of his own rashness, had disappeared
from the field of battle, and his ten thousand men, surrounded on all
sides, and overwhelmed by numbers, had been cut to pieces. It was
believed that Vandamme was dead, and it was not until later we learned
that he had been taken prisoner with a part of his troop. It was learned
also that Vandamme, incited by his natural intrepidity, and unable to
resist a desire to attack the enemy whom he saw within his grasp, had
left his intrenchments to make the attack. He had conquered at first,
but when after his victory he attempted to resume his former position he
found it occupied, as the Prussians had seized it; and though he fought
with all the abandon of despair, it was all in vain, and General Kleist,
proud of this fine trophy, conducted him in triumph to Prague. It was
while speaking of this audacious attack of Vandamme that the Emperor used
this expression, which has been so justly admired, "For a retreating
enemy it is necessary to make a bridge of gold, or oppose a wall of
brass." The Emperor heard with his usual imperturbability the
particulars of the loss he had just experienced, but nevertheless
repeatedly expressed his astonishment at the deplorable recklessness of
Vandamme, and said he could not comprehend how this experienced general
could have allowed himself to be drawn away from his position. But the
deed was done, and in such instances the Emperor never lost time in
useless recriminations. "Come," said he, addressing the Duke of Bassano,
"you have just heard--that means war from early in the morning until late
in the evening."

After giving various orders to the army and his chiefs, the Emperor left
Dresden on the evening of the 3d of September, with the intention of
regaining what he had lost from the audacious imprudence of General
Vandamme. But this defeat, the first we had sustained since the
resumption of hostilities, became the forerunner of the long series of
reverses which awaited us. It might have been said that victory, having
made one last effort in our favor at Dresden, had finally grown weary;
for the remainder of the campaign was but a succession of disasters,
aggravated by treachery of every description, and ending in the horrible
catastrophe at Leipzig. Before leaving Dresden we had learned of the
desertion to the enemy of a Westphalian regiment, with arms and baggage.

The Emperor left Marshal Saint-Cyr in Dresden with thirty thousand men,
with orders to hold it to the last extremity, since the Emperor wished to
preserve this capital at any price. The month of September was spent in
marches and countermarches around this city, with no events of decided
importance. Alas! the Emperor was never again to see the garrison of
Dresden. Circumstances becoming still more embarrassed, imperiously
demanded that his Majesty should promptly oppose some obstacle to the
progress of the allies. The King of Saxony, furnishing an example of
fidelity rare among kings, determined to accompany the Emperor, and
entered his carriage in company with the queen and the Princess Augusta,
having the headquarters' staff as escort. Two days after his departure
the Saxon troops joined the French army at Eilenburg, on the banks of the
Mulda. The Emperor exhorted these allies, whom he believed faithful, to
maintain the independence of their country, pointed out to them how
Prussia was threatening Saxony, and endeavoring to acquire her most
beautiful provinces, and reminded them of the proclamation of their
sovereign, his worthy and faithful ally; finally he spoke to them in the
name of military honor, urging them, in closing, to take it always as
their guide, and to show themselves worthy rivals of the soldiers of the
grand army with whom they had made common cause, and beside whom they
were now about to fight. The words of the Emperor were translated and
repeated to the Saxons by the Duke of Vicenza; and this language from the
lips of one whom they regarded as the friend of their sovereign and the
saviour of their capital seemed to produce a profound impression. The
march was then begun in confidence, with no premonition of the
approaching defection of these very men who had so often greeted the
Emperor with their cries of enthusiasm, swearing to fight to the death
rather than abandon him.

His Majesty's plan then was to fall on Blucher and the Prince Royal of
Sweden, from whom the French army was separated only by a river. We
therefore left Eilenburg, where the Emperor parted with the King of
Saxony and his family, the Duke of Bassano, the grand park of artillery,
and all the conveyances, and directed our course towards Duben. Blucher
and Bernadotte had retired, leaving Berlin uncovered. Then the Emperor's
plans became known; and it was seen that he was marching on Berlin, and
not on Leipzig, and that Diiben was only the meeting-place for the various
corps, who, when united, were to march on the capital of Prussia, which
the Emperor had already seized twice.

The time was unfortunately past when a simple indication of the Emperor's
plans was regarded as a signal of victory. The chiefs of the army, who
had until now been perfectly submissive, began to reflect, and even took
the liberty of disapproving of plans which they were afraid to execute.
When the army became aware of the Emperor's intention to march on Berlin,
it was the signal for almost unanimous discontent. The generals who had
escaped the disasters of Moscow, and the dangers of the double campaign
in Germany, were fatigued, and perhaps eager to reap the benefits of
their good fortune, and at last to enjoy repose in the bosom of their
families. A few went so far as to accuse the Emperor of being anxious to
still extend the war. "Have there not been enough killed?" said they,
"Must we all share the same fate?" And these complaints were not kept
for secret confidences, but were uttered publicly, and often even loud
enough to reach the ears of the Emperor; but in that case his Majesty
seemed not to hear.

Amidst this disaffection of a large number of the chiefs of the army, the
defection of Bavaria was learned, and gave an added strength to the
anxiety and discontent inspired by the Emperor's resolution; and then
occurred what had never taken place before: his staff united their
entreaties that he should abandon his plans in regard to Berlin, and
march on Leipzig. I saw how much the Emperor suffered from the necessity
of listening to such remonstrances, notwithstanding the respectful
language in which they were couched. For two entire days his Majesty
remained undecided; and how long these forty-eight hours were! Never did
abandoned cabin or bivouac present a more mournful sight than the sad
chateau of Duben. In this doleful residence I saw the Emperor for the
first time entirely unemployed; the indecision to which he was a prey
absorbed him so entirely that his character seemed entirely changed. Who
could believe it? To the activity which drove him on, and, so to speak,
incessantly devoured him, had succeeded a seeming indifference which is
perfectly indescribable. I saw him lie on the sofa nearly a whole day,
the table before him covered with maps and papers at which he did not
even glance, and with no other occupation for hours than slowly tracing
large letters on sheets of white paper. This was while he was
vacillating between his own will and the entreaties of his generals.
At the end of two days of most painful suspense he yielded; and from that
time all was lost. How much better it would have been had he not
listened to their complaints, but had again allowed himself to be guided
by the presentiments which possessed him! He repeated often, with grief,
while recalling the concessions he made at that time, "I should have
avoided many disasters by continuing to follow my own impulses; I failed
only by yielding to those of others."

The order for departure was given; and as if the army felt as much pride
in triumphing over the will of its Emperor as they would have felt in
beating the enemy by obeying the dictates of his genius, they abandoned
themselves to outbursts of joy which were almost beyond reason. Every
countenance was radiant. "We shall now," they repeated on all sides, "we
shall now see France again, embrace our children, our parents, and our
friends!" The Emperor and Marshal Augereau alone did not share the
general light-heartedness. The Duke of Castiglione had just arrived at
headquarters, after having in some measure avenged on the army of
Bohemia, Vandamme's defeat. He, like the Emperor, had dark presentiments
as to the consequences of this retrograde movement, and knew that
desertions on the way would add to the number of the enemy, and were so
much the more dangerous since these deserters had so recently been our
allies and knew our positions. His Majesty yielded with a full
conviction of the evil which would result; and I heard him at the end of
a conversation with the marshal which had lasted more than an hour, utter
these words, "They would have it so."

The Emperor on his march to Duben was at the head of a force which might
be estimated at one hundred and twenty-five thousand men. He had taken
this direction with the hope of finding Blucher again on the Mulda; but
the Prussian general had recrossed the river, which contributed much to
give credit to a rumor which had been circulated for some time. It was
said that in a council of the allied sovereigns held recently at Prague,
and at which Moreau and the Prince Royal of Sweden were present, it had
been agreed that as far as possible they should avoid engaging in a
battle whenever the Emperor commanded his army in person, and that
operations should be directed only against smaller bodies commanded by
his lieutenants. It is impossible, certainly, to render more striking
homage to the superiority of the Emperor's genius; but it was at the same
time stopping him in his glorious career, and paralyzing his usually
all-powerful action.

However that may be, the evil genius of France having obtained the
ascendency over the good genius of the Emperor, we took the road to
Leipzig, and reached it early on the morning of the 15th of October. At
that very moment the King of Naples was in the midst of an engagement
with the Prince von Schwarzenberg; and his Majesty, on hearing the sound
of cannon, crossed the town, and visited the plain where the engagement
was taking place. On his return he received the royal family of Saxony,
who had come to join him. During his short stay at Leipzig, the Emperor
performed an act of clemency which must undoubtedly be considered most
meritorious if we take into consideration the gravity of the
circumstances in which we were placed. A merchant of this city named
Moldrecht was accused and convicted of having distributed among the
inhabitants, and even in the army, several thousand copies of a
proclamation in which the Prince Royal of Sweden invited the Saxons to
desert the cause of the Emperor. When arraigned before a tribunal of
war, M. Moldrecht could not exculpate himself; and, indeed, this was an
impossibility, since several packages of the fatal proclamation had been
found at his residence. He was condemned to death, and his family in
deep distress threw themselves at the feet of the King of Saxony; but,
the facts being so evident and of such a nature that no excuse was
possible, the faithful king did not dare to grant indulgence for a crime
committed even more against his ally than against himself. Only one
recourse remained for this unhappy family, which was to address the
Emperor; but as it was difficult to reach him, M. Leborgne D'Ideville,
interpreting secretary, was kind enough to undertake to place a note on
the Emperor's desk, who after reading it ordered a postponement which was
equivalent to a full pardon. Events followed in their course, and the
life of M. Moldrecht was saved.

Leipzig, at this period, was the center of a circle in which engagements
took place at numerous points and almost incessantly. Engagements lasted
during the days of the 16th, 17th, and 18th; and his Majesty, as a poor
return for his clemency towards M. Moldrecht, reaped the bitter fruits of
the proclamation which had been scattered in every direction through the
efforts of this merchant. On that day the Saxon army deserted our cause,
and reported to Bernadotte. This left the Emperor a force of only one
hundred and ten thousand men, with an opposing force of three hundred and
thirty thousand; so that if when hostilities were resumed we were only as
one to two, we were now only one to three. The day of the 18th was, as
is well known, the fatal day. In the evening the Emperor, seated on a
folding stool of red morocco in the midst of the bivouac fires, was
dictating to the Prince of Neuchatel his orders for the night, when two
commanders of artillery were presented to his Majesty, and gave him an
account of the exhausted condition of the ammunition chests. In five
days we had discharged more than two hundred thousand cannon-balls, and
the ammunition being consequently exhausted there was barely enough left
to maintain the fire for two hours longer; and as the nearest supplies
were at Madgeburg and Erfurt, whence it would be impossible to obtain
help in time, retreat was rendered absolutely necessary.

Orders were therefore given for a retreat, which began next day, the
19th, at the end of a battle in which three hundred thousand men had
engaged in mortal combat, in a confined space not more than seven or
eight leagues in circumference. Before leaving Leipzig, the Emperor gave
to. Prince Poniatowski, who had just earned the baton of a marshal of
France, the defense of one of the faubourgs. "You will defend the
faubourg on the south," said his Majesty to him. "Sire," replied the
prince, "I have very few men."--"You will defend it with those you have."
"Ah, Sire, we will remain; we are all ready to die for your Majesty."
The Emperor, moved by these words, held out his arms to the prince, who
threw himself into them with tears in his eyes. It was really a farewell
scene, for this interview of the prince with the Emperor was their last;
and soon the nephew of the last king of Poland found, as we shall soon
see, a death equally as glorious as deplorable under the waves of the

[Prince Joseph Anthony Poniatowski, born at Warsaw, 1762. Nephew
of Stanislas Augustus, the last king of Poland. He commanded the
Polish army against Russia, 1792, and served under Kosciuszko, 1794.
He led an army of Poles under Napoleon, 1807 and 1809, and commanded
a corps in the Russian campaign. Had Napoleon succeeded in that
campaign, Poniatowski would have been made king of Poland. Wounded,
and made a marshal at Liepzig, he was drowned on the retreat.]

At nine o'clock in the morning the Emperor took leave of the royal family
of Saxony. The interview was short, but distressing and most
affectionate on the part of each.

The king manifested the most profound indignation at the conduct of his
troops. "I could never have imagined it," said he; "I thought better of
my Saxons; they are only cowards;" and his grief was so intense that the
Emperor, notwithstanding the immense disadvantage which had accrued to
him from the desertion of the Saxons during the battle, sought to console
this excellent prince.

As his Majesty urged him to quit Leipzig in order that he might not be
exposed to the dangers attending the capitulation which had now become
absolutely necessary, this venerable prince replied, "No; you have
already done enough, and it is carrying generosity too far to risk your
person by remaining a few minutes longer in order to console us." Whilst
the King of Saxony was expressing himself thus, the sound of heavy firing
of musketry was heard, and the queen and Princess Augusta joined their
entreaties to those of the monarch, in their excessive fright already
seeing the Emperor taken and slain by the Prussians. Some officers
entered, and announced that the Prince Royal of Sweden had already forced
the entrance of one of the faubourgs; that General Beningsen, General
Blucher, and the Prince von Swarzenberg were entering the city on every
side; and that our troops were reduced to the necessity of defending
themselves from house to house, and the Emperor was himself exposed to
imminent peril. As there was not a moment to lose, he consented at.
last to withdraw; and the King of Saxony escorted him as far as the foot
of the palace staircase, where they embraced each other for the last


It was exceedingly difficult to find an exit from Leipzig, as this town
was surrounded on every side by the enemy. It had been proposed to the
Emperor to burn the faubourgs which the heads of the columns of the
allied armies had reached, in order to make his retreat more sure; but he
indignantly rejected this proposal, being unwilling to leave as a last
adieu to the King of Saxony his cities abandoned to the flames. After
releasing him from his oath of fidelity, and exhorting him to now
consider only his own interests, the Emperor left him, and directed his
course to the gate of Ramstadt; but he found it so encumbered that it was
an impossibility to clear a passage, and he was compelled to retrace his
steps, again cross the city, and leave it through the northern gate, thus
regaining the only point from which he could, as he intended, march on
Erfurt; that is, from the boulevards on the west. The enemy were not yet
completely masters of the town, and it was the general opinion that it
could have been defended much longer if the Emperor had not feared to
expose it to the horrors of a siege. The Duke of Ragusa continued to
offer strong resistance in the faubourg of Halle to the repeated attacks
of General Blucher; while Marshal Ney calmly saw the combined forces of
General Woronzow, the Prussian corps under the orders of General Billow,
and the Swedish army, break themselves to pieces against his impregnable

So much valor was nevertheless at last compelled to yield to numbers, and
above all to treachery; for at the height of the combat before the gates
of Leipzig, a battalion from Baden, which until then had fought valiantly
in the French ranks, suddenly abandoned the gate Saint-Peter, which it
was commissioned to defend, and at the entrance to the city gave itself
up to the enemy. Thereupon, according to what I have heard related by
several officers who were in this terrible tumult, the streets of Leipzig
presented a most horrible sight; and our soldiers, now compelled to
retire, could do so only by disputing every step of the ground. An
irreparable misfortune soon filled the Emperor's soul with despair.

I shall now relate the events which signalized this deplorable day just
as my memory recalls them. I do not know to what cause to attribute it,
but none of the many stirring events which I witnessed present themselves
more distinctly before my mind than a scene which took place under the
walls of Leipzig. Having triumphed over incredible obstacles, we at last
succeeded in crossing the Elster on the bridge at the mill of Lindenau.
I can still see the Emperor as he stationed officers along the road
charged to indicate to stragglers where they might rejoin their
respective commands. On this day, after the immense loss sustained owing
to a disparity of numbers, he showed the same solicitude concerning
everything as after a decisive triumph. But he was so overcome by
fatigue that a few moments of sleep became absolutely necessary, and he
slept profoundly under the noise of the cannon which thundered around him
on all sides. Suddenly a terrible explosion occurred, and a few moments
after the King of Naples entered his Majesty's barrack accompanied by
Marshal Augereau. They brought sad news-the great bridge over the Elster
had just been blown up. This was the last point of communication with
the rear guard, which consisted of twenty thousand men now left on the
other side of the river under the command of Marshal Macdonald. "This,
then, is how my orders are executed!" exclaimed the Emperor, clasping his
head between his hands. He remained a moment buried in thought and
absorbed in his own reflections.

The fact was, his Majesty had given orders to undermine all the bridges
over the Elster and have them blown up, but not until after the French
army had crossed the river in safety. I have since heard this event
discussed from many points of view, and have read many contradictory
accounts. It is not my province to shed light on a point of history
which forms such a subject of controversy, and I have consequently
limited myself to relating as I have done only what came within my own
knowledge. Nevertheless, I may be permitted to make to my readers one
simple observation which presents itself to my mind whenever I read or
hear it said that the Emperor himself had the bridge blown up in order to
shelter himself from the enemy's pursuit. I ask pardon for such an
expression, but this supposition appeared to me an absurdity so
incredible as to surpass belief; for it is very evident that if under
these disastrous circumstances he could think only of his own personal
safety, he would not a short time before have voluntarily prolonged his
stay in the palace of the King of Saxony, where he was exposed to much
more imminent danger than he could have encountered after leaving
Leipzig. Moreover, the Emperor was far from enjoying the consternation
which struck him when he learned that twenty thousand of his brave
soldiers were separated from him perhaps forever.

How many misfortunes were the inevitable results of the destruction of
the last bridge on the road from Leipzig to Lindenau! And how many deeds
of heroism, the greater part of which will remain forever unknown, mark
this disaster! Marshal Macdonald, seeing himself separated from the
army, plunged on horseback into the Elster, and was fortunate enough to
reach the other bank; but General Dumortier, attempting to follow his
intrepid chief, disappeared and perished in the waves with a great number
of officers and soldiers; for all had sworn not to surrender themselves
to the enemy, and it was only a small number who submitted to the cruel
necessity of being made prisoners. The death of Prince Poniatowski
caused intense sorrow in the heart of the Emperor; and it may be said
that every one at headquarters was deeply distressed at the loss of our
Polish hero, and all were eager to learn the particulars of so grievous
and irreparable a misfortune. As was well known, his Majesty had given
him orders to cover the retreat of the army, and all felt that the
Emperor could not have bestowed this trust more worthily. It is related
that seeing himself pressed by the enemy against the bank of the river,
with no means of crossing, he was heard to say to those around him,
"Gentlemen, here we must die with honor!" It is added that putting into
practice this heroic resolution he swam across the waters of the Pleisse
in spite of the wounds he had received in the stubborn combat he had
sustained since morning. Then finding no longer any refuge from
inevitable captivity, except in the waters of the Elster, the brave
prince had thrown himself into it without considering the impassable
steepness of the opposite bank, and in a few moments he with his horse
was ingulfed beneath the waves. His body was not found until five days
afterwards, and then drawn from the water by a fisherman. Such was the
end, both deplorable and glorious, of one of the most brilliant and
chivalrous of officers, who showed himself worthy to rank among the
foremost French generals. Meanwhile the lack of ammunition compelled the
Emperor to retire promptly, although in remarkably good order, to Erfurt,
a town well furnished with both provisions and forage, as well as
material for arming and equipping the army,--in fact with all the
materials of war. His Majesty arrived on the 23d, having engagements
each day, in order to protect his retreat against forces four or five
times as numerous as those remaining at his disposal. At Erfurt the
Emperor remained only two days, and left on the 25th after bidding adieu
to his brother-in-law the King of Naples, whom he was never to see again.
I witnessed a part of this last interview, and remarked a certain
constraint in the manner of the King of Naples, which, however, his
Majesty seemed not to perceive. It is true that the king did not
announce his immediate departure, and his Majesty was ignorant that this
prince had secretly received an Austrian general.

[This was Count Mier, charged to guarantee to Murat the possession
of his kingdom if he abandoned the cause of the Emperor. He
abandoned him. What did he gain?--NOTE BY THE EDITOR.]

His Majesty was not informed of this until afterwards, and manifested
little surprise. Moreover (I call attention to this because I so often
had occasion to remark it), so many severe blows repeated in such quick
succession had struck the Emperor for some time past, that he seemed to
have become almost insensible, and it might well have been said that he
felt himself perfectly intrenched in his ideas of fatality.
Nevertheless, his Majesty, though unmoved under his own misfortunes, gave
full vent to his indignation on learning that the allied sovereigns
considered the King of Saxony as their prisoner, and had declared him a
traitor, simply because he was the only one who had not betrayed him.
Certainly if fortune had again become favorable to him, as in the past,
the King of Saxony would have found himself master of one of the most
extensive kingdoms of Europe; but fortune was hereafter to be always
adverse, and even our victories brought us only a barren glory.

Thus, for instance, the French army soon covered itself with glory at
Hanau, through which it was necessary to pass by overwhelming the immense
army of Austrians and Bavarians collected at this point under the command
of General Wrede. Six thousand prisoners were the result of this
triumph, which at the same time opened to us the road to Mayence, which
we expected to reach without other obstacles. It was on the 2d of
November, after a march of fourteen days from Leipzig, that we again
beheld the banks of the Rhine, and felt that we could breathe in safety.

Having devoted five days to reorganizing the army, giving his orders, and
assigning to each of the marshals and chiefs of the several corps the
post he was to occupy during his absence, the Emperor left Mayence on the
7th, and on the 9th slept at Saint-Cloud, to which he returned preceded
by a few trophies, as both at Erfurt and Frankfort we had taken twenty
banners from the Bavarians. These banners, presented to the minister of
war by M. Lecouteux aide-de-camp to the Prince de Neuchatel, had preceded
his Majesty's arrival in Paris by two days, and had already been
presented to the Empress, to whom the Emperor had done homage in the
following terms:


I send you twenty banners taken by my army at the battles of
Wachau, Leipzig, and Hanau. This is an homage it gives me pleasure
to render to you. I desire that you will accept it as a mark of my
entire satisfaction with the manner in which you have administered
the regency which I confided to you."

Under the Consulate and during the first six years of the Empire,
whenever the Emperor had returned to Paris after a campaign, it was
because that campaign was finished, and the news of a peace concluded in
consequence of a victory had always preceded him. For a second time he
returned from Mayence under different circumstances. In this case, as on
the return from Smorghoni, he left the war still in progress, and
returned, not for the purpose of presenting to France the fruit of his
victories, but to demand new subsidies of men and money in order to
repair the defeat and losses sustained by our army. Notwithstanding this
difference in the result of our wars, the welcome accorded to his Majesty
by the nation was still the same, apparently at least; and the addresses
by the different towns of the interior were not less numerous, nor less
filled with expressions of devotion; and those especially who were the
prey of fears for the future showed themselves even more devoted than all
others, fearing lest their fatal premonitions should be discovered. For
my own part, it had never occurred to me that the Emperor could finally
succumb in the struggle he was maintaining; for my ideas had never
reached this point, and it is only in reflecting upon it since that I
have been able to comprehend the dangers which threatened him at the
period we had now reached. He was like a man who had passed the night on
the edge of a precipice, totally unaware of the danger to which he was
exposed until it was revealed by the light of day. Nevertheless, I may
say that every one was weary of the war, and that all those of my friends
whom I saw on the return from Mayence spoke to me of the need of peace.

Within the palace itself I heard many persons attached to the Emperor say
the same thing when he was not present, though they spoke very
differently in the presence of his Majesty. When he deigned to
interrogate me, as he frequently did, on what I had heard people say, I
reported to him the exact truth; and when in these confidential toilet
conversations of the Emperor I uttered the word peace, he exclaimed again
and again, "Peace! Peace! Ah! who can desire it more than I? There
are some, however, who do not desire it, and the more I concede the more
they demand."

An extraordinary event which took place the very day of his Majesty's
arrival at Saint-Cloud, when it became known, led to the belief that the
allies had conceived the idea of entering upon new negotiations. In
fact, it was learned that M. de Saint-Aignan, his Majesty's minister at
the ducal court of Saxony, had been taken by main force and conducted to
Frankfort, where were then assembled M. de Metternich, the Prince von
Schwarzenberg, and the ministers of Russia and Prussia. There overtures
entirely in the interests of peace were made to him on the part of the
allied sovereigns, after which M. de Saint-Aignan was allowed to return
immediately to the Emperor to inform him of the details of his seizure
and the propositions which had been made to him. These offers made by
the allies, of which I was not informed, and consequently can say
nothing, seemed to strike the Emperor as worthy of consideration; and
there was soon a general rumor in the palace that a new Congress was to
be assembled at Manheim; that the Duke of Vicenza had been appointed by
his Majesty as minister plenipotentiary; and that in order to give more
dignity to his mission, the portfolio of foreign affairs had been at the
same time committed to him. I remember that this news revived the hopes
of all, and was most favorably received; for although it was doubtless
the effect of prejudice, no one could be ignorant that the general public
did not see with pleasure the Duke of Bassano in the place to which the
Duke of Vicenza was called to succeed him. The Duke of Bassano was said
to have acted in accordance with what he believed to be the secret wishes
of the Emperor, and to be averse to peace. It will be seen later, by an
answer which his Majesty made to me at Fontainebleau, how groundless and
without foundation were these rumors. It seemed then exceedingly
probable that the enemy really intended to treat for peace; since in
procuring openly by force a French negotiator, they had forestalled any
credit which might accrue to the Emperor from making overtures for peace.

What above all gave great weight to the general belief in the disposition
of Europe towards peace was that not simply a Continental peace was in
question as at Tilsit and Schoenbrunn, but also a general peace, in which
England was to enter as a contracting party; so that in consequence it
was hoped that the gain in the permanence of such peace would offset the
severity of its terms. But unfortunately this hope, which was indulged
with the joy of anticipation, lasted only a short time; and it was soon
learned that the propositions made to M. de Saint-Aignan were only a
bait, and an old diplomatic ruse which the foreigners had made use of
simply in order to gain time by deluding the Emperor with vain hopes.
In fact, a month had not passed away, there had not even been time to
complete the preliminary correspondence usual in such cases, when the
Emperor learned of the famous declaration of Frankfort, in which, far
from entering into negotiations with his Majesty, it was attempted to
separate his cause from that of France. What a mass of intrigues! Let
one bless with a thankful heart his mediocrity when he compares himself
with men condemned to live amid this labyrinth of high impostures and
honorable hypocrisies! A sad certainty was obtained that the foreigners
wished a war of extermination, and renewed consternation ensued where
hope had begun to reign; but the genius of his Majesty had not yet
deserted him, and from this time all his efforts were directed towards
the necessity of once again meeting the enemy face to face, no longer in
order to conquer his provinces, but to prevent an invasion of the sacred
soil of his own country.


In speaking of the year 1813, an account of the incredible number of
affiliations which took place at this time between secret societies
recently formed in Italy and Germany should not be omitted. The Emperor
from the time when he was only First Consul, not only did not oppose the
opening of Masonic lodges, but we have every reason to believe secretly
favored them. He was very sure that nothing originated in these meetings
which could be dangerous to his person or injurious to his government;
since Freemasonry counted among its votaries, and even had as chiefs, the
most distinguished personages of the state. Moreover, it would have been
impossible in these societies, where a few false brethren had slipped in,
for a dangerous secret, had there been one, to escape the vigilance of
the police. The Emperor spoke of it sometimes as pure child's play,
suitable to amuse idlers; and I can affirm that he laughed heartily when
told that the archchancellor, in his position as chief of the Grand
Orient, had presided at a Masonic banquet with no less dignity than would
have comported with the presidency of the senate or of the council of
state. Nevertheless, the Emperor's indifference did not extend to
societies known in Italy under the name of Carbonari, and in Germany
under various titles. We must admit, in fact, that since the
undertakings of two young Germans initiated in Illuminism, it was natural
that his Majesty should not have seen without anxiety the propagation of
those bonds of virtue in which young fanatics were transformed into

I know nothing remarkable in relation to the Carbonari, since no
circumstance connected our affairs with those of Italy. In regard to the
secret societies of Germany, I remember that during our stay at Dresden I
heard them mentioned with much interest, and not without fears for the
future, by a Saxon magistrate with whom I had the honor of associating
frequently. He was a man about sixty years of age, who spoke French
well, and united in the highest degree German stolidity with the gravity
natural to age. In his youth he had lived in France, and part of his
education had been received at the College of Soreze; and I attributed
the friendship which he showed for me to the pleasure he experienced in
conversing about a country the memory of which seemed very dear to him.
I remember perfectly well to-day the profound veneration with which this
excellent man spoke to me of one of his former professors of Soreze, whom
he called Don Ferlus; and I must have had a defective memory indeed had I
forgotten a name which I heard repeated so often.

My Saxon friend was named M. Gentz, but was no relation of the diplomat
of the same name attached to the Austrian chancellery. He was of the
Reformed religion, very faithful in the performance of his religious
duties; and I can assert that I never knew a man with more simple tastes,
or who was more observant of his duties as a man and a magistrate. I
would not like to risk saying what were his inmost thoughts concerning
the Emperor; for he rarely spoke of him, and if he had anything
unpleasant to say it may be readily understood that he would not have
chosen me as his confidant. One day when we were together examining the
fortifications which his Majesty had erected at many points on the left
bank of the Elbe, the conversation for some reason happened to fall on
the secret societies of Germany, a subject with which I was perfectly
unacquainted. As I was questioning him in order to obtain information,
M. Gentz said to me, "It must not be believed that the secret societies
which are multiplying in Germany in such an extraordinary manner have
been protected by the sovereigns; for the Prussian government sees them
grow with terror, although it now seeks to use them in order to give a
national appearance to the war it has waged against you. Societies which
are to-day tolerated have been, even in Prussia, the object of bitter
persecutions. It has not been long, for instance, since the Prussian
government used severe measures to suppress the society called
'Tugendverein', taking the precaution, nevertheless, to disguise it under
a different title. Doctor Jahn put himself at the head of the Black
Chevaliers, who were the precursors of a body of partisans known under
the name of the Black Chasseurs, and commanded by Colonel Lutzow. In
Prussia the still vivid memory of the late queen exercised a great
influence over the new direction given to its institutions, in which she
occupied the place of an occult divinity. During her lifetime she gave
to Baron Nostitz a silver chain, which as her gift became the decoration,
or we might rather say the rallying signal, of a new society, to which
was given the name of the Conederation of Louise. And lastly, M. Lang
declared himself the chief of an order of Concordists, which he
instituted in imitation of the associations of that name which had for
some time existed in the universities.

"My duties as magistrate," added M. Gentz, "have frequently enabled me to
obtain exact information concerning these new institutions; and you may
consider the information which I give you on this subject as perfectly
authentic. The three chiefs whom I have just mentioned apparently direct
three separate societies; but it is very certain that the three are in
reality only one, since these gentlemen engage themselves to follow in
every particular the vagaries of the Tugendverein, and are scattered
throughout Germany in order that by their personal presence they may have
a more direct influence. M. Jahn is more especially in control of
Prussia; M. Lang of the north, and Baron de Nostitz of the south, of
Germany. The latter, knowing perhaps the influence of a woman over young
converts, associated with himself a beautiful actress named Madame Brede;
and she has already been the means of making a very important acquisition
to the Confederation of Louise, and one which might become still more so
in the future if the French should meet with reverses. The former
Elector of Hesse, admitted through the influence of Madame Brede,
accepted almost immediately after his reception the grand chieftancy of
the Confederation of Louise, and the very day of his installation placed
in the hands of M. de Nostitz the sum necessary to create and equip a
free corps of seven hundred men destined to enter the service of Prussia.
It is true that having once obtained possession of this sum the baron did
nothing towards the formation of the corps, which greatly incensed the
ex-elector; but by dint of skill and diplomacy Madame Brede succeeded in
reconciling them. It has been proved, in fact, that M, de Nostitz did
not appropriate the funds deposited with him, but used them for other
purposes than the arming of a free corps. M. de Nostitz is beyond doubt
the most zealous, ardent, and capable of the three chiefs. I do not know
him personally, but I know he is one of those men best calculated to
obtain unbounded influence over all with whom he comes in contact. He
succeeded in gaining such dominion over M. Stein, the Prussian minister,
that the latter placed two of his secretaries at the disposal of Baron de
Nostitz to prepare under his direction the pamphlets with which Germany
is flooded; but I cannot too often repeat," continued M. Gentz, "that the
hatred against the French avowed by these various societies is simply an
accidental thing, a singular creation of circumstances; since their prime
object was the overthrow of the government as it existed in Germany, and
their fundamental principle the establishment of a system of absolute
equality. This is so true that the question has been earnestly debated
amongst the members of the Tugendverein of proclaiming the sovereignty of
the people throughout Germany; and they have openly declared that the war
should not be waged in the name of the governments, which according to
their belief are only the instruments. I do not know what will be the
final result of all these machinations; but it is very certain that by
giving themselves an assumed importance these secret societies have given
themselves a very real one. According to their version it is they alone
who have decided the King of Prussia to openly declare himself against
France, and they boast loudly that they will not stop there. After all,
the result will probably be the same as in nearly all such cases,--if
they are found useful they will be promised wonderful things in order to
gain their allegiance, and will be abandoned when they no longer serve
the intended purposes; for it is an entire impossibility that reasonable
governments should lose sight of the real end for which they are

This is, I think, an exact summary, not of all M. Gentz said to me
concerning the secret societies of Germany, but of what I recall; and I
also remember that when I gave the Emperor an account of this
conversation, his Majesty deigned to give most earnest attention, and
even made me repeat certain parts, which, however, I do not now remember
positively. As to the Carbonari, there is every reason to think that
they belonged by secret ramifications to the German societies; but as I
have already said, I have not been able to obtain exact information as to
them. Nevertheless, I will endeavor to repeat here what I heard
concerning the initiation of a Carbonari.

This story, which may perhaps be only imaginary, struck my attention
deeply. Moreover, I give it here with much hesitation, not knowing
whether some one has not already profited by it, as I was by no means the
only auditor of this narration. I obtained it from a Frenchman who lived
in the north of Italy at the time my conversation with M. Gentz occurred.

A French officer, formerly attached to General Moreau, a man of
enthusiastic but at the same time gloomy and melancholy character, left
the service after the trial instituted against his general at Paris. He
took no part in the conspiracy; but unalterably attached to republican
principles, this officer, whose tastes were very simple, and who
possessed an ample competence, left France when the Empire was
established, and took no pains to disguise his aversion to the head of an
absolute government. Finally, although of most inoffensive conduct, he
was one of those designated under the name of malcontents. After
traveling several years in Greece, Germany, and Italy, he settled himself
in a little village in the Venetian Tyrol. There he lived a very retired
life, holding little communication with his neighbors, occupied in the
study of natural science, given up to meditation, and no longer occupying
himself, so to speak, with public affairs. This was his position, which
appeared mysterious to some persons, at the time the institution of the
ventes of the Carbonari were making such incredible progress in most of
the Italian provinces, especially in those on the borders of the
Adriatic. Several notable inhabitants of the country, who were ardent
Carbonari, conceived the plan of enrolling in their society this French
officer, whom they knew, and being aware of his implacable resentment
against the chief of the Imperial government, whom he regarded as a great
man, in fact, but at the same time as the destroyer of his beloved
republic. In order not to rouse the supposed susceptibilities of this
officer, they organized a hunting-party to meet in the locality where he
usually took his solitary rambles. This plan was adopted, and so well
carried out that the intended meeting took place apparently by chance.
The officer did not hesitate to engage in conversation with the hunters,
some of whom he already knew; and after some desultory remarks the
conversation turned on the Carbonari, those new votaries of secret
liberty. The magic word liberty had not lost its power to stir to its
depths the heart of this officer, and consequently produced upon him the
exact effect they desired, by awaking enthusiastic memories of his youth,
and a joy to which he had long been a stranger; and consequently when
they proposed to add his name to the brotherhood which was now around
him, no difficulty was experienced. The officer was received, the secret
signs and words of recognition were given him, and he took the oath by
which he engaged to be always and at every hour at the disposal of his
brethren, and to perish rather than betray their secrets; and was then
initiated and continued to live as in the past, but expecting every
moment a summons.

The adventurous character of the inhabitants of the Venetian Tyrol afford
a striking contrast to the character of the inhabitants of Italy; but
they have in common suspicious natures, and from suspicion to revenge the
descent is rapid. The French officer had hardly been admitted, than
there were found among them some who condemned this action, and regarded
it as dangerous; and there were some who even went so far as to say that
his being a Frenchman should have been a sufficient impediment, and that,
besides, at a time when the police were employing their best men to
uncover all disguises, it was necessary that the firmness and constancy
of the newly elected should be put to some other proof than the simple
formalities they had required. The sponsors of the officer, those who
had, so to speak, earnestly desired him as a brother, raised no
objections, being perfectly satisfied as to the correctness of their

This was the state of affairs when news of the disaster of the French
army at Leipzig were received in the neighboring provinces of the
Adriatic, and redoubled the zeal of the Carbonari. About three months
had passed since the reception of the French officer; and having received
no news from his brethren, he thought that the duties of the Carbonari
must be very inconsiderable, when one day he received a mysterious letter
enjoining him to be the following night in a neighboring wood, at a
certain spot exactly at midnight, and to wait there until some, one came
to him. The officer was promptly at the rendezvous at the appointed
hour, and remained until daylight, though no one appeared. He then
returned to his home, thinking that this had been simply a proof of his
patience. His convictions, in this respect, were somewhat changed,
however, when a few days afterwards he received another letter ordering
him to present himself in the same manner at the same spot; and he again
passed the night there in vain expectation.

Nothing further had occurred, when a third and similar rendezvous was
appointed, at which the French officer presented himself with the same
punctuality and inexhaustible patience. He had waited several hours,
when suddenly, instead of witnessing the arrival of his brethren, he
heard the clash of swords; and moved by irresistible impulse, he rushed
towards the spot from which the noise issued and seemed to recede as he
advanced. He soon arrived at a spot where a frightful crime had just
been committed, and saw a man weltering in his blood, attacked by two
assassins. Quick as lightning he threw himself, sword in hand, on the
two murderers; but, as they immediately disappeared in the thick woods,
he was devoting his attention to their victim, when four gendarmes
arrived on the scene; and the officer then found himself alone with
unsheathed sword near the murdered man. The latter, who still breathed,
made a last effort to speak, and expired while indicating his defender as
his murderer, wherepon the gendarmes arrested him; and two of them took
up the corpse, while the others fastened the arms of the officer with
ropes, and escorted him to a neighboring village, one league distant,
where they arrived at break of day. He was there conducted before a
magistrate, questioned, and incarcerated in the prison of the place.

Imagine the situation of this officer, with no friends in that country,
not daring to recommend himself to his own government, by whom his
well-known opinions had rendered him suspected, accused of a horrible
crime, well aware of all the proofs against him, and, above all,
completely crushed by the last words of the dying man! Like all men of
firm and resolute character, he accepted the situation without
complaint, saw that it was without remedy, and resigned himself to his
fate. Meanwhile, a special commission had been appointed, in order to
make at least a pretense of justice; but when he was led before this
commission, he could only repeat what he had already said; that is to
say, give an exact account of the occurrence, protest his innocence, and
admit at the same time that appearances were entirely against him. What
could he reply when asked wherefore, and with what motive, he had been
found alone in the night, armed with a sword, in the thickest of the
wood? Here his oath as Carbonari sealed his lips, and his hesitation
was taken as additional proof. What could he reply to the deposition of
the gendarmes who had arrested him in the very act? He was consequently
unanimously condemned to death, and reconducted to his prison until the
time fixed for the execution of his sentence.

A priest was first sent to him. The officer received him with the utmost
respect, but refused to make confession, and was next importuned by the
visit of a brotherhood of penitents. At last the executioner came to
conduct him to the place of punishment; and while he was on the way,
accompanied by several gendarmes and a long line of penitents, the
funeral procession was interrupted by the unexpected arrival of the
colonel of the gendarmerie, whom chance brought to the scene. This
officer bore the name of Colonel Boizard, a man well known in all upper
Italy, and the terror of all malefactors. The colonel ordered a halt,
for the purpose of himself questioning the condemned, and made him give
an account of the circumstances of the crime and the sentence. When he
was alone with the officer, he said, "You see that all is against you,
and nothing can save you from the death which awaits you. I can,
nevertheless, save you, but only on one condition. I know that you
belong to the society of the Carbonari. Give me the names of your
accomplices in these terrible conspiracies and your life shall be the
reward."--"Never!"--"Consider, nevertheless."--"Never, I tell you; lead
me to execution."

It was then necessary to set out anew for the place of execution. The
executioner was at his post; and as the officer with a firm step mounted
the fatal scaffold, Colonel Boizard rushed up to him and begged him still
to save his life on the conditions he had offered. "No! no! never!"
Instantly the scene changed; the colonel, the executioner, the gendarmes,
the priest, penitents, and spectators, all gathered round the officer,
each one eager to press him to their hearts, and he was conducted in
triumph to his dwelling. All that had passed was simply an initiation.
The assassins in the forest and their victim, as well as the judges and
the pretended Colonel Boizard, had been playing a role; and the most
suspicious Carbonari now knew how far their new brother would carry the
constancy of his heroism and the observance of his oath.

This is almost exactly the recital which I heard, as I have said, with
the deepest interest, and which I take the liberty of repeating, though I
well understand how much it will lose by being written. Can it be
implicitly believed? This is what I would not undertake to decide; but I
can affirm that my informant gave it as the truth, and was perfectly
certain that the particulars would be found in the archives of Milan,
since this extraordinary initiation was at the time the subject of a
circumstantial report addressed to the vice-king, whom fate had
determined should nevermore see the Emperor.


I digressed considerably, in the preceding chapter, from my recollections
of Paris subsequent to our return from Germany after the battle of
Leipzig, and the Emperor's short sojourn at Mayence. I cannot even now
write the name of the latter town without recalling the spectacle of
tumult and confusion which it presented after the glorious battle of
Hanau, where the Bavarians fought so bravely on this the first occasion
when they presented themselves as enemies before those in whose ranks
they had so recently stood. It was, if I am not mistaken, in this last
engagement that the Bavarian general, Wrede, was, with his family, the
immediate victims of their treachery. The general, whom the Emperor had
overwhelmed with kindness, was mortally wounded, all his relatives in the
Bavarian army were slain, and his son-in-law, Prince of Oettingen, met
the same fate. It was one of those events which never failed to make a
deep impression on the mind of his Majesty, since it strengthened his
ideas of fatality. It was also at Mayence that the Emperor gave orders
for the assembling of the Corps Legislatif on the 2d of December. The
opening was delayed, as we shall see; and far better would it have been
had it been indefinitely postponed; since in that case his Majesty would
not have experienced the misfortunes he afterwards endured from their
opposition, symptoms of which now manifested themselves for the first
time in a manner which was, to say the least, intemperate.

One of the things which astonished me most at the time, and which still
astonishes me when I recall it now, was the incredible activity of the
Emperor, which, far from diminishing, seemed to increase each day, as if
the very exercise of his strength redoubled it. At the period of which I
now speak, it is impossible to describe how completely every moment of
his Majesty's time was filled. Since he had again met the Empress and
his son, the Emperor had resumed his accustomed serenity; and I rarely
surprised him in that open abandonment to dejection to which he sometimes
gave way, in the retirement of his chamber, immediately after our return
from Moscow. He was occupied more ostensibly than usual in the numerous
public works which were being prosecuted in Paris, and which formed a
useful distraction to his engrossing thoughts of war and the distressing
news which reached him from the army. Almost every day, troops, equipped
as if by magic, were reviewed by his Majesty, and ordered immediately to
the Rhine, nearly the whole course of which was threatened; and the
danger, which we then scarcely thought possible, must have appeared most
imminent to the inhabitants of the capital, not infatuated, like
ourselves, by the kind of charm the Emperor exercised over all those who
had the honor of approaching his august person. In fact, for the first
time he was compelled to demand of the senate to anticipate the levy for
the ensuing year, and each day also brought depressing news. The prince
arch-treasurer returned the following autumn, forced to quit Holland
after the evacuation of this kingdom by our troops; whilst Marshal
Gouvion Saint-Cyr was compelled at Dresden to sign a capitulation for
himself and the thirty thousand men whom he had held in reserve at that

The capitulation of Marshal Saint-Cyr will never, surely, occupy an
honorable place in the history of the cabinet of Vienna. It is not my
province to pass judgment on these political combinations; but I cannot
forget the indignation which was generally manifested at the palace when
it was learned that this capitulation had been shamelessly violated by
those who had now become the stronger party. It was stated in this
capitulation that the marshal should return to France with the troops
under his command, carrying with him a part of his artillery, and that
these troops should be exchanged for a like number of the allied troops;
that the wounded French who remained at Dresden should be returned to
France on their restoration to health; and that, finally, the marshal
should begin these movements on the 16th of November. No part of this
agreement was complied with. Imagine, then, the indignation of the
Emperor, already so deeply afflicted by the capitulation of Dresden, when
he learned that, contrary to every stipulation agreed upon, these troops
had been made prisoners by the Prince von Swarzenberg. I remember one
day the Prince de Neuchatel being in his Majesty's cabinet, which I
happened to enter at the moment, the Emperor remarked to him, with
considerable vehemence, "You speak to me of peace. How can I believe in
the good faith of those people? You see what happened at Dresden. No,
I tell you, they do not wish to treat with us; they are only endeavoring
to gain time, and it is our business not to lose it." The prince did not
reply; or, at least, I heard no more, as I just then left the cabinet,
having executed the duty which had taken me there. Moreover, I can add,
as an additional proof of the confidence with which his Majesty honored
me, that when I entered he never interrupted himself in what he was
saying, however important it might be; and I dare to affirm that if my
memory were better, these souvenirs would contain much more valuable

Since I have spoken of the evil tidings which overwhelmed the Emperor in
such quick succession during the last months of the year 1813, there is
one I should not omit, since it affected his Majesty so painfully. I
refer to the death of Count Louis de Narbonne. Of all those who had not
begun their careers under the eyes of the Emperor, M. de Narbonne was the
one for whom he felt the deepest affection; and it must be admitted that
it was impossible to find a man in whom genuine merit was united to more
attractive manners. The Emperor regarded him as a most proper person to
conduct a negotiation, and said of him one day, "Narbonne is a born
ambassador." It was known in the palace why the Emperor had appointed
him his aide-decamp at the time he formed the household of the Empress
Marie Louise. The Emperor had at first intended to appoint him chevalier
of honor to the new Empress, but a skillfully concocted intrigue caused
him to refuse this position; and it was in some degree to make amends for
this that he received the appointment of aide-de-camp to his Majesty.
There was not at that time a position more highly valued in all France;
many foreign and even sovereign princes had solicited in vain this high
mark of favor, and amongst these I can name Prince Leopold de

[Later he became King of the Belgians (in 1831), and the next year
married the daughter of Louis Philippe. His first wife, Princess
Charlotte of England, whom he married in 1816, died the same year.
Leopold was born 1790, and died 1865.]

who married Princess Charlotte of England, and who refused to be King of
Greece, after failing to obtain the position of aide-de-camp to the

I would not dare to say, according to my recollection, that no one at the
court was jealous on seeing M. de Narbonne appointed aide-de-camp to the
Emperor; but if there were any I have forgotten their names. However
that may have been, he soon became very popular, and each day the Emperor
appreciated more highly his character and services. I remember on one
occasion to have heard his Majesty say--I think it was at Dresden--that
he had never thoroughly known the cabinet of Vienna until the fine nose
of Narbonne--that was the Emperor's expression--had scented out those old
diplomats. After the pretended negotiations, of which I have spoken
above, and which occupied the entire time of the armistice at Dresden,
M. de Narbonne had remained in Germany, where the Emperor had committed
to him the government of Torgau; and it was there he died, on the 17th of
November, in consequence of a fall from his horse, in spite of all the
attentions lavished on him by Baron Desgenettes. With the exception of
the death of Marshal Duroc and Prince Poniatowski, I do not remember to
have ever seen the Emperor show more sincere sorrow than on this
occasion. Meanwhile, almost at the very moment he lost M. de Narbonne,
but before he had heard of his death, the Emperor had made arrangements
to fill the place near his person of the man he had loved most, not even
excepting General Desaix. He had just called General Bertrand to the
high position of grand marshal of the palace; and this choice was
generally approved by all who had the honor of Count Bertrand's
acquaintance. But what is there for me to say here of a man whose name
in history will never be separated from that of the Emperor? This same
period had seen the fall of the Duke of Istria, one of the four
colonel-generals of the guard, and Marshal Duroc: and this same
appointment included the names of their successors; for Marshal Suchet
was appointed at the same time as General Bertrand, and took the place
of Marshal Bessieres as colonel-general of the guard.

[Louis Gabriel Suchet, born at Lyons, 1770. Served in the Italian
campaign in 1796. Brigadier-general, 1797; general of division,
1799. Governor of Genoa, 1800, and served at Austerlitz, 1805. For
his brilliant services in Spain he was created Duke of Albufera and
marshal, 1811. At St. Helena, Napoleon stated he was the ablest of
his generals then surviving. Suchet married the niece of the wives
of Joseph Bonaparte and Bernadotte, and his widow died as recently
as 1891. Suchet died 1826.]

At the same time his Majesty made several other changes in the higher
offices of the Empire. A committee of the senate having conferred on the
Emperor the right to appoint, of his own choice, the president of the
Corps Legislatif, his Majesty bestowed this presidency on the Duke of
Massa, who was replaced in his former position as grand judge by Count
Mole, the youngest of the Emperor's ministers. The Duke of Bassano
became the secretary of state, and the Duke of Vicenza received the
portfolio of foreign relations.

As I have said, during the autumn of 1813 his Majesty frequently visited
the public works. He usually went almost unattended, and on foot, to
visit those of the Tuileries and the Louvre, and afterwards mounted his
horse, accompanied by one or two officers at most, and M. Fontaine, and
went to examine those which were more distant. One day,--it was about
the end of November, having seized the opportunity of his Majesty's
absence to take a walk through the Faubourg Saint Germain, I unexpectedly
encountered his Majesty on his way to the Luxembourg, just as he arrived
at the entrance of the Rue de Tournon; and it is impossible to describe
the intense satisfaction with which I heard shouts of "Vive l'Empereur"
break forth as he approached. I found myself driven by the crowd very
near the Emperor's horse, and yet I did not imagine for a moment that he
had recognized me. On his return, however, I had proofs to the contrary.
His Majesty had seen me; and as I assisted him to change his clothing the
Emperor gayly remarked to me, "Well, M. le Drole! Ah! ah! what were
you doing in the Faubourg Saint Germain? I see just how it is! A fine
thing really! You spy on me when I go out," and many other jests of the
same kind; for on that day the Emperor was in such fine spirits that I
concluded he had been much pleased with his visit.

Whenever at this time the Emperor experienced any unusual anxiety, I
noticed that in order to dispel it he took pleasure in exhibiting himself
in public more frequently, perhaps, than during his other sojourns in
Paris, but always without any ostentation. He went frequently to the
theater; and, thanks to the obliging kindness of Count de Remusat, I
myself frequently attended these assemblies, which at that time always
had the appearance of a fete. Assuredly, when on the occasion of the
first representation of the ballet of Nina, their Majesties entered their
box, it would have been difficult to imagine that the Emperor had already
enemies among his subjects. It is true that the mothers and widows in
mourning were not there; but I can affirm that I have never seen more
perfect enthusiasm. The Emperor enjoyed this from the depths of his
heart, even more, perhaps, than after his victories. The conviction that
he was beloved by the French people impressed him deeply, and in the
evening he condescended to speak to me of it--shall I dare to say like a
child puffed up with pride at the reward he has just received? Then in
the perfect freedom of privacy he said repeatedly, "My wife! my good
Louise! Truly, she should be well satisfied." The truth is, that the
desire to see the Emperor at the theater was so great in Paris, that as
he always took his place in the box at the side, opening on the
proscenium, each time that he made his appearance there the boxes
situated on the opposite side of the hall were rented at incredible
figures, and even the uppermost tiers were preferred to those from which
they could not see him easily. No one who lived in Paris at that time
can fail to recognize the correctness of this statement.

Some time after the first representation of the ballet of Nina, the
Emperor again attended the theater, and I was also present. As formerly,
the Emperor accompanied her Majesty; and I could not keep back the
thought, as the play proceeded, that the Emperor had some memories
sufficient to distract his attention from the exquisite music. It was at
the Italian theater then occupying the Odeon. The Cleopatra of Nazzolini
was played; and the representation was among the number of those called
extraordinary, since it was on the occasion of Madame Grassini's benefit.
It had been only a short while since this singer, celebrated in more ways
than one, had first appeared in public on a Parisian stage, I think this
was really only the third or fourth time; and I should state, in order to
be exactly correct, that she did not produce on the Parisian public
exactly the impression which had been expected from her immense
reputation. It had been long since the Emperor had received her
privately; but, nevertheless, her voice and Crescentini's had been
reserved until then for the privileged ears of the spectators of
Saint-Cloud and the theater of the Tuileries. On, this occasion the
Emperor was very generous towards the beneficiary, but no interview
resulted; for, in the language of a poet of that period, the Cleopatra
of Paris did not conquer another Antony.

Thus, as we see, the Emperor on a few occasions laid aside the important
affairs which occupied him, less to enjoy the theater than for the
purpose of showing himself in public. All useful undertakings were the
objects of his care; and he did not depend entirely even on the
information of men to whom he had most worthily committed them, but saw
everything for himself. Among the institutions especially protected by
his Majesty, there was one in which he took an especial interest. I do
not think that in any of the intervals between his wars the Emperor had
come to Paris without making a visit to the institution of the Daughters
of the Legion of Honor, of which Madame Campan was in charge, first at
Ecouen, and afterwards at Saint-Denis. The Emperor visited it in the
month of November, and I remember an anecdote which I heard related to
his Majesty on this occasion which diverted him exceedingly.
Nevertheless, I cannot remember positively whether this anecdote relates
to the visit of 1813, or one made previously.

In the first place, it must be explained that, in accordance with the
regulation of the household of the young ladies of the Legion of Honor,
no man, with the exception of the Emperor, was admitted into the interior
of the establishment. But as the Emperor was always attended by an
escort, his suite formed in some sort a part of himself, and entered with
him. Besides his officers, the pages usually accompanied him. In the
evening on his return from Saint-Denis, the Emperor said to me, laughing,
as he entered his room, where I was waiting to undress him, "Well, my
pages wish to resemble the pages of former times! The little idiots!
Do you know what they do? When I go to Saint-Denis, they have a contest
among themselves as to who shall be on duty. Ha! ha!" The Emperor,
while speaking, laughed and rubbed his hands together; and then, having
repeated several times in the same tone; "The little idiots," he added,
following out one of those singular reflections which sometimes struck
him, "I, Constant, would have made a very poor page; I would never have
had such an idea. Moreover, these are good young men; good officers have
already come from among them. This will lead one day to some marriages."
It was very rare, in fact, that a thing, though frivolous in appearance,
did not lead, on the Emperor's part, to some serious conclusion.
Hereafter, indeed, with the exception of a few remembrances of the past,
I shall have only serious and often very sad events to relate; for we
have now arrived at the point where everything has taken a serious turn,
and clothed itself in most somber tints.


For the last time we celebrated in Paris the anniversary fete of his
Majesty's coronation. The gifts to the Emperor on this occasion were
innumerable addresses made to him by all the towns of the Empire, in
which offers of sacrifices and protestations of devotion seemed to
increase in intensity in proportion to the difficulty of the
circumstances. Alas! in four months the full value of these
protestations was proved; and, nevertheless, how was it possible to
believe that this enthusiasm, which was so universal, was not entirely
sincere? This would have been an impossibility with the Emperor, who,
until the very end of his reign, believed himself beloved by France with
the same devotion which he felt for her. A truth, which was well proved
by succeeding events, is that the Emperor became more popular among that
part of the inhabitants called the people when misfortunes began to
overwhelm him. His Majesty had proofs of this in a visit he made to the
Faubourg Saint-Antoine; and it is very certain that, if under other
circumstances he had been able to bend from his dignity to propitiate the
people, a means which was most repugnant to the Emperor in consequence of
his remembrances of the Revolution, all the faubourgs of Paris would have
armed themselves in his defense. How can this be doubted after the event
which I here describe?

The Emperor, towards the end of 1813 or the beginning of 1814, on one
occasion visited the Faubourg Saint-Antoine. I cannot to-day give the
precise date of this unexpected visit; but at any rate he showed himself
on this occasion familiar, even to the point of good fellowship, which
emboldened those immediately around to address him. I now relate the
conversation which occurred between his Majesty and several of the
inhabitants, which has been faithfully recorded, and admitted to be true
by several witnesses of this really touching scene.

An Inhabitant.--"Is it true, as I am told, that the condition of affairs
is so bad?"

The Emperor.--"I cannot say that they are in a very good condition."

The Inhabitant.--"But how, then, will all this end?"

The Emperor.--"By my faith, God alone knows."

The Inhabitant.--"But what! Is it possible the enemy could really enter

The Emperor.--"That might occur, and they might even penetrate as far as
this place, if you do not come to my aid. I have not a million arms. I
cannot do everything alone."

Numerous Voices.--"We will uphold you, we will uphold you."

Still more Voices.--"Yes, yes. Count on us."

The Emperor.--"In that case the enemy will be beaten, and we will
preserve our glory untarnished."

Several Voices.--"But what, then, shall we do?"

The Emperor.--"Be enrolled and fight."

A New Voice.--"We would do this gladly, but we would like to make certain

The Emperor.--"Well, speak out frankly. Let us know; what are these

Several Voices.--"That we are not to pass the frontiers."

The Emperor.--"You shall not pass them."

Several Voices.--"We wish to enter the guard."

The Emperor.--"Well, then, you shall enter the guard."

His Majesty had hardly pronounced these last words, when the immense
crowd which surrounded him made the air resound with cries of "Vive
l'Empereur!" and their number continued to increase all the way as the
Emperor slowly returned to the Tuileries, until, by the time he reached
the gates of the Carrousel, he was accompanied by an innumerable cortege.
We heard these noisy acclamations; but they were so badly interpreted by
the commandant of the post at the palace, that he thought it was an
insurrection, and the iron gates of the Tuileries on that side of the
court were closed.

When I saw the Emperor, a few moments after his return, he appeared more
annoyed than pleased; for everything having an appearance of disorder was
excessively distasteful to him, and a popular tumult, whatever its cause,
had always in it something unpleasant to him.

Meanwhile this scene, which his Majesty might well have repeated,
produced a deep impression on the people; and this enthusiasm had
positive and immediate results, since on that day more than two thousand
men were voluntarily enrolled, and formed a new regiment of the guard.

On the anniversary fete of the coronation and of the battle of
Austerlitz, there were as usual free representations in all the theaters
of Paris; but at these the Emperor did not appear, as he had so often
done. There were also amusements, a free distribution of eatables, and
also illuminations; and twelve young girls, whose marriage dowries were
given by the city of Paris, were married to old soldiers. I remember
that among everything which marked the ceremonials of the Empire, the
custom of performing these marriages was the one most pleasing to the
Emperor, and he often spoke of it in terms of approbation; for, if I may
be allowed to make the observation, his Majesty had what might be called
a kind of mania on the subject of marriage. We were now settled at the
Tuileries, which the Emperor had not left since the 20th of November when
he had returned from Saint-Cloud, and which he did not leave again until
his departure for the army. His Majesty often presided over the
deliberations of the council of state, which were of grave interest. I
learned at that time, in relation to a certain decree, a circumstance
which appeared to me very singular. The Commune of Montmorency had long
since lost its ancient name; but it was not until the end of November,
1813, that the Emperor legally took away the name of Emile which it had
received under the republic in honor of J. J. Rousseau. It may well be
believed that it had retained it so long simply because the Emperor's
attention had not been directed to it sooner.

I do not know but I should ask pardon for relating so trivial an event,
when so many great measures were being adopted by his Majesty. In fact,
each day necessitated new dispositions, since the enemy was making
progress at every point. The Russians occupied Holland under the command
of General Witzengerode, who had opposed us so bitterly during the
Russian campaign; already, even, the early return to Amsterdam of the
heir of the House of Orange was discussed; in Italy Prince Eugene was
holding out only by dint of superior skill against the far more numerous
army of Bellegarde, who had just passed the Adige; that of the Prince
von Swarzenberg occupied the confines of Switzerland; the Prussians and
the troops of the Confederation were passing the Rhine at several points.
There remained to the Emperor not a single ally, as the King of Denmark,
the only one who had until now remained faithful, had succumbed to the
northern torrent, and concluded an armistice with Russia; and in the
south all the strategy of Marshal Soult barely sufficed to delay the
progress of the Duke of Wellington, who was advancing on our frontiers at
the head of an army far more numerous than that with which we could
oppose him, and which, moreover, was not suffering from the same
privations as our own. I remember well to have heard several generals
blame the Emperor at that time, because he had not abandoned Spain, and
recalled all his troops to France. I make a note of this, but, as may
well be believed, am not willing to risk my judgment on such matters.
At all events, it is evident that war surrounded us on every side; and in
this state of affairs, and with our ancient frontiers threatened, it
would have been strange if there had not been a general cry for peace.
The Emperor desired it also; and no one now holds a contrary opinion.
All the works which I have read, written by those persons best situated
to learn the exact truth of these events, agree on this point. It is
known that his Majesty had dictated to the Duke of Bassano a letter in
which he adhered to the basis of the proposal for a new congress made at
Frankfort by the allies. It is also known that the city of Mannheim was
designated for the session of this new congress, to which the Duke of
Vicenza was to be sent. The latter, in a note of the 2d of December,
made known again the adhesion of the Emperor to the original principles
and summary to be submitted to the Congress of Mannheim. The Count de
Metternich, on the 10th, replied to this communication that the
sovereigns would inform their allies of his Majesty's adhesion. All
these negotiations were prolonged only on account of the allies, who
finally declared at Frankfort that they would not consent to lay down
their arms. On the 20th of December they openly announced their
intention to invade France by passing through Switzerland, whose
neutrality had been solemnly recognized by treaty. At the period of
which I speak, my position kept me, I must admit, in complete ignorance
of these affairs; but, on learning them since, they have awakened in me
other remembrances which have powerfully contributed to prove their
truth. Every one, I hope, will admit that if the Emperor had really
desired war, it is not before me he would have taken the trouble to
express his desire for the conclusion of peace, as I heard him do several
times; and this by no means falsifies what I have related of a reply
given by his Majesty to the Prince of Neuchatel, since in this reply he
attributes the necessity of war to the bad faith of his enemies. Neither
the immense renown of the Emperor nor his glory needs any support from
me, and I am not deluding myself on this point; but I ask to be allowed
like any other man to give my mite of the truth.

I have said previously, that when passing through Mayence the Emperor had
convened the Corps Legislatif for the 2d of December; but by a new decree
it was postponed until the 19th of that month, and this annual solemnity
was marked by the introduction of unaccustomed usages. In the first
place, as I have said, to the Emperor alone was given the right of naming
the president without the presentation of a triple list, as was done in
former times by the senate; moreover, the senate and the council of state
repaired in a body to the hall of the Corps Legislatif to be present at
the opening of the session. I also remember that this ceremony was
anticipated with more than usual interest; since throughout Paris all
were curious and eager to hear the address of the Emperor, and what he
would say on the situation of France. Alas, we were far from supposing
that this annual ceremony would be the last.

The senate and the council of state, having taken the places indicated to
them in the hall, the Empress, arrived, and entered the reserved gallery,
surrounded by her ladies and the officers of her household. At last the
Emperor appeared, a quarter of an hour after the Empress, and was
introduced with the accustomed ceremonials. When the new president, the
Duke of Massa, had taken the oath at the hands of the Emperor, his
Majesty pronounced the following discourse:

"Senators; Councilors of State; Deputies from the Departments to the
Corps Legislatif:

Brilliant victories have made the French arms illustrious in this
campaign, but unexampled defections have rendered these victories
useless. Everything has turned against us. Even France would be
in danger were it not for the energy and union of the French people.

Under these momentous circumstances my first thought was to summon
you. My heart felt the need of the presence and affection of my

I have never been seduced by prosperity; adversity will find me
above the reach of its attacks. I have many times given peace to
nations, even when they had lost all. On a part of my conquests I
have erected thrones for kings who have now abandoned me.

I have conceived and executed great plans for the happiness of the
world. Both as a monarch and a father I feel that peace adds to the
security of thrones and of families. Negotiations have been entered
into with the Confederated Powers. I have adhered to the
fundamental principles which they have presented. I then hoped
that, before the opening of this session, the Congress of Mannheim
would have assembled; but renewed delays, which cannot be attributed
to France, have deferred this moment, which the whole world so
eagerly desires.

I have ordered that all the original articles contained in the
portfolio of Foreign Affairs should be submitted to you. You will
be informed of them through a committee. The spokesmen of my
Council will inform you of my wishes on this subject.

Nothing has been interposed on my part to the re-establishment of
peace; I know and share the sentiments of the French people. I
repeat, of the French people, since there are none among them who
desire peace at the expense of honor. It is with regret that I
demand of this generous people new sacrifices, but they are
necessary for their noblest and dearest interests. I have been
compelled to re-enforce my armies by numerous levies, for nations
treat with security only when they display all their strength. An
increase of receipts has become indispensable. The propositions
which my minister of finance will submit to you are in conformity
with the system of finance I have established. We will meet all
demands without borrowing, which uses up the resources of the
future, and without paper money, which is the greatest enemy of
social order.

I am well satisfied with the sentiments manifested towards me under
these circumstances by my people of Italy.

Denmark, and Naples alone remain faithful to their alliance. The
Republic of the United States of America successfully continues its
war with England. I have recognized the neutrality of the nineteen
Swiss cantons.

Senators; Councillors of State; Deputies of the Departments in the
Corps Legislatif:

You are the natural organs of the throne. It is your province to
display an energy which will hold our country up to the admiration
of all future generations. Let it not be said of us: 'They
sacrificed the first interests of their country; they submitted to
the control which England has sought in vain for four centuries to
impose on France.'

"My people need not fear that the policy of their Emperor will ever
betray the glory of the nation; and on my part I have the conviction
that the French people will ever prove worthy of themselves and of

This address was received with unanimous shouts of "Vive l'Empereur;"
and, when his Majesty returned to the. Tuileries, he had an air of
intense satisfaction, although he had a slight headache, which
disappeared after half an hour's repose. In the evening it was entirely
gone, and the Emperor questioned me on what I had heard people say. I
told, him truthfully that the persons of my acquaintance unanimously
agreed that the desire for peace was universal. "Peace, peace!" said
the Emperor, "who can desire it more than I? Go, my son, go." I
withdrew, and his Majesty went to the Empress.

It was about this time, I do not remember the exact day, that the Emperor
gave a decision on a matter in which I had interested myself with him;
and I affirm that it will be seen from this decision what a profound
respect his Majesty had for the rights of a legitimate marriage, and his
excessive antipathy to divorced persons. But, in order to support this
assertion, I will give an anecdote which recurs to my memory at this

During the Russian campaign General Dupont-Derval was slain on the
battlefield, fighting valiantly. His widow, after his Majesty's return
to Paris, had often, but always in vain, endeavored to present a petition
to his Majesty describing her unfortunate condition. At length some one
advised her to secure my services; and, touched by her unhappiness, I
presented her demand to the Emperor. His Majesty but rarely refused my
solicitations of this kind, as I conducted them with the utmost
discretion; and consequently I was fortunate enough to obtain for Madame
Dupont-Derval a very considerable pension. I do not remember how the
Emperor discovered that General Dupont-Derval had been divorced, and had
left a daughter by a former marriage, who, as well as her mother, was
still living. He learned besides that General Dupont-Derval's second
wife was the widow of a general officer by whom she had two daughters.
None of these circumstances, as may be imagined, had been cited in the
petition; but, when they came to the Emperor's knowledge, he did not
withdraw the pension, for which the order had not yet been given, but
simply changed its destination, and gave it to the first wife of--General
Dupont-Derval, making it revertible to her daughter, though she was
sufficiently wealthy not to need it, and the other Madame Dupont-Derval
was in actual need. Meanwhile, as one is always pleased to be the bearer
of good tidings, I had lost no time in informing my petitioner of the
Emperor's favorable decision. When she learned what had taken place, of
which I was still in entire ignorance, she returned to me, and from what
she said I imagined she was the victim of some mistake. In this belief I
took the liberty of again speaking to his Majesty on the subject, and my
astonishment may be imagined when his Majesty himself condescended to
relate to me the whole affair. Then he added: "My poor child, you have
allowed yourself to be taken for a simpleton. I promised a pension, and
I gave it to the wife of General Derval, that is to say, to his real
wife, the mother of his daughter." The Emperor was not at all angry with
me. I know very well that the matter would not have been permitted to
continue thus without my interesting myself further in it; but events
followed each other in rapid succession until the abdication of his
Majesty, and the affair finally remained as thus settled.


It was not only by force of arms that the enemies of France endeavored at
the end of 1813 to overthrow the power of the Emperor. In spite of our
defeats the Emperor's name still inspired a salutary terror; and it was
apparent that although so numerous, the foreigners still despaired of
victory as long as there existed a common accord between the Emperor and
the French people. We have seen in the preceding chapter in what
language he expressed himself to the great united bodies of the state,
and events have proved whether his Majesty concealed the truth from the
representatives of the nation as to the real condition of France. To
this discourse which history has recorded, I may be allowed to oppose
here another made at the same period. This is the famous declaration of
Frankfort, copies of which the enemies of the Emperor caused to be
circulated in Paris; and I would not dare to wager that persons of his
court, while performing their duties near him, did not have a copy in
their pockets. If there still remains any doubt as to which party was
acting in good faith, the reading of what follows is sufficient to dispel
these; for there is no question here of political considerations, but
simply the comparison of solemn promises with the actions which

"The French government has just ordered a new levy of three hundred
thousand men; the proclamations of the senate contain a challenge to
the allied powers. They find themselves called on again to
promulgate to the world the views by which they are guided in this
present war, the principles which form the basis of their conduct,
their wishes, and their intentions. The allied powers are not
making war on France, but on the openly admitted preponderance
which, to the great misfortune of Europe and France, the Emperor
Napoleon has too long maintained outside the limits of his Empire.

Victory has brought the allied armies to the Rhine. The first use
their imperial and royal Majesties have made of victory has been to
offer peace to his Majesty the Emperor of the French. A position
reenforced by the accession of all the sovereigns and princes of
Germany has had no influence on the conditions of this peace, for
these conditions are founded on the independence of the other states
of Europe. The objects of these powers are just in their aims,
generous and liberal in their application, reassuring to all, and
honorable to each.

The allied sovereigns desire that France should be great, strong,
and happy, since its greatness and power is one of the foundations
of the social edifice. They desire that France should be happy,
that French commerce should revive, that the arts, those blessings
of peace, should flourish, because a great people are tranquil only
when satisfied. The powers confirm the French Empire in the
possession of an extent of territory which France has never attained
under her kings, since a generous nation should not be punished
because it has experienced reverses in a bloody and well-contested
struggle in which it has fought with its accustomed bravery.

But the powers themselves also wish to be happy and peaceful. They
desire a condition of peace which, by a wise partition of force, by
a just equilibrium, may hereafter preserve their people from the
innumerable calamities which have for twenty years overwhelmed

"The allied powers will not lay down their arms until they have
obtained this grand and beneficent result, the worthy object of all
their efforts. They will not lay down their arms until the
political condition of Europe is again secure; until immutable
principles have regained their ascendency over new pretensions, and
the sanctity of treaties has finally assured a genuine peace to

It needs only common sense to ascertain whether the allied powers were
sincere in this declaration, the object of which evidently was to
alienate from the Emperor the affections of his people by holding up his
Majesty before them as an obstacle to peace, and separating his cause
from that of France; and on this point I am glad to support my own
opinion by that of M. de Bourrienne, whom surely no one will accuse of
partiality for his Majesty.

Several passages of his Memoirs, above all those in which he blames the
Emperor, have pained me, I must confess; but on this occasion he does not
hesitate to admit the insincerity of the allies, which opinion is of much
weight according to my poor judgment.

M. de Bourrienne was then at Paris under the special surveillance of the
Duke of Rovigo. I frequently heard this minister mention him to the
Emperor, and always favorably; but the enemies of the former secretary of
the First Consul must have been very powerful, or his Majesty's
prejudices very strong, for M. de Bourrienne never returned to favor.
The Emperor, who, as I have said, sometimes condescended to converse
familiarly with me, never spoke to me of M. de Bourrienne, whom I had not
seen since the Emperor had ceased to receive him. I saw him again for
the first time among the officers of the National Guard, the day these
gentlemen were received at the palace, as we shall see later, and I have
never seen him since; but as we were all much attached to him on account
of his kind consideration for us, he was often the subject of
conversation, and, I may add, of our regrets. Moreover, I was long
ignorant that at the period of which I am now speaking, his Majesty had
offered him the mission to Switzerland, as I learned this circumstance
only from reading his Memoirs. I would not conceal, however, that I was
painfully affected by reading this, so greatly would I have desired that
Bourrienne should overcome his resentment against his Majesty, who in the
depths of his heart really loved him.

Whatever was done, it is evident now to all that the object of the
declaration of Frankfort was to cause alienation between the Emperor and
the French people, and subsequent events have shown that this was fully
understood by the Emperor, but unfortunately it was soon seen that the
enemy had partly obtained their object. Not only in private society
persons could be heard expressing themselves freely in condemnation of
the Emperor, but dissensions openly arose even in the body of the Corps

After the opening session, the Emperor having rendered a decree that a
commission should be named composed of five senators and five members of
the Corps Legislatif, these two bodies consequently assembled. This
commission, as has been seen from his Majesty's address, had for its
object the consideration of articles submitted relative to pending
negotiations between France and the allied powers. Count Regnault de
Saint Jean d'Angely bore the decree to the Corps Legislatif, and
supported it with his usual persuasive eloquence, recalling the victories
of France and the glory of the Emperor; but the ballot elected as members
of the commission five deputies who had the reputation of being more
devoted to the principles of liberty than to the Emperor. These were M.
Raynouard, Laine, Gallois, Flaugergues, and Maine de Biran. The Emperor
from the first moment appeared much dissatisfied with this selection, not
imagining, however, that this commission would soon show itself so
entirely hostile. I remember well that I heard his Majesty say in my
presence to the Prince of Neuchatel, with some exasperation though
without anger, "They have appointed five lawyers."

Nevertheless, the Emperor did not allow the least symptoms of his
dissatisfaction to be seen; and as soon as he had officially received the
list of commissioners, addressed to the President of the Corps Legislatif
the following letter bearing the date of the 23d of December:

"MONSIEUR, Duke of Massa, President of the Legislative Corps:
We address you the inclosed letter to make known to you our
intention that you report to-morrow, the 24th instant, at the
residence of our cousin the prince archchancellor of the Empire, in
company with the commission appointed yesterday by the Legislative
Corps in compliance with our decree of the 20th instant, and which
is composed of the following gentlemen: Raynouard, Lain, Galiois,
Flaugergues, and Maine de Biran, for the purpose of considering the
articles relative to the negotiations, and also the declaration of
the confederated powers, which will be communicated by Count
Regnault minister of state, and Count d'Hauterive councilor of state
attached to the department of foreign relations, who will be the
bearer of the aforesaid articles and declaration.

"Our intention also is that our cousin aforesaid should preside over
this commission. With this etc."

The members of the senate appointed on this commission were M. de
Fontanel, M. the Prince of Benevent, M. de Saint Marsan, M. de
Barbe-Marbois, and M. de Beurnonville.

With the exception of one of these gentlemen, whose disgrace and
consequent opposition were publicly known, the others were thought to be
sincerely attached to the Emperor; and whatever may have been their
opinions and their subsequent conduct they had done nothing then to
deserve the same distrust from the Emperor as the members of the
committee from the Corps Legislatif. No active opposition, no signs of
discontent, had been shown by the conservative senate.

At this time the Duke of Rovigo came frequently, or I might rather say
every day, to the Emperor. His Majesty was much attached to him, and
that alone suffices to prove that he was not afraid to hear the truth;
for since he had been minister, the Duke of Rovigo had never concealed
it; which fact I can affirm, having been frequently an eyewitness. In
Paris there was nevertheless only unanimous opposition to this minister.
I can, however, cite one anecdote that the Duke of Rovigo has not
included in his Memoirs, and of which I guarantee the authenticity; and
it will be seen from this incident whether or not the minister of police
sought to increase the number of persons who compromised themselves each
day by their gratings against the Emperor.

Among the employees of the treasury was a former receiver of the finances
who led a retired and contented life in this modest employment. He was a

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