This etext was produced by David Widger
[NOTE: There is a short list of bookmarks, at the end of several of the files for those who may wish to sample the author’s ideas before making an entire meal of them. D.W.]
MEMOIRS OF NAPOLEON BONAPARTE, VOLUME 7.
By LOUIS ANTOINE FAUVELET DE BOURRIENNE
His Private Secretary
Edited by R. W. Phipps
Colonel, Late Royal Artillery
CHAPTER XIX. to CHAPTER XXVI. 1803-1804
Mr. Pitt–Motive of his going out of office–Error of the English Government–Pretended regard for the Bourbons–Violation of the treaty of Amiens–Reciprocal accusations–Malta–Lord Whitworth’s departure–Rome and Carthage–Secret satisfaction of Bonaparte– Message to the Senate, the Legislative Body, and the Tribunate– The King of England’s renunciation of the title of King of France– Complaints of the English Government–French agents in British ports –Views of France upon Turkey–Observation made by Bonaparte to the Legislative Body–Its false interpretation–Conquest of Hanover– The Duke of Cambridge caricatured–The King of England and the Elector of Hanover–First address to the clergy–Use of the word “Monsieur”–The Republican weeks and months.
One of the circumstances which foretold the brief duration of the peace of Amiens was, that Mr. Pitt was out of office at the time of its conclusion. I mentioned this to Bonaparte, and I immediately perceived by his hasty “What do you say?” that my observation had been heard–but not liked. It did not, however, require any extraordinary shrewdness to see the true motive of Mr. Pitt’s retirement. That distinguished statesman conceived that a truce under the name of a peace was indispensable for England; but, intending to resume the war with France more fiercely than ever, he for a while retired from office, and left to others the task of arranging the peace; but his intention was to mark his return to the ministry by the renewal of the implacable hatred he had vowed against France. Still, I have always thought that the conclusion of peace, however necessary to England, was an error of the Cabinet of London. England alone had never before acknowledged any of the governments which had risen up in France since the Revolution; and as the past could not be blotted out, a future war, however successful to England, could not take from Bonaparte’s Government the immense weight it had acquired by an interval of peace. Besides, by the mere fact of the conclusion of the treaty England proved to all Europe that the restoration of the Bourbons was merely a pretext, and she defaced that page of her history which might have shown that she was actuated by nobler and more generous sentiments than mere hatred of France. It is very certain that the condescension of England in treating with the First Consul had the effect of rallying round him a great many partisans of the Bourbons, whose hopes entirely depended on the continuance of war between Great Britain and France. This opened the eyes of the greater number, namely, those who could not see below the surface, and were not previously aware that the demonstrations of friendship so liberally made to the Bourbons by the European Cabinets, and especially by England, were merely false pretences, assumed for the purpose of disguising, beneath the semblance of honourable motives, their wish to injure France, and to oppose her rapidly increasing power.
When the misunderstanding took place, France and England might have mutually reproached each other, but justice was apparently on the side of France. It was evident that England, by refusing to evacuate Malta, was guilty of a palpable infraction of the treaty of Amiens, while England could only institute against France what in the French law language is called a suit or process of tendency. But it must be confessed that this tendency on the part of France to augment her territory was very evident, for the Consular decrees made conquests more promptly than the sword. The union of Piedmont with France had changed the state of Europe. This union, it is true, was effected previously to the treaty of Amiens; but it was not so with the states of Parma and Piacenza, Bonaparte having by his sole authority constituted himself the heir of the Grand Duke, recently deceased. It may therefore be easily imagined how great was England’s uneasiness at the internal prosperity of France and the insatiable ambition of her ruler; but it is no less certain that, with respect to Malta, England acted with decidedly bad faith; and this bad faith appeared in its worst light from the following circumstance:– It had been stipulated that England should withdraw her troops from Malta three months after the signing of the treaty, yet more than a year had elapsed, and the troops were still there. The order of Malta was to be restored as it formerly was; that is to say, it was to be a sovereign and independent order, under the protection of the Holy See. The three Cabinets of Vienna, Berlin, and St. Petersburg were to guarantee the execution of the treaty of Amiens. The English Ambassador, to excuse the evasions of his Government, pretended that the Russian Cabinet concurred with England in the delayed fulfilment of the conditions of the treaty; but at the very moment he was making that excuse a courier arrived from the Cabinet of St. Petersburg bearing despatches completely, at variance with the assertion of Lord Whitworth. His lordship left Paris on the night of the 12th May 1803, and the English Government, unsolicited, sent passports to the French embassy in London. The news of this sudden rupture made the English console fall four per cent., but did not immediately produce such a retrograde effect on the French funds, which were then quoted at fifty-five francs;–a very high point, when it is recollected that they were at seven or eight francs on the eve of the 18th Brumaire.
In this state of things France proposed to the English Government to admit of the mediation of Russia; but as England had declared war in order to repair the error she committed in concluding peace, the proposition was of course rejected. Thus the public gave the First Consul credit for great moderation and a sincere wish for peace. Thus arose between England and France a contest resembling those furious wars which marked the reigns of King John and Charles VII. Our beaux esprits drew splendid comparisons between the existing state of things and the ancient rivalry of Carthage and Rome, and sapiently concluded that, as Carthage fell, England must do so likewise.
Bonaparte was at St. Cloud when Lord Whitworth left Paris. A fortnight was spent in useless attempts to renew negotiations. War, therefore, was the only alternative. Before he made his final preparations the First Consul addressed a message to the Senate, the Legislative Body, and the Tribunate. In this message he mentioned the recall of the English Ambassador, the breaking out of hostilities, the unexpected message of the King of England to his Parliament, and the armaments which immediately ensued in the British ports. “In vain,” he said, “had France tried every means to induce England to abide by the treaty. She had repelled every overture, and increased the insolence of her demands. France,” he added, “will not submit to menaces, but will combat for the faith of treaties, and the honour of the French name, confidently trusting that the result of the contest will be such as she has a right to expect from the justice of her cause and the courage of her people.”
This message was dignified, and free from that vein of boasting in which Bonaparte so frequently indulged. The reply of the Senate was accompanied by a vote of a ship of the line, to be paid for out of the Senatorial salaries. With his usual address Bonaparte, in acting for himself, spoke in the name of the people, just as he did in the question of the Consulate for life. But what he then did for his own interests turned to the future interests of the Bourbons. The very treaty which had just been broken off gave rise to a curious observation. Bonaparte, though not yet a sovereign, peremptorily required the King of England to renounce the empty title of King of France, which was kept up as if to imply that old pretensions were not yet renounced. The proposition was acceded to, and to this circumstance was owing the disappearance of the title of King of France from among the titles of the King of England, when the treaty of Paris was concluded on the return of the Bourbons.
The first grievance complained of by England was the prohibition of English merchandise, which had been more rigid since the peace than during the war. The avowal of Great Britain on this point might well have enabled her to dispense with any other subject of complaint; for the truth is, she was alarmed at the aspect of our internal prosperity, and at the impulse given to our manufactures. The English Government had hoped to obtain from the First Consul such a commercial treaty as would have proved a death-blow to our rising trade; but Bonaparte opposed this, and from the very circumstance of his refusal he might easily have foreseen the rupture at which he affected to be surprised. What I state I felt at the time, when I read with great interest all the documents relative to this great dispute between the two rival nations, which eleven years afterwards was decided before the walls of Paris.
It was evidently disappointment in regard to a commercial treaty which created the animosity of the English Government, as that circumstance was alluded to, by way of reproach, in the King of England’s declaration. In that document it was complained that France had sent a number of persona into the ports of Great Britain and Ireland in the character of commercial agents, which character, and the privileges belonging to it, they could only have acquired by a commercial treaty. Such was, in my opinion, the real cause of the complaints of England; but as it would have seemed too absurd to make it the ground of a declaration of war, she enumerated other grievances, viz., the union of Piedmont and of the states of Parma and Piacenza with France, and the continuance of the French troops in Holland. A great deal was said about the views and projects of France with respect to Turkey, and this complaint originated in General Sebastiani’s mission to Egypt. On that point I can take upon me to say that the English Government was not misinformed. Bonaparte too frequently spoke to are of his ideas respecting the East, and his project of attacking the English power in India, to leave any doubt of his ever having renounced them. The result of all the reproaches which the two Governments addressed to each other was, that neither acted with good faith.
The First Consul, in a communication to the Legislative Body on the state of France and on her foreign relations; had said, “England, single- handed, cannot cope with France.” This sufficed to irritate the susceptibility of English pride, and the British Cabinet affected to regard it as a threat. However, it was no such thing. When Bonaparte threatened, his words were infinitely more energetic. The passage above cited was merely au assurance to France; and if we only look at the past efforts and sacrifices made by England to stir up enemies to France on the Continent, we may be justified in supposing that her anger at Bonaparte’s declaration arose from a conviction of its truth. Singly opposed to France, England could doubtless have done her much harm, especially by assailing the scattered remnants of her navy; but she could have done nothing against France on the Continent. The two powers, unaided by allies, might have continued long at war without any considerable acts of hostility.
The first effect of the declaration of war by England was the invasion of Hanover by the French troops under General Mortier. The telegraphic despatch by which this news was communicated to Paris was as laconic as correct, and contained, in a few words, the complete history of the expedition. It ran as follows: “The French are masters of the Electorate of Hanover, and the enemy’s army are made prisoners of war.” A day or two after the shop windows of the print-sellers were filled with caricatures on the English, and particularly on the Duke of Cambridge. I recollect seeing one in which the Duke was represented reviewing his troops mounted on a crab. I mention these trifles because, as I was then living entirely at leisure, in the Rue Hauteville, I used frequently to take a stroll on the Boulevards, where I was sometimes much amused with these prints; and I could not help remarking, that in large cities such triffles have more influence on the public mind than is usually supposed.
The First Consul thought the taking of the prisoners in Hanover a good opportunity to exchange them for those taken from us by the English navy. A proposition to this effect was accordingly made; but the English Cabinet was of opinion that, though the King of England was also Elector of Hanover, yet there was no identity between the two Governments, of both which George III. was the head. In consequence of this subtle distinction the proposition for the exchange of prisoners fell to the ground. At this period nothing could exceed the animosity of the two Governments towards each other, and Bonaparte, on the declaration of war, marked his indignation by an act which no consideration can justify; I allude to the order for the arrest of all the English in France– a truly barbarious measure; for; can anything be more cruel and unjust than to visit individuals with the vengeance due to the Government whose subjects they may happen to be? But Bonaparte, when under the influence of auger, was never troubled by scruples.
I must here notice the fulfilment of a remark Bonaparte often made, use of to me during the Consulate. “You shall see, Bourrienne,” he would say,” what use I will make of the priests.”
War being declared, the First Consul, in imitation of the most Christian kings of olden times, recommended the success of his arms to the prayers of the faithful through the medium of the clergy. To this end he addressed a circular letter, written in royal style, to the Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops of France.
It was as follows:
MONSIEUR–The motives of the present war are known throughout Europe. The bad faith of the King of England, who has violated his treaties by refusing to restore Malta to the order of St. John of Jerusalem, and attacked our merchant vessels without a previous declaration of war, together with the necessity of a just defence, forced us to have recourse to arms. I therefore wish you to order prayers to be offered up, in order to obtain the benediction of Heaven on our enterprises. The proofs I have received of your zeal for the public service give me an assurance of your readiness to conform with my wishes.
Given at St. Cloud, 18 Prairial, an XI. (7th June 1803).
This letter was remarkable in more than one respect. It astonished most of his old brothers-in-arms, who turned it into ridicule; observing that Bonaparte needed no praying to enable him to conquer Italy twice over. The First Consul, however, let them laugh on, and steadily followed the line he had traced out. His letter was admirably calculated to please the Court of Rome, which he wished should consider him in the light of another elder son of the Church. The letter was, moreover, remarkable for the use of the word “Monsieur,” which the First Consul now employed for the first time in an act destined for publicity. This circumstance would seem to indicate that he considered Republican designations incompatible with the forms due to the clergy: the clergy were especially interested in the restoration of monarchy. It may, perhaps, be thought that I dwell too much on trifles; but I lived long enough in Bonaparte’s confidence to know the importance he attached to trifles. The First Consul restored the old names of the days of the week, while he allowed the names of the months, as set down in the Republican calendar, to remain. He commenced by ordering the Moniteur to be dated “Saturday,” such a day of “Messidor.” “See,” said he one day, “was there ever such an inconsistency? We shall be laughed at! But I will do away with the Messidor. I will efface all the inventions of the Jacobins.”
The clergy did not disappoint the expectations of the First Consul. They owed him much already, and hoped for still more from him. The letter to the Bishops, etc., was the signal for a number of circulars full of eulogies on Bonaparte.
These compliments were far from displeasing to the First Consul, who had no objection to flattery though he despised those who meanly made themselves the medium of conveying it to him. Duroc once told me that they had all great difficulty in preserving their gravity when the cure of a parish in Abbeville addressed Bonaparte one day while he was on his journey to the coast. “Religion,” said the worthy cure, with pompous solemnity, “owes to you all that it is, we owe to you all that we are; and I, too, owe to you all that I am.”
–[Not so fulsome as some of the terms used a year later when Napoleon was made Emperor. “I am what I am,” was placed over a seat prepared for the Emperor. One phrase, “God made Napoleon and then rested,” drew from Narbonne the sneer that it would have been better if the Deity had rested sooner. “Bonaparte,” says Joseph de Maistre, “has had himself described in his papers as the ‘Messenger of God.’ Nothing more true. Bonaparte comes straight from heaven, like a thunderbolt.” (Saints-Benve, Caureries, tome iv. p. 203.)]
Presentation of Prince Borghese to Bonaparte–Departure for Belgium Revival of a royal custom–The swans of Amiens–Change of formula in the acts of Government–Company of performers in Bonaparte’s suite–Revival of old customs–Division of the institute into four classes–Science and literature–Bonaparte’s hatred of literary men –Ducis–Bernardin de Saint-Pierre–Chenier and Lemercier– Explanation of Bonaparte’s aversion to literature–Lalande and his dictionary–Education in the hands of Government–M. de Roquelaure, Archbishop of Malines.
In the month of April 1803 Prince Borghese, who was destined one day to become Bonaparte’s brother-in-law by marrying the widow of Leclerc, was introduced to the First Consul by Cardinal Caprara.
About the end of June Bonaparte proceeded, with Josephine, on his journey to Belgium and the seaboard departments. Many curious circumstances were connected with this journey, of which I was informed by Duroc after the First Consul’s return. Bonaparte left Paris on the 24th of June, and although it was not for upwards of a year afterwards that his brow was encircled with the imperial-diadem, everything connected with the journey had an imperial air. It was formerly the custom, when the Kings of France entered the ancient capital of Picardy, for the town of Amiens to offer them in homage some beautiful swans. Care was taken to revive this custom, which pleased Bonaparte greatly, because it was treating him like a King. The swans were accepted, and sent to Paris to be placed in the basin of the Tuileries, in order to show the Parisians the royal homage which the First Consul received when absent from the capital.
It was also during this journey that Bonaparte began to date his decrees from the places through which he passed. He had hitherto left a great number of signatures in Paris, in order that he might be present, as it were, even during his absence, by the acts of his Government. Hitherto public acts had been signed in the name of the Consuls of the Republic. Instead of this formula, he substituted the name of the Government of the Republic. By means of this variation, unimportant as it might appear, the Government was always in the place where the First Consul happened to be. The two other Consuls were now mere nullities, even in appearance. The decrees of the Government, which Cambaceres signed during the campaign of Marengo, were now issued from all the towns of France and Belgium which the First Consul visited during his six weeks’ journey. Having thus centred the sole authority of the Republic in himself, the performers of the theatre of the Republic became, by a natural consequence, his; and it was quite natural that they should travel in his suite, to entertain the inhabitants of the towns in which he stopped by their performances. But this was not all. He encouraged the renewal of a host of ancient customs. He sanctioned the revival of the festival of Joan of Arc at Orleans, and he divided the Institute into four classes, with the intention of recalling the recollection of the old academies, the names of which, however, he rejected, in spite of the wishes and intrigues of Suard and the Abby Morellet, who had gained over Lucien upon this point.
However, the First Consul did not give to the classes of the Institute the rank which they formerly possessed as academies. He placed the class of sciences in the first rank, and the old French Academy in the second rank. It must be acknowledged that, considering the state of literature and science at that period, the First Consul did not make a wrong estimate of their importance.
Although the literature of France could boast of many men of great talent, such as La Harpe, who died during the Consulate, Ducis, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Chenier, and Lemercier, yet they could not be compared with Lagrange, Laplace, Monge, Fourcroy, Berthollet, and Cuvier, whose labours have so prodigiously extended the limits of human knowledge. No one, therefore, could murmur at seeing the class of sciences in the Institute take precedence of its elder sister. Besides, the First Consul was not sorry to show, by this arrangement, the slight estimation in which he held literary men. When he spoke to me respecting them he called them mere manufacturers of phrases. He could not pardon them for excelling him in a pursuit in which he had no claim to distinction. I never knew a man more insensible than Bonaparte to the beauties of poetry or prose. A certain degree of vagueness, which was combined with his energy of mind, led him to admire the dreams of Ossian, and his decided character found itself, as it were, represented in the elevated thoughts of Corneille. Hence his almost exclusive predilection for these two authors With this exception, the finest works in our literature were in his opinion merely arrangements of sonorous words, void of sense, and calculated only for the ear.
Bonaparte’s contempt, or, more properly speaking, his dislike of literature, displayed itself particularly in the feeling he cherished towards some men of distinguished literary talent. He hated Chenier, and Ducis still more. He could not forgive Chenier for the Republican principles which pervaded his tragedies; and Ducis excited in him; as if instinctively, an involuntary hatred. Ducis, on his part, was not backward in returning the Consul’s animosity, and I remember his writing some verses which were inexcusably violent, and overstepped all the bounds of truth. Bonaparte was so singular a composition of good and bad that to describe him as he was under one or other of these aspects would serve for panegyric or satire without any departure from truth. Bonaparte was very fond of Bernardin Saint-Pierre’s romance of ‘Paul and Virginia’, which he had read in his boyhood. I remember that he one day tried to read ‘Les etudes de la Nature’, but at the expiration of a quarter of an hour he threw down the book, exclaiming, “How can any one read such silly stuffy. It is insipid and vapid; there is nothing in it. These are the dreams of a visionary! What is nature? The thing is vague and unmeaning. Men and passions are the subjects to write about–there is something there for study. These fellows are good for nothing under any government. I will, however, give them pensions, because I ought to do so, as Head of the State. They occupy and amuse the idle. I will make Lagrange a Senator–he has a head.”
Although Bonaparte spoke so disdainfully of literary men it must not be taken for granted that he treated them ill. On the contrary, all those who visited at Malmaison were the objects of his attention, and even flattery. M. Lemercier was one of those who came most frequently, and whom Bonaparte received with the greatest pleasure. Bonaparte treated M. Lemercier with great kindness; but he did not like him. His character as a literary man and poet, joined to a polished frankness, and a mild but inflexible spirit of republicanism, amply sufficed to explain Bonaparte’s dislike. He feared M. Lemercier and his pen; and, as happened more than once, he played the part of a parasite by flattering the writer. M. Lemercier was the only man I knew who refused the cross of the Legion of Honour.
Bonaparte’s general dislike of literary men was less the result of prejudice than circumstances. In order to appreciate or even to read literary works time is requsite, and time was so precious to him that he would have wished, as one may say, to shorten a straight line. He liked only those writers who directed their attention to positive and precise things, which excluded all thoughts of government and censures on administration. He looked with a jealous eye on political economists and lawyers; in short, as all persons who in any way whatever meddled with legislation and moral improvements. His hatred of discussions on those subjects was strongly displayed on the occasion of the classification of the Institute. Whilst he permitted the reassembling of a literary class, to the number of forty, as formerly, he suppressed the class of moral and political science. Such was his predilection for things of immediate and certain utility that even in the sciences he favoured only such as applied to terrestrial objects. He never treated Lalande with so much distinction as Monge and Lagrange. Astronomical discoveries could not add directly to his own greatness; and, besides, he could never forgive Lalande for having wished to include him in a dictionary of atheists precisely at the moment when he was opening negotiations with the court of Rome.
Bonaparte wished to be the sole centre of a world which he believed he was called to govern. With this view he never relaxed in his constant endeavour to concentrate the whole powers of the State in the hands of its Chief. His conduct upon the subject of the revival of public instruction affords evidence of this fact. He wished to establish 6000 bursaries, to be paid by Government, and to be exclusively at his disposal, so that thus possessing the monopoly of education, he could have parcelled it out only to the children of those who were blindly devoted to him. This was what the First Consul called the revival of public instruction. During the period of my closest intimacy with him he often spoke to me on this subject, and listened patiently to my observations. I remember that one of his chief arguments was this: “What is it that distinguishes men? Education–is it not? Well, if the children of nobles be admitted into the academies, they will be as well educated as the children of the revolution, who compose the strength of my government. Ultimately they will enter into my regiments as officers, and will naturally come in competition with those whom they regard as the plunderers of their families. I do not wish that!”
My recollections have caused me to wander from the journey of the First Consul and Madame Bonaparte to the seabord departments and Belgium. I have, however, little to add to what I have already stated on the subject. I merely remember that Bonaparte’s military suite, and Lauriston and Rapp in particular, when speaking to me about the journey, could not conceal some marks of discontent on account of the great respect which Bonaparte had shown the clergy, and particularly to M. de Roquelaure, the Archbishop of Malines (or Mechlin). That prelate, who was a shrewd man, and had the reputation of having been in his youth more addicted to the habits of the world than to those of the cloister, had become an ecclesiastical courtier. He went to Antwerp to pay his homage to the First Consul, upon whom he heaped the most extravagant praises. Afterwards, addressing Madame Bonaparte, he told her that she was united to the First Consul by the sacred bonds of a holy alliance. In this harangue, in which unction was singularly blended with gallantry, surely it was a departure from ecclesiastical propriety to speak of sacred bonds and holy alliance when every one knew that those bonds and that alliance existed only by a civil contract. Perhaps M. de Roquelaure merely had recourse to what casuists call a pious fraud in order to engage the married couple to do that which he congratulated them on having already done. Be this as it may, it is certain that this honeyed language gained M. de Roquelaure the Consul’s favour, and in a short time after he was appointed to the second class of the Institute.
The Temple–The intrigues of Europe–Prelude to the Continental system–Bombardment of Granville–My conversation with the First Consul on the projected invasion of England–Fauche Borel–Moreau and Pichegru–Fouche’s manoeuvres–The Abbe David and Lajolais– Fouche’s visit to St. Cloud–Regnier outwitted by Fouche– My interview with the First Consul–His indignation at the reports respecting Hortense–Contradiction of these calumnies–The brothers Faucher–Their execution–The First Consul’s levee–My conversation with Duroc–Conspiracy of Georges, Moreau, and Pichegru–Moreau averse to the restoration of the Bourbons–Bouvet de Lozier’s attempted suicide–Arrest of Moreau–Declaration of MM. de Polignac and de Riviere–Connivance of the police–Arrest of M. Carbonnet and his nephew.
The time was passed when Bonaparte, just raised to the Consulate, only proceeded to the Temple to release the victims of the “Loi des suspects” by his sole and immediate authority. This state prison was now to be filled by the orders of his police. All the intrigues of Europe were in motion. Emissaries came daily from England, who, if they could not penetrate into the interior of France, remained in the towns near the frontiers, where they established correspondence, and published pamphlets, which they sent to Paris by post, in the form of letters.
The First Consul, on the other hand, gave way, without reserve, to the natural irritation which that power had excited by her declaration of war. He knew that the most effective war he could carry on against England would be a war against her trade.
As a prelude to that piece of madness, known by the name of the Continental system, the First Consul adopted every possible preventive measure against the introduction of English merchandise. Bonaparte’s irritation against the English was not without a cause. The intelligence which reached Paris from the north of France was not very consolatory. The English fleets not only blockaded the French ports, but were acting on the offensive, and had bombarded Granville. The mayor of the town did his duty, but his colleagues, more prudent, acted differently. In the height of his displeasure Bonaparte issued a decree, by which he bestowed a scarf of honour on Letourneur, the mayor, and dismissed his colleagues from office as cowards unworthy of trust. The terms of this decree were rather severe, but they were certainly justified by the conduct of those who had abandoned their posts at s critical moment.
I come now to the subject of the invasion of England, and what the First Consul said to me respecting it. I have stated that Bonaparte never had any idea of realising the pretended project of a descent on England. The truth of this assertion will appear from a conversation which I had with him after he returned from his journey to the north. In this conversation he repeated what he had often before mentioned to me in reference to the projects and possible steps to which fortune might compel him to resort.
The peace of Amiens had been broken about seven months when, on the 15th of December 1803, the First Consul sent for me to the Tuileries. His incomprehensible behaviour to me was fresh in my mind; and as it was upwards of a year since I had seen him, I confess I did not feel quite at ease when I received the summons. He was perfectly aware that I possessed documents and data for writing his history which would describe facts correctly, and destroy the illusions with which his flatterers constantly, entertained the public. I have already stated that at that period I had no intention of the kind; but those who laboured constantly to incense him against me might have suggested apprehensions on the subject. At all events the fact is, that when he sent for me I took the precaution of providing myself with a night-cap, conceiving it to be very likely that I should be sent to sleep at Vincennes. On the day appointed for the interview Rapp was on duty. I did not conceal from him my opinion as to the possible result of my visit. “You need not be afraid,” said Rapp; “the First Consul merely wishes to talk with you.” He then announced me.
Bonaparte came into the grand salon where I awaited him, and addressing me in the most good-humoured way said, “What do the gossips say of my preparations for the invasion of England?”–“There is a great difference of opinion on the subject, General,” I replied. “Everyone speaks according to his own views. Suchet, for instance, who comes to see me very often, has no doubt that it will take place, and hopes to give you on the occasion fresh proofs of his gratitude and fidelity.”–“But Suchet tells me that you do not believe it will be attempted.”–“That is true, I certainly do not.”–“Why?”–“Because you told me at Antwerp, five years ago, that you would not risk France on the cast of a die–that the adventure was too hazardous–and circumstances have not altered since that time.”–“You are right. Those who look forward to the invasion of England are blockheads. They do not see the affair in its true light. I can, doubtless, land in England with 100,000 men. A great battle will be fought, which I shall gain; but I must reckon upon 30,000 men killed, wounded, and prisoners. If I march on London, a second battle must be fought. I will suppose myself again victorious; but what should I do in London with an army diminished three-fourths and without the hope of reinforcements? It would be madness. Until our navy acquires superiority it is useless to think of such a project. The great assemblage of troops in the north has another object. My Government must be the first in the world, or it must fall.” Bonaparte then evidently wished it to be supposed that he entertained the design of invading England in order to divert the attention of Europe to that direction.
From Dunkirk the First Consul proceeded to Antwerp, where also he had assembled experienced men to ascertain their opinions respecting the surest way of attempting a landing, the project of which was merely a pretence. The employment of large ships of was, after rang discussions, abandoned in favour of a flotilla.
–[At this period a caricature (by Gillray) appeared in London. which was sent to Paris, and strictly sought after by the police. One of the copies was shown to the First Consul, who was highly indignant at it. The French fleet was represented by a number of nut-shells. An English sailor, seated on a rock, was quietly smoking his pipe, the whiffs of which were throwing the whole squadron into disorder.–Bourrienne. Gillray’s caricatures should be at the reader’s side during the perusal of this work, also English Caricature and Satire on Napoleon I., by J. Ashton Chatto: and Windus, 1884.]–
After visiting Belgium, and giving directions there, the First Consul returned from Brussels to Paris by way of Maestricht, Liege, and Soissons.
Before my visit to the Tuileries, and even before the rupture of the peace of Amiens, certain intriguing speculators, whose extravagant zeal was not less fatal to the cause of the Bourbons than was the blind subserviency of his unprincipled adherents to the First Consul, had taken part in some underhand manoeuvres which could have no favourable result. Amongst these great contrivers of petty machinations the well-known Fauche Borel, the bookseller of Neufchatel, had long been conspicuous. Fauche Borel, whose object was to create a stir, and who wished nothing better than to be noticed and paid, failed not to come to France as soon as the peace of Amiens afforded him the opportunity. I was at that time still with Bonaparte, who was aware of all these little plots, but who felt no personal anxiety on the subject, leaving to his police the care of watching their authors.
The object of Fauche Borel’s mission was to bring about a reconciliation between Moreau and Pichegru. The latter general, who was banished on the 18th Fructidor 4th (September 1797), had not obtained the First Consul’s permission to return to France. He lived in England, where he awaited a favourable opportunity for putting his old projects into execution. Moreau was in Pains, but no longer appeared at the levees or parties of the First Consul, and the enmity of both generals against Bonaparte, openly avowed on the part of Pichegru; and still disguised by Moreau, was a secret to nobody. But as everything was prosperous with Bonaparte he evinced contempt rather than fear of the two generals. His apprehensions were, indeed, tolerably allayed by the absence of the one and the character of the other. Moreau’s name had greater weight with the army than that of Pichegru; and those who were plotting the overthrow of the Consular Government knew that that measure could not be attempted with any chance of success without the assistance of Moreau. The moment was inopportune; but, being initiated in some secrets of the British Cabinet, they knew that the peace was but a truce, and they determined to profit by that truce to effect a reconciliation which might afterwards secure a community of interests. Moreau and Pichegru had not been friends since Moreau sent to the Directory the papers seized in M. de Klinglin’s carriage, which placed Pichegru’s treason in so clear a light. Since that period Pichegru’s name possessed no influence over the minds of the soldiers, amongst whom he had very few partisans, whilst the name of Moreau was dear to all who had conquered under his command.
Fauche Borel’s design was to compromise Moreau without bringing him to any decisive step. Moreau’s natural indolence, and perhaps it may be said his good sense, induced him to adopt the maxim that it was necessary to let men and things take their course; for temporizing policy is often as useful in politics as in war. Besides, Moreau was a sincere Republican; and if his habit of indecision had permitted him to adopt any resolution, it is quite certain that he would not then have assisted in the reestablishment of the Bourbons, as Pichegru wished.
What I have stated is an indispensable introduction to the knowledge of plots of more importance which preceded the great event that marked the close of the Consulship: I allude to the conspiracy of Georges, Cadoudal, Moreau, and Pichegru, and that indelible stain on the character of Napoleon,–the death of the Duc d’Enghien. Different opinions have been expressed concerning Georges’ conspiracy. I shall not contradict any of them. I will relate what I learned and what I saw, in order to throw some light on that horrible affair. I am far from believing what I have read in many works, that it was planned by the police in order to pave the First Consul’s way to the throne. I think that it was contrived by those who were really interested in it, and encouraged by Fouche in order to prepare his return to office.
To corroborate my opinion respecting Fouche’s conduct and his manoeuvres I must remind the reader that about the close of 1803 some persons conceived the project of reconciling Moreau and Pichegru. Fouche, who was then out of the Ministry, caused Moreau to be visited by men of his own party, and who were induced, perhaps unconsciously, by Fouche’s art, to influence and irritate the general’s mind. It was at first intended that the Abbe David, the mutual friend of Moreau and Pichegru, should undertake to effect their reconciliation; but he, being arrested and confined in the Temple, was succeeded by a man named Lajolais, whom every circumstance proves to have been employed by Fouche. He proceeded to London, and, having prevailed on Pichegru and his friends to return to France, he set off to announce their arrival and arrange everything for their reception and destruction. Moreau’s discontent was the sole foundation of this intrigue. I remember that one day, about the end of January 1804, I called on Fouche, who informed me that he had been at St. Cloud, where he had had a long conversation with the First Consul on the situation of affairs. Bonaparte told him that he was satisfied with the existing police, and hinted that it was only to make himself of consequence that he had given a false colouring to the picture. Fouche asked him what he would say if he told him that Georges and Pichegru had been for some time in Paris carrying on the conspiracy of which he had received information. The First Consul, apparently delighted at what he conceived to be Fouche’s mistake, said, with an air of contempt, “You are well informed, truly! Regnier has just received a letter from London stating that Pichegru dined three days ago at Kingston with one of the King of England’s ministers.”
As Fouche, however, persisted in his assertion, the First Consul sent to Paris for the Grand Judge, Regnier, who showed Fouche the letter he had received. The First Consul triumphed at first to see Fouche at fault; but the latter so clearly proved that Georges and Pichegru were actually in Paris that Regnier began to fear he had been misled by his agents, whom his rival paid better than he did. The First Consul, convinced that his old minister knew more than his new one, dismissed Regnier, and remained a long time in consultation with Fouche, who on that occasion said nothing about his reinstatement for fear of exciting suspicion. He only requested that the management of the business might be entrusted to Real, with orders to obey whatever instructions he might receive from him. I will return hereafter to the arrest of Moreau and the other persons accused, and will now subjoin the account of a long interview which I had with Bonaparte in the midst of these important events.
On the 8th of March 1804, some time after the arrest but before the trial of General Moreau, I had an audience of the First Consul, which was unsought on my part. Bonaparte, after putting several unimportant questions to me as to what I was doing, what I expected he should do for me, and assuring me that he would bear me in mind, gave a sudden turn to the conversation, and said, “By the by, the report of my connection with Hortense is still kept up: the most abominable rumours have been spread as to her first child. I thought at the time that these reports had only been admitted by the public in consequence of the great desire that I should not be childless. Since you and I separated have you heard them repeated?”–“Yes, General, oftentimes; and I confess I could not have believed that this calumny would have existed so long.”–“It is truly frightful to think of! You know the truth–you have seen all–heard all –nothing could have passed without your knowledge; you were in her full confidence during the time of her attachment to Duroc. I therefore expect, if you should ever write anything about me, that you will clear me from this infamous imputation. I would not have it accompany my name to posterity. I trust in you. You have never given credit to the horrid accusation?”–“No, General, never.” Napoleon then entered into a number of details on the previous life of Hortense; on the way in which she conducted herself, and on the turn which her marriage had taken. “It has not turned out,” he said, “as I wished: the union has not been a happy one. I am sorry for it, not only because both are dear to me, but because the circumstance countenances the infamous reports that are current among the idle as to my intimacy with her.” He concluded the conversation with these words:–“Bourrienne, I sometimes think of recalling you; but as there is no good pretext for so doing, the world would say that I have need of you, and I wish it to be known that I stand in need of nobody.” He again said a few words about Hortense. I answered that it would fully coincide with my conviction of the truth to do what he desired, and that I would do it; but that suppressing the false reports did not depend on me.
Hortense, in fact, while she was Mademoiselle BEAUHARNAIS, regarded Napoleon with respectful awe. She trembled when she spoke to him, and never dared to ask him a favour. When she had anything to solicit she applied to me; and if I experienced any difficulty in obtaining for her what she sought, I mentioned her as the person for whom I pleaded. “The little simpleton!” Napoleon would say, “why does she not ask me herself: is the girl afraid of me?” Napoleon never cherished for her any feeling but paternal tenderness. He loved her after his marriage with her mother as he would have loved his own child. During three years I was a witness to all their most private actions, and I declare that I never saw or heard anything that could furnish the least ground for suspicion, or that afforded the slightest trace of the existence of a culpable intimacy. This calumny must be classed among those with which malice delights to blacken the characters of men more brilliant than their fellows, and which are so readily adopted by the light-minded and unreflecting. I freely declare that did I entertain the smallest doubt with regard to this odious charge, of the existence of which I was well aware before Napoleon spoke to me on the subject, I would candidly avow it. He is no more: and let his memory be accompanied only by that, be it good or bad, which really belongs to it. Let not this reproach be one of those charged against him by the impartial historian. I must say, in concluding this delicate subject, that the principles of Napoleon on points of this kind were rigid in the utmost degree, and that a connection of the nature of that charged against him was neither in accordance with his morals nor his tastes.
I cannot tell whether what followed was a portion of his premeditated conversation with me, or whether it was the result of the satisfaction he had derived from ascertaining my perfect conviction of the purity of his conduct with regard to Hortense, and being assured that I would express that conviction. Be this as it may, as I was going out at the door he called me back, saying, “Oh! I have forgotten something.” I returned. “Bourrienne,” said he, “do you still keep up your acquaintance with the Fauchers?”–“Yes, General; I see them frequently.”–“You are wrong.”– “Why should I not? They are clever, well-educated men, and exceedingly pleasant company, especially Caesar. I derive great pleasure from their society; and then they are almost the only persons whose friendship has continued faithful to me since I left you. You know people do not care for those who can render them no service.”–“Maret will not see the Fauchers.”–“That may be, General; but it is nothing to me; and you must recollect that as it was through him I was introduced to them at the Tuileries, I think he ought to inform me of his reasons for dropping their acquaintance.”–“I tell you again he has closed his door against them. Do you the same; I advise you.” As I did not seem disposed to follow this advice without some plausible reason, the First Consul added, “You must know, then, that I learn from Caesar all that passes in your house. You do not speak very ill of me yourself, nor does any one venture to do so in your presence. You play your rubber and go to bed. But no sooner are you gone than your wife, who never liked me, and most of those who visit at your house, indulge in the most violent attacks upon me. I receive a bulletin from Caesar Faucher every day when he visits at your house; this is the way in which he requites you for your kindness, and for the asylum you afforded his brother.–[Constantine Rancher had been condemned in contumacy for the forgery of a public document.–Bourrienne.]–But enough; you see I know all–farewell;” and he left me.
The grave having closed over these two brothers,–[The Fauchers were twin brothers, distinguished in the war of the Revolution, and made brigadier- generals at the same time on the field of battle. After the Cent Jours they refused to recognise the Bourbons, and were shot by sentence of court-martial at Bordeaux. (Bouillet)]–I shall merely state that they wrote me a letter the evening preceding their execution, in which they begged me to forgive their conduct towards me. The following is an extract from this letter:
In our dungeon we hear our sentence of death being cried in the streets. To-morrow we shall walk to the scaffold; but we will meet death with such calmness and courage as shall make our executioners blush. We are sixty years old, therefore our lives will only be shortened by a brief apace. During our lives we have shared in common, illness, grief, pleasure, danger, and good fortune. We both entered the world on the same day, and on the same day we shall both depart from it. As to you, sir….
I suppress what relates to myself.
The hour of the grand levee arrived just as the singular interview which I have described terminated. I remained a short time to look at this phantasmagoria. Duroc was there. As soon as he saw me he came up, and taking me into the recess of a window told me that Moreau’s guilt was evident, and that he was about to be put on his trial. I made some observations on the subject, and in particular asked whether there were sufficient proofs of his guilt to justify his condemnation? “They should be cautious,” said I; “it is no joke to accuse the conqueror of Hohenlinden.” Duroc’s answer satisfied me that he at least had no doubt on the subject. “Besides,” added he, “when such a general as Moreau has been between two gendarmes he is lost, and is good for nothing more. He will only inspire pity.” In vain I tried to refute this assertion so entirely contrary to facts, and to convince Duroc that Moreau would never be damaged by calling him “brigand,” as was the phrase then, without proofs. Duroc persisted in his opinion. As if a political crime ever sullied the honour of any one! The result has proved that I judged rightly.
No person possessing the least degree of intelligence will be convinced that the conspiracy of Moreau, Georges, Pichegru, and the other persons accused would ever have occurred but for the secret connivance of Fouche’s police.
Moreau never for a moment desired the restoration of the Bourbons. I was too well acquainted with M. Carbonnet, his most intimate friend, to be ignorant of his private sentiments. It was therefore quite impossible that he could entertain the same views as Georges, the Polignacs, Riviera, and others; and they had no intention of committing any overt acts. These latter persons had come to the Continent solely to investigate the actual state of affairs, in order to inform the Princes of the House of Bourbon with certainty how far they might depend on the foolish hopes constantly held out to them by paltry agents, who were always ready to advance their own interests at the expense of truth. These agents did indeed conspire, but it was against the Treasury of London, to which they looked for pay.
Without entering into all the details of that great trial I will relate some facts which may assist in eliciting the truth from a chaos of intrigue and falsehood.
Most of the conspirators had been lodged either in the Temple or La Force, and one of them, Bouvet de Lozier, who was confined in the Temple, attempted to hang himself. He made use of his cravat to effect his purpose, and had nearly succeeded, when a turnkey by chance entered and found him at the point of death. When he was recovered he acknowledged that though he had the courage to meet death, he was unable to endure the interrogatories of his trial, and that he had determined to kill himself, lest he might be induced to make a confession. He did in fact confess, and it was on the day after this occurred that Moreau was arrested, while on his way from his country-seat of Grosbois to Paris.
Fouche, through the medium of his agents, had given Pichegru, Georges, and some other partisans of royalty, to understand that they might depend on Moreau, who, it was said, was quite prepared. It is certain that Moreau informed Pichegru that he (Pichegru) had been deceived, and that he had never been spoken to on the subject. Russillon declared on the trial that on the 14th of March the Polignacs said to some one, “Everything is going wrong–they do not understand each other. Moreau does not keep his word. We have been deceived.” M. de Riviera declared that he soon became convinced they had been deceived, and was about to return to England when he was arrested. It is certain that the principal conspirators obtained positive information which confirmed their suspicions. They learned Moreau’s declaration from Pichegru. Many of the accused declared that they soon discovered they had been deceived; and the greater part of them were about to quit Paris, when they were all arrested, almost at one and the same moment. Georges was going into La Vendee when he was betrayed by the man who, with the connivance of the police, had escorted him ever since his departure from London, and who had protected him from any interruption on the part of the police so long as it was only necessary to know where he was, or what he was about. Georges had been in Paris seven months before it was considered that the proper moment had arrived for arresting him.
The almost simultaneous arrest of the conspirators proves clearly that the police knew perfectly well where they could lay their hands upon them.
When Pichegru was required to sign his examination he refused. He said it was unnecessary; that, knowing all the secret machinery of the police, he suspected that by some chemical process they would erase all the writing except the signature, and afterwards fill up the paper with statements which he had never made. His refusal to sign the interrogatory, he added, would not prevent him from repeating before a court of justice the truth which he had stated in answer to the questions proposed to him. Fear was entertained of the disclosures he might make respecting his connection with Moreau, whose destruction was sought for, and also with respect to the means employed by the agents of Fouche to urge the conspirators to effect a change which they desired.
On the evening of the 15th of February I heard of Moreau’s arrest, and early next morning I proceeded straight to the Rue St. Pierre, where M. Carbonnet resided with his nephew. I was anxious to hear from him the particulars of the general’s arrest. What was my surprise! I had hardly time to address myself to the porter before he informed me that M. Carbonnet and his nephew were both arrested. “I advise you, sir,” added the man, “to retire without more ado, for I can assure you that the persons who visit M. Carbonnet are watched.”–“Is he still at home?” said I. “Yes, Sir; they are examining his papers.”–” Then,” said I, “I will go up.” M. Carbonnet, of whose friendship I had reason to be proud, and whose memory will ever be dear to me, was more distressed by the arrest of his nephew and Moreau than by his own. His nephew was, however, liberated after a few hours. M. Carbonnet’s papers were sealed up, and he was placed in solitary confinement at St. Pelagic.
Thus the police, who previously knew nothing, were suddenly informed of all. In spite of the numerous police agents scattered over France, it was only discovered by the declarations of Bouvet de Lozier that three successive landings had been effected, and that a fourth was expected, which, however, did not take place, because General Savary was despatched by the First Consul with orders to seize the persons whose arrival was looked for. There cannot be a more convincing proof of the fidelity of the agents of the police to their old chief, and their combined determination of trifling with their new one,
The events of 1804–Death of the Due d’Enghien–Napoleon’s arguments at St. Helena–Comparison of dates–Possibility of my having saved the Due d’Enghien’s life–Advice given to the Duc d’Enghien–Sir Charles Stuart–Delay of the Austrian Cabinet–Pichegru and the mysterious being–M. Massias–The historians of St. Helena– Bonaparte’s threats against the emigrants and M. Cobentzel– Singular adventure of Davoust’s secretary–The quartermaster– The brigand of La Vendee.
In order to form a just idea of the events which succeeded each other so rapidly at the commencement of 1804 it is necessary to consider them both separately and connectedly. It must be borne in mind that all Bonaparte’s machinations tended to one object, the foundation of the French Empire in his favour; and it is also essential to consider how the situation of the emigrants, in reference to the First Consul, had changed since the declaration of war. As long as Bonaparte continued at peace the cause of the Bourbons had no support in foreign Cabinets, and the emigrants had no alternative but to yield to circumstances; but on the breaking out of a new war all was changed. The cause of the Bourbons became that of the powers at war with France; and as many causes concurred to unite the emigrants abroad with those who had returned but half satisfied, there was reason to fear something from their revolt, in combination with the powers arrayed against Bonaparte.
Such was the state of things with regard to the emigrants when the leaders and accomplices of Georges’ conspiracy were arrested at the very beginning of 1804. The assassination of the Due d’Enghien
–[Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon, Duc d’Enghien (1772-1804), son of the Duc de Bourbon, and grandson of the Prince de Conde, served against France in the army of Conde. When this force was disbanded he stayed at Ettenheim on account of a love affair with the Princesse Charlotte de Rohan-Rochefort. Arrested in the territory of Baden, he was taken to Vincennes, and after trial by court- martial shot is the moat, 21st May 1804. With him practically ended the house of Bourbon-Conde as his grandfather died in 1818, leaving only the Duc de Bourbon, and the Princesee Louise Adelaide, Abbesse de Remiremont, who died in 1824.]–
took place on the 21st of March; on the 30th of April appeared the proposition of the Tribunate to found a Government in France under the authority of one individual; on the 18th of May came the ‘Senatus- consulte’, naming Napoleon Bonaparte EMPEROR, and lastly, on the 10th. of June, the sentence of condemnation on Georges and his accomplices. Thus the shedding of the blood of a Bourbon, and the placing of the crown of France on the head of a soldier of fortune were two acts interpolated in the sanguinary drama of Georges’ conspiracy. It must be remembered, too, that during the period of these events we were at war with England, and on the point of seeing Austria and the Colossus of the north form a coalition against the new Emperor.
I will now state all I know relative to the death of the Due d’Enghien. That unfortunate Prince, who was at Ettenheim, in consequence of a love affair, had no communication whatever with those who were concocting a plot in the interior. Machiavelli says that when the author of a crime cannot be discovered we should seek for those to whose advantage it turns. In the present case Machiavelli’s advice will find an easy application, since the Duke’s death could be advantageous only to Bonaparte, who considered it indispensable to his accession to the crown of France. The motives may be explained, but can they be justified? How could it ever be said that the Due d’Enghien perished as a presumed accomplice in the conspiracy of Georges?
Moreau was arrested on the 15th of February 1804, at which time the existence of the conspiracy was known. Pichegru and Georges were also arrested in February, and the Due d’Enghien not till the 15th of March. Now if the Prince had really been concerned in the plot, if even he had a knowledge of it, would he have remained at Ettenheim for nearly a month after the arrest of his presumed accomplices, intelligence of which he might have obtained in the space of three days? Certainly not. So ignorant was he of that conspiracy that when informed at Ettenheim of the affair he doubted it, declaring that if it were true his father and grandfather would have made him acquainted with it. Would so long an interval have been suffered to elapse before he was arrested? Alas! cruel experience has shown that that step would have been taken in a few hours.
The sentence of death against Georges and his accomplices was not pronounced till the 10th of June 1804, and the Due d’Enghien was shot on the 21st of March, before the trials were even commenced. How is this precipitation to be explained? If, as Napoleon has declared, the young Bourbon was an accomplice in the crime, why was he not arrested at the time the others were? Why was he not tried along with them, on the ground of his being an actual accomplice; or of being compromised, by communications with them; or, in short, because his answers might have thrown light on that mysterious affair? How was it that the name of the illustrious accused was not once mentioned in the course of that awful trial?
It can scarcely be conceived that Napoleon could say at St. Helena, “Either they contrived to implicate the unfortunate Prince in their project, and so pronounced his doom, or, by omitting to inform him of what was going on, allowed him imprudently to slumber on the brink of a precipice; for he was only a stone’s cast from the frontier when they were about to strike the great blow in the name and for the interest of his family.”
This reasoning is not merely absurd, it is atrocious. If the Duke was implicated by the confession of his accomplices, he should have been arrested and tried along with them. Justice required this. If he was not so implicated, where is the proof of his guilt? Because some individuals, without his knowledge, plotted to commit a crime in the name of his family he was to be shot! Because he was 130 leagues from the scene of the plot, and had no connection with it, he was to die! Such arguments cannot fail to inspire horror. It is absolutely impossible any reasonable person can regard the Due d’Enghien as an accomplice of Cadoudal; and Napoleon basely imposed on his contemporaries and posterity by inventing such falsehoods, and investing them with the authority of his name.
Had I been then in the First Consul’s intimacy I may aver, with as much confidence as pride, that the blood of the Due d’Enghien would not have imprinted an indelible stain on the glory of Bonaparte. In this terrible matter I could have done what no one but me could even attempt, and this on account of my position, which no one else has since held with Bonaparte. I quite admit that he would have preferred others to me, and that he would have had more friendship for them than for me, supposing friendship to be compatible with the character of Bonaparte, but I knew him better than any one else. Besides, among those who surrounded him I alone could have permitted myself some return to our former familiarity on account of our intimacy of childhood. Certainly, in a matter which permanently touched the glory of Bonaparte, I should not have been restrained by the fear of some transitory fit of anger, and the reader has seen that I did not dread disgrace. Why should I have dreaded it? I had neither portfolio, nor office, nor salary, for, as I have said, I was only with Bonaparte as a friend, and we had, as it were, a common purse. I feel a conviction that it would have been very possible for me to have dissuaded Bonaparte from his fatal design, inasmuch as I positively know that his object, after the termination of the peace, was merely to frighten the emigrants, in order to drive them from Ettenheim, where great numbers, like the Due d’Enghien, had sought refuge. His anger was particularly directed against a Baroness de Reith and a Baroness d’Ettengein, who had loudly vituperated him, and distributed numerous libels on the left bank of the Rhine. At that period Bonaparte had as little design against the Due d’Enghien’s life as against that of any other emigrant. He was more inclined to frighten than to harm him, and certainly his first intention was not to arrest the Prince, but, as I have said, to frighten the ’emigres’, and to drive them to a distance. I must, however, admit that when Bonaparte spoke to Rapp and Duroc of the emigrants on the other side of the Rhine he expressed himself with much irritability: so much so, indeed, that M. de Talleyrand, dreading its effects for the Due d’Enghien, warned that Prince, through the medium of a lady to whom he was attached, of his danger, and advised him to proceed to a greater distance from the frontier. On receiving this notice the Prince resolved to rejoin his grandfather, which he could not do but by passing through the Austrian territory. Should any doubt exist as to these facts it may be added that Sir Charles Stuart wrote to M. de Cobentzel to solicit a passport for the Duc d’Enghien; and it was solely owing to the delay of the Austrian Cabinet that time was afforded for the First Consul to order the arrest of the unfortunate Prince as soon as he had formed the horrible resolution of shedding the blood of a Bourbon. This resolution could have originated only with himself, for who would have dared to suggest it to him? The fact is, Bonaparte knew not what he did. His fever of ambition amounted to delirium; and he knew not how he was losing himself in public opinion because he did not know that opinion, to gain which he would have made every sacrifice.
When Cambaceres (who, with a slight reservation, had voted the death of Louis XVI.) warmly opposed in the Council the Duc d’Enghien’s arrest, the First Consul observed to him, “Methinks, Sir, you have grown very chary of Bourbon blood!”
Meanwhile the Due d’Enghien was at Ettenheim, indulging in hope rather than plotting conspiracies. It is well known that an individual made an offer to the Prince de Conde to assassinate the First Consul, but the Prince indignantly rejected the proposition, and nobly refused to recover the rights of the Bourbons at the price of such a crime. The individual above-mentioned was afterwards discovered to be an agent of the Paris police, who had been commissioned to draw the Princes into a plot which would have ruined them, for public feeling revolts at assassination under any circumstances.
It has been alleged that Louis XVIII.’s refusal to treat with Bonaparte led to the fatal catastrophe of the Due d’Enghien’s death. The first correspondence between Louis XVIII. and the First Consul, which has been given in these Memoirs, clearly proves the contrary. It is certainly probable that Louis XVIII.’s refusal to renounce his rights should have irritated Bonaparte. But it was rather late to take his revenge two years after, and that too on a Prince totally ignorant of those overtures. It is needless to comment on such absurdities. It is equally unnecessary to speak of the mysterious being who often appeared at meetings in the Faubourg St. Germain, and who was afterwards discovered to be Pichegru.
A further light is thrown on this melancholy catastrophe by a conversation Napoleon had, a few days after his elevation to the imperial throne, with M. Masaias, the French Minister at the Court of the Grand Duke of Baden. This conversation took place at Aix-la-Chapelle. After some remarks on the intrigues of the emigrants Bonaparte observed, “You ought at least to have prevented the plots which the Due d’Enghien was hatching at Ettenheim.”–“Sire, I am too old to learn to tell a falsehood. Believe me, on this subject your Majesty’s ear has been abused.”–“Do you not think, then, that had the conspiracy of Georges and Pichegru proved successful, the Prince would have passed the Rhine, and have come post to Paris?”
M. Massias, from whom I had these particulars, added, “At this last question of the Emperor I hung down my head and was silent, for I saw he did not wish to hear the truth.”
Now let us consider, with that attention which the importance of the subject demands, what has been said by the historians of St. Helena.
Napoleon said to his companions in exile that “the Due d’Enghien’s death must be attributed either to an excess of zeal for him (Napoleon), to private views, or to mysterious intrigues. He had been blindly urged on; he was, if he might say so, taken by surprise. The measure was precipitated, and the result predetermined.”
This he might have said; but if he did so express himself, how are we to reconcile such a declaration with the statement of O’Meara? How give credit to assertions so very opposite?
Napoleon said to M. de Las Casas:
“One day when alone, I recollect it well, I was taking my coffee, half seated on the table at which I had just dined, when suddenly information was brought to me that a new conspiracy had been discovered. I was warmly urged to put an end to these enormities; they represented to me that it was time at last to give a lesson to those who had been day after day conspiring against my life; that this end could only be attained by shedding the blood of one of them; and that the Due d’Enghien, who might now be convicted of forming part of this new conspiracy, and taken in the very act, should be that one. It was added that he had been seen at Strasburg; that it was even believed that he had been in Paris; and that the plan was that he should enter France by the east at the moment of the explosion, whilst the Due de Berri was disembarking in the west. I should tell you,” observed the Emperor, “that I did not even know precisely who the Due d’Enghien was (the Revolution having taken place when I was yet a very young man, and I having never been at Court), and that I was quite in the dark as to where he was at that moment. Having been informed on those points I exclaimed that if such were the case the Duke ought to be arrested, and that orders should be given to that effect. Everything had been foreseen and prepared; the different orders were already drawn up, nothing remained to be done but to sign them, and the fate of the young Prince was thus decided.”
Napoleon next asserts that in the Duke’s arrest and condemnation all the usual forms were strictly observed. But he has also declared that the death of that unfortunate Prince will be an eternal reproach to those who, carried away by a criminal zeal, waited not for their Sovereign’s orders to execute the sentence of the court-martial. He would, perhaps, have allowed the Prince to live; but yet he said, “It is true I wished to make an example which should deter.”
It has been said that the Due d’Enghien addressed a letter to Napoleon, which was not delivered till after the execution. This is false and absurd! How could that Prince write to Bonaparte to offer him his services and to solicit the command of an army? His interrogatory makes no mention of this letter, and is in direct opposition to the sentiments which that letter would attribute to him. The truth is, no such letter ever existed. The individual who was with the Prince declared he never wrote it. It will never be believed that any one would have presumed to withhold from Bonaparte a letter on which depended the fate of so august a victim.
In his declarations to his companions in exile Napoleon endeavoured either to free himself of this crime or to justify it. His fear or his susceptibility was such, that in discoursing with strangers he merely said, that had he known of the Prince’s letter, which was not delivered to him.–God knows why!–until after he had breathed his last, he would have pardoned him. But at a subsequent date he traced, with his own hand, his last thoughts, which he supposed would be consecrated in the minds of his contemporaries, and of posterity. Napoleon, touching on the subject which he felt would be one of the most important attached to his memory, said that if the thing were to do again he would act as he then did. How does this declaration tally with his avowal, that if he had received the Prince’s letter he should have lived? This is irreconcilable. But if we compare all that Napoleon said at St. Helena, and which has been transmitted to us by his faithful followers; if we consider his contradictions when speaking of the Due d’Enghien’s death to strangers, to his friends, to the public, or to posterity, the question ceases to be doubtful Bonaparte wished to strike a blow which would terrify his enemies. Fancying that the Duc de Berri was ready to land in France, he despatched his aide de camp Savary, in disguise, attended by gendarmes, to watch the Duke’s landing at Biville, near Dieppe. This turned out a fruitless mission. The Duke was warned in time not to attempt the useless and dangerous enterprise, and Bonaparte, enraged to see one prey escape him, pounced upon another. It is well known that Bonaparte often, and in the presence even of persons whom he conceived to have maintained relations with the partisans of the Bourbons at Paris, expressed himself thus: “I will put an end to these conspiracies. If any of the emigrants conspire they shall be shot. I have been told that Cobentzel harbours some of them. I do not believe this; but if it be true, Cobentzel shall be arrested and shot along with them. I will let the Bourbons know I am not to be trifled with.” The above statement of facts accounts for the suppositions respecting the probable influence of the Jacobins in this affair. It has been said, not without some appearance of reason, that to get the Jacobins to help him to ascend the throne Bonaparte consented to sacrifice a victim of the blood royal, as the only pledge capable of ensuring them against the return of the proscribed family. Be this as it may, there are no possible means of relieving Bonaparte from his share of guilt in the death of the Due d’Enghien.
To the above facts, which came within my own knowledge, I may add the following curious story, which was related to me by an individual who himself heard it from the secretary of General Davoust.
Davoust was commanding a division in the camp of Boulogne, and his secretary when proceeding thither to join him met in the diligence a man who seemed to be absorbed in affliction. This man during the whole journey never once broke silence but by some deep sighs, which he had not power to repress. General Davoust’s secretary observed him with curiosity and interest, but did not venture to intrude upon his grief by any conversation. The concourse of travellers from Paris to the camp was, however, at that time very great, and the inn at which the diligence stopped in the evening was so crowded that it was impossible to assign a chamber to each traveller. Two, therefore, were put into one room, and it so happened that the secretary was lodged with his mysterious travelling companion.
When they were alone he addressed him in a torso of interest which banished all appearance of intrusion. He inquired whether the cause of his grief was of a nature to admit of any alleviation, and offered to render him any assistance in his power. “Sir,” replied the stranger, “I am much obliged for the sympathy you express for me–I want nothing. There is no possible consolation for me. My affliction can end only with my life. You shall judge for yourself, for the interest you seem to take in my misfortune fully justifies my confidence. I was quartermaster in the select gendarmerie, and formed part of a detachment which was ordered to Vincennes. I passed the night there under arms, and at daybreak was ordered down to the moat with six men. An execution was to take place. The prisoner was brought out, and I gave the word to fire. The man fell, and after the execution I learned that we had shot the Due d’Enghien. Judge of my horror! . . . I knew the prisoner only by the name of the brigand of La Vendee! . . . I could no longer remain in the service –I obtained my discharge, and am about to retire to my family. Would that I had done so sooner!” The above has been related to me and other persons by Davoust’s secretary, whom I shall not name.
General Ordener’s mission–Arrest of the Due d’Enghien–Horrible night-scene—Harrel’s account of the death of the Prince–Order for digging the grave–The foster-sister of the Duo d’Enghien–Reading the sentence–The lantern–General Savary–The faithful dog and the police–My visit to Malmaison–Josephine’s grief– The Duc d’Enghien’s portrait and lock of hair–Savary’s emotion– M. de Chateaubriand’s resignation–M. de Chatenubriand’s connection with Bonaparte–Madame Bacciocchi and M. de Fontanes–Cardinal Fesch –Dedication of the second edition of the ‘Genie du Christianisme’ –M. de Chateaubriand’s visit to the First Consul on the morning of the Due d’Enghien’s death–Consequences of the Duo d’Enghien’s death–Change of opinion in the provinces–The Gentry of the Chateaus–Effect of the Due d’Enghien’s death on foreign Courts– Remarkable words of Mr. Pitt–Louis XVIII. sends back the insignia of the Golden Fleece to the King of Spain.
I will now narrate more fully the sanguinary scene which took place at Vincennes. General Ordener, commanding the mounted grenadiers of the Guard, received orders from the War Minister to proceed to the Rhine, to give instructions to the chiefs of the gendarmerie of New Brissac, which was placed at his disposal. General Ordener sent a detachment of gendarmerie to Ettenheim, where the Due d’Enghien was arrested on the 15th of March. He was immediately conducted to the citadel of Strasburg, where he remained till the 18th, to give time for the arrival of orders from Paris. These orders were given rapidly, and executed promptly, for the carriage which conveyed the unfortunate Prince arrived at the barrier at eleven o’clock on the morning of the 20th, where it remained for five hours, and afterwards proceeded by the exterior boulevards on the road to Vincennes, where it arrived at night. Every scene of this horrible drama was acted under the veil of night: the sun did not even shine upon its tragical close. The soldiers received orders to proceed to Vincennes at night. It was at night that the fatal gates of the fortress were closed upon the Prince. At night the Council assembled and tried him, or rather condemned him without trial. When the clock struck six in the morning the orders were given to fire, and the Prince ceased to exist.
Here a reflection occurs to me. Supposing one were inclined to admit that the Council held on the 10th of March had some connection with the Due d’Enghien’s arrest, yet as no Council was held from the time of the Duke’s arrival at the barrier to the moment of his execution, it could only be Bonaparte himself who issued the orders which were too punctually obeyed. When the dreadful intelligence of the Duc d’Enghien’s death was spread in Paris it excited a feeling of consternation which recalled the recollection of the Reign of Terror. Could Bonaparte have seen the gloom which pervaded Paris, and compared it with the joy which prevailed on the day when he returned victorious from the field of Marengo, he would have felt that he had tarnished his glory by a stain which could never be effaced.
About half-past twelve on the 22d of March I was informed that some one wished to speak with me. It was Harrel.
–[Harrel, who had been unemployed till the plot of Arena and Ceracchi on the 18th Vendemiairean IX (10th October 1800) which he had feigned to join, and had then revealed to the police (see ante), had been made Governor of Vincennes.]–
I will relate word for word what he communicated to me. Harrel probably thought that he was bound in gratitude to acquaint me with these details; but he owed me no gratitude, for it was much against my will that he had encouraged the conspiracy of Ceracchi, and received the reward of his treachery in that crime. The following is Harrel’s statement:–
“On the evening of the day before yesterday, when the Prince arrived, I was asked whether I had a room to lodge a prisoner in; I replied, No– that there were only my apartments and the Council-chamber. I was told to prepare instantly a room in which a prisoner could sleep who was to arrive that evening. I was also desired to dig a pit in the courtyard.
–[This fact must be noted. Harrel is told to dig a trench before the sentence. Thus it was known that they had come to kill the Duc d’Enghien. How can this be answered? Can it possibly be supposed that anyone, whoever it was, would have dared to give each an order in anticipation if the order had not been the carrying out of a formal command of Bonaparte? That is incredible.–Bourrienne.]–
“I replied that that could not be easily done, as the courtyard was paved. The moat was then fixed upon, and there the pit was dug. The Prince arrived at seven o’clock in the evening; he was perishing with cold and hunger. He did not appear dispirited. He said he wanted something to eat, and to go to bed afterwards. His apartment not being yet sufficiently aired, I took him into my own, and sent into the village for some refreshment. The Prince sat down to table, and invited me to eat with him. He then asked me a number of questions respecting Vincennes– what was going on there, and other particulars. He told me that he had been brought up in the neighbourhood of the castle, and spoke to me with great freedom and kindness. ‘What do they want with me?’ he said. What do they mean to do with me?’ But these questions betrayed no uneasiness or anxiety. My wife, who was ill, was lying in the same room in an alcove, closed by a railing. She heard, without being perceived, all our conversation, and she was exceedingly agitated, for she recognised the Prince, whose foster-sister she was, and whose family had given her a pension before the Revolution.
“The Prince hastened to bed, but before he could have fallen asleep the judges sent to request his presence in the Council-chamber. I was not present at his examination; but when it was concluded he returned to his chamber, and when they came to read his sentence to him he was in a profound sleep. In a few moments after he was led out for execution. He had so little suspicion of the fate that awaited him that on descending the staircase leading to the moat he asked where they were taking him. He received no answer. I went before the Prince with a lantern. Feeling the cold air which came up the staircase he pressed my arm and said, ‘Are they going to put me into a dungeon?'”
The rest is known. I can yet see Harrel shuddering while thinking of this action of the Prince’s.
Much has been said about a lantern which it is pretended was attached to one of the Due d’Enghien’s button-holes. This is a pure invention. Captain Dautancourt, whose sight was not very good, took the lantern out of Harrel’s hand to read the sentence to the victim, who had been condemned with as little regard to judicial forms as to justice. This circumstance probably gave rise to the story about the lantern to which I have just alluded. The fatal event took place at six o’clock on the morning of the 21st of March, and it was then daylight.
General Savary did not dare to delay the execution of the sentence, although the Prince urgently demanded to have an interview with the First Consul. Had Bonaparte seen the prince there can be little doubt but that he would have saved his life. Savary, however, thought himself bound to sacrifice his own opinions to the powerful faction which then controlled the First Consul; and whilst he thought he was serving his master, he was in fact only serving the faction to which, I must say, he did not belong. The truth is, that General Savary can only be reproached for not having taken upon himself to suspend the execution, which very probably would not have taken place had it been suspended. He was merely an instrument, and regret on his part would, perhaps, have told more in his favour than his vain efforts to justify Bonaparte. I have just said that if there had been any suspension there would have been no execution; and I think this is almost proved by the uncertainty which must have existed in the mind of the First Consul. If he had made up his mind all the measures would have been taken in advance, and if they had been, the carriage of the Duke would certainly not have been kept for five hours at the barriers. Besides, it is certain that the first intention was to take the Prince to the prison of the Temple.
From all that I have stated, and particularly from the non-suspension of the execution, it appears to me as clear as day that General Savary had received a formal order from Bonaparte for the Due d’Enghien’s death, and also a formal order that it should be so managed as to make it impossible to speak to Bonaparte again on the subject until all should be over. Can there be a more evident, a more direct proof of this than the digging of the grave beforehand? I have repeated Harrel’s story just as he related it to me. He told it me without solicitation, and he could not invent a circumstance of this nature.
General Savary was not in the moat during the execution, but on the bank, from whence he could easily see all that passed. Another circumstance connected with the Due d’Enghien’s death has been mentioned, which is true. The Prince had a little dog; this faithful animal returned incessantly to the fatal spot in the moat. There are few who have not seen that spot. Who has not made a pilgrimage to Vincennes and dropped a tear where the victim fell? The fidelity of the poor dog excited so much interest that the police prevented any one from visiting the fatal spot, and the dog was no longer heard to howl over his master’s grave.
I promised to state the truth respecting the death of the Due d’Enghien, and I have done so, though it has cost me some pain. Harrel’s narrative, and the shocking circumstance of the grave being dug beforehand, left me no opportunity of cherishing any doubts I might have wished to entertain; and everything which followed confirmed the view I then took of the subject. When Harrel left me on the 22d I determined to go to Malmaison to see Madame Bonaparte, knowing, from her sentiments towards the House of Bourbon, that she would be in the greatest affliction. I had previously sent to know whether it would be convenient for her to see me, a precaution I had never before observed, but which I conceived to be proper upon that occasion. On my arrival I was immediately introduced to her boudoir, where she was alone with Hortense and Madame de Remusat. They were all deeply afflicted. “Bourrienne,” exclaimed Josephine, as soon as she perceived me, “what a dreadful event! Did you but know the state of mind Bonaparte is in! He avoids, he dreads the presence of every one! Who could have suggested to him such an act as this?” I then acquainted Josephine with the particulars which I had received from Harrel. “What barbarity!” she resumed. “But no reproach can rest upon me, for I did everything to dissuade him from this dreadful project. He did not confide the secret to me, but I guessed it, and he acknowledged all. How harshly he repelled my entreaties! I clung to him! I threw myself at his feet! ‘Meddle with what concerns you!’ he exclaimed angrily. ‘This is not women’s business! Leave me!’ And he repulsed me with a violence which be had never displayed since our first interview after your return from Egypt. Heavens! what will become of us?”
I could say nothing to calm affliction and alarm in which I participated, for to my grief for the death of the Due d’Enghien was added my regret that Bonaparte should be capable of such a crime. “What,” said Josephine, “can be thought of this in Paris? He must be the object of universal, imprecation, for even here his flatterers appear astounded when they are out of his presence. How wretched we have been since yesterday; and he!…. You know what he is when be is dissatisfied with himself. No one dare speak to him, and all is mournful around us. What a commission he gave to Savary! You know I do not like the general, because he is one of those whose flatteries will contribute to ruin Bonaparte. Well! I pitied Savary when he came yesterday to fulfil a commission which the Due d’Enghien had entrusted to him. Here,” added Josephine, “is his portrait and a lock of his hair, which he has requested me to transmit to one who was dear to him. Savary almost shed tears when he described to me the last moments of the Duke; then, endeavouring to resume his self-possession, he said: ‘It is in vain to try to be indifferent, Madame! It is impossible to witness the death of such a man unmoved!'”
Josephine afterwards informed me of the only act of courage which occurred at this period–namely, the resignation which M. de Chateaubriand had sent to Bonaparte. She admired his conduct greatly, and said: “What a pity he is not surrounded by men of this description! It would be the means of preventing all the errors into which he is led by the constant approbation of those about him.” Josephine thanked me for my attention in coming to see her at such an unhappy juncture; and I confess that it required all the regard I cherished for her to induce me to do so, for at that moment I should not have wished to see the First Consul, since the evil was irreparable. On the evening of that day nothing was spoken of but the transaction of the 21st of March, and the noble conduct of M. de Chateaubriand. As the name of that celebrated man is for ever written in characters of honour in the history of that period, I think I may with propriety relate here what I know respecting his previous connection with Bonaparte.
I do not recollect the precise date of M. de Chateaubriand’s return to France; I only know that it was about the year 1800, for we were, I think, still at the Luxembourg: However, I recollect perfectly that Bonaparte began to conceive prejudices against him; and when I one day expressed my surprise to the First Consul that M. de Chateaubriand’s name did not appear on any of the lists which he had ordered to be presented to him for filling up vacant places, he said: “He has been mentioned to me, but I replied in a way to check all hopes of his obtaining any appointment. He has notions of liberty and independence which will not suit my system. I would rather have him my enemy than my forced friend. At all events, he must wait awhile; I may, perhaps, try him first in a secondary place, and, if he does well, I may advance him.”
The above is, word for word, what Bonaparte said the: first time I conversed with him about M. de Chateaubriand. The publication of ‘Atala’ and the ‘Genie du Christianisme’ suddenly gave Chateaubriand celebrity, and attracted the attention of the First Consul. Bonaparte who then meditated the restoration of religious worship: in France, found himself wonderfully supported by the publication of a book which excited the highest interest, and whose superior merit led the public mind to the consideration of religious topics. I remember Madame Bacciocchi coming one day to visit her brother with a little volume in her hand; it was ‘Atala’. She presented it to the First Consul, and begged he would read it. “What, more romances!” exclaimed he. “Do you think I have time to read all your fooleries?” He, however, took the book from his sister and laid it down on my desk. Madame Bacciocchi then solicited the erasure of M. de Chateaubriand’s name from the list of emigrants. “Oh! oh!” said Bonaparte, “it is Chateaubriand’s book, is it? I will read it, then. Bourrienne, write to Fouche to erase his name from the list.”
Bonaparte, at that time paid so little attention to what was doing in the literary world that he was not aware of Chateaubriand being the author of ‘Atala’. It was on the recommendation of M. de Fontanel that Madame Bacciocchi tried this experiment, which was attended by complete success. The First Consul read ‘Atala’, and was much pleased with it. On the publication of the ‘Genie du Christianisme’ some time after, his first prejudices were wholly removed. Among the persons about him there were many who dreaded to see a man of de Chateaubriand’s talent approach the First Consul, who knew how to appreciate superior merit when it did not exite his envy.
Our relations with the Court of the Vatican being renewed, and Cardinal Fesch appointed Ambassador to the Holy See, Bonaparte conceived the idea of making M. de Chateaubriand first secretary to the Embassy, thinking that the author of the ‘Genie du Christianisme’ was peculiarly fitted to make up for his uncle’s deficiency of talent in the capital of the Christian world, which was destined to become the second city of the Empire.
It was not a little extraordinary to let a man, previously, a stranger to diplomatic business; stepping over all the intermediate degrees; and being at once invested with the functions of first secretary to an important Embassy. I oftener than once heard the First Consul congratulate himself on having made the appointment. I knew, though Bonaparte was not aware of the circumstance at the time, that Chateaubriand at first refused the situation, and that he was only induced to accept it by the entreaties of the head of the clergy, particularly of the Abby Emery, a man of great influence. They represented to the author of the’ Genie du Christianisme that it was necessary he should accompany the uncle of the First Consul to Rome; and M. de Chateaubriand accordingly resolved to do so.
However, clouds, gathered; I do not know from what cause, between the ambassador and his secretary. All I know is, that on Bonaparte being informed of the circumstance he took the part of the Cardinal, and the friends of M. de Chateaubriand expected to see him soon deprived of his appointment, when, to the great astonishment of every one, the secretary to the Roman Embassy, far from being disgraced, was raised by the First Consul to the rank of Minister Plenipotentiary to the Valais, with leave to travel in Switzerland and Italy, together with the promise of the first vacant Embassy.
This favour excited a considerable sensation at the Tuileries; but as it was known to be the will and pleasure of the First Consul all expression of opinion on the subject was confined to a few quiet murmurs that Bonaparte had done for the name of Chateaubriand what, in fact, he had done only on account of his talent. It was during the continuance of this favour that the second edition of the ‘Genie du Christianisme’ was dedicated to the First Consul.
M. de Chateaubriand returned to France previously to entering on the fulfilment of his new mission. He remained for some months in Paris, and on the day appointed for his departure he went to take leave of the First Consul. By a singular chance it happened to be the fatal morning of the 21st of March, and consequently only a few hours after the Duc d’Enghien had been shot. It is unnecessary to observe that M. de Chateaubriand was ignorant of the fatal event. However, on his return home he said to his friends that he had remarked a singular change in the appearance of the First Consul, and that there was a sort of sinister expression in his countenance. Bonaparte saw his new minister amidst the crowd who attended the audience, and several times seemed inclined to step forward to speak to him, but as often turned away, and did not approach him the whole morning. A few hours after, when M. de Chatenubriand mentioned his observations to some of his friends; he was made acquainted with the cause of that agitation which, in spite of all his strength of mind and self-command, Bonaparte could not disguise.
M. de Chateaubriand instantly resigned his appointment of Minister Plenipotentiary to the Valais. For several days his friends were much alarmed for his safety, and they called every morning early to ascertain whether he had not been carried off during the night. Their fears were not without foundation. I must confess that I, who knew Bonaparte well, was somewhat surprised that no serious consequence attended the anger he manifested on receiving the resignation of the man who had dedicated his work to him. In fact, there was good reason for apprehension, and it was not without considerable difficulty that Elisa succeeded in averting the threatened storm. From this time began a state of hostility between Bonaparte and Chateaubriand which only terminated at the Restoration.
I am persuaded, from my knowledge of Bonaparte’s character, that though he retained implacable resentment against a returned emigrant who had dared to censure his conduct in so positive a manner, yet, his first burst of anger being soothed, that which was the cause of hatred was at the same time the ground of esteem. Bonaparte’s animosity was, I confess, very natural, for he could not disguise from himself the real meaning of a resignation made under such circumstances. It said plainly, “You have committed a crime, and I will not serve your Government, which is stained with the blood of a Bourbon!” I can therefore very well imagine that Bonaparte could never pardon the only man who dared to give him such a lesson in the midst of the plenitude of his power. But, as I have often had occasion to remark, there was no unison between Bonaparte’s feelings and his judgment.
I find a fresh proof of this in the following passage, which he dictated to M. de Montholon at St. Helena (Memoires, tome iv. p 248). “If,” said he, “the royal confidence had not been placed in men whose minds were unstrung by too important circumstances, or who, renegade to their country, saw no safety or glory for their master’s throne except under the yoke of the Holy Alliance; if the Duc de Richelieu, whose ambition was to deliver his country from the presence of foreign bayonets; if Chateaubriand, who had just rendered valuable services at Ghent; if they had had the direction of affairs, France would have emerged from these two great national crises powerful and redoubtable. Chateaubriand had received from Nature the sacred fire-his works show it! His style is not that of Racine but of a prophet. Only he could have said with impunity in the chamber of peers, ‘that the redingote and cocked hat of Napoleon, put on a stick on the coast of Brest, would make all Europe run to arms.'”
The immediate consequences of the Duc d’Enghien’s death were not confined to the general consternation which that unjustifiable stroke of state policy produced in the capital. The news spread rapidly through the provinces and foreign countries, and was everywhere accompanied by astonishment and sorrow. There is in the departments a separate class of society, possessing great influence, and constituted entirely of persons usually called the “Gentry of the Chateaux,” who may be said to form the provincial Faubourg St. Germain, and who were overwhelmed by the news. The opinion of the Gentry of the Chateaux was not hitherto unfavourable to the First Consul, for the law of hostages which he repealed had been felt very severely by them. With the exception of some families accustomed to consider themselves, in relation to the whole world, what they were only within the circle of a couple of leagues; that is to say, illustrious personages, all the inhabitants of the provinces, though they might retain some attachment to the ancient order of things, had viewed with satisfaction the substitution of the Consular for the Directorial government, and entertained no personal dislike to the First Consul. Among the Chateaux, more than anywhere else, it had always been the custom to cherish Utopian ideas respecting the management of public affairs, and to criticise the acts of the Government. It is well known that at this time there was not in all France a single old mansion surmounted by its two weathercocks which had not a systems of policy peculiar to itself, and in which the question whether the First Consul would play the part of Cromwell or Monk was not frequently canvassed. In those innocent controversies the little news which the Paris papers were allowed to publish was freely discussed, and a confidential letter from Paris sometimes furnished food for the conversation of a whole week.
While I was with Bonaparte he often talked to me about the life in the Chateaux, which he considered as the happiest for men with sufficient income and exempt from ambition. He knew and could appreciate this sort of life, for he often told me the period of his life which he remembered. with the greatest pleasure was that which he had passed in a Chateau of the family of Boulat du Colombier near Valence. Bonaparte set great value on the opinion of the Chateaux, because while living in the country he had observed the moral influence which their inhabitants exercise over their neighbourhood. He had succeeded to a great degree in conciliating them, but the news of the death of the Due d’Enghien alienated from him minds which were still wavering, and even those which had already declared in his favour. That act of tyranny dissolved the charm which had created hope from his government and awakened affections which had as yet only slumbered. Those to whom this event was almost indifferent also joined in condemning it; for there are certain aristocratic ideas which are always fashionable in a certain class of society. Thus for different causes this atrocity gave a retrograde direction to public opinion, which had previously been favourably disposed to Bonaparte throughout the whole of France.
The consequences were not less important, and might have been disastrous with respect to foreign Courts. I learned, through a channel which does not permit me to entertain any doubt of the correctness of my information, that as soon as the Emperor Alexander received the news it became clear that England might conceive a well-founded hope of forming a new coalition against France. Alexander openly expressed his indignation. I also learned with equal certainty that when Mr. Pitt was informed of the death of the French Prince he said, “Bonaparte has now done himself more mischief than we have done him since the last declaration of war.”
–[The remark made on this murder by the astute cold-blooded Fouche is well known. He said, “It was worse than a crime–it was a blunder!”–Editor of 1836 Edition.]–
Pitt was not the man to feel much concern for the death of any one; but he understood and seized all the advantages afforded to him by this great error of policy committed by the most formidable enemy of England. In all the Treasury journals published in London Bonaparte was never spoken of under any other name than that of the “assassin of the Duc d’Enghien.” The inert policy of the Cabinet of Vienna prevented the manifestation of its displeasure by remonstrances, or by any outward act. At Berlin, in consequence of the neighbourhood of the French troops in Hanover, the commiseration for the death of the Due d’Enghien was also confined to the King’s cabinet, and more particularly to the salons of the Queen of Prussia; but it is certain that that transaction almost everywhere changed the disposition of sovereigns towards the First Consul, and that if it did not cause, it at least hastened the success of the negotiations which England was secretly carrying on with Austria and Prussia. Every Prince of Germany was offended by the violation of the Grand Duke of Baden’s territory, and the death of a Prince could not fail everywhere to irritate that kind of sympathy of blood and of race which had hitherto always influenced the crowned heads and sovereign families of Europe; for it was felt as an injury to all of them.
When Louis XVIII. learned the death of the Due d’Enghien he wrote to the King of Spain, returning him the insignia of the Order of the Golden Fleece (which had also been conferred on Bonaparte), with the accompanying letter:
SIRE, MONSIEUR, AND DEAR COUSIN–It is with regret that I send back to you the insignia of the Order of the Golden Fleece which his Majesty, your father, of glorious memory conferred upon me. There can be nothing in common between me and the great criminal whom audacity and fortune have placed on my throne, since he has had the barbarity to stain himself with the blood of a Bourbon, the Duc d’Enghien.
Religion might make me pardon an assassin, but the tyrant of my people must always be my enemy.
In the present age it is more glorious to merit a sceptre than to possess one.
Providence, for incomprehensible reasons, may condemn me to end my days in exile, but neither my contemporaries nor posterity shall ever have to say, that in the period of adversity I showed my self unworthy of occupying the throne of my ancestors. LOUIS
The death of the Due d’Enghien was a horrible episode in the proceedings of the great trial which was then preparing, and which was speedily followed by the accession of Bonaparte to the Imperial dignity. It was not one of the least remarkable anomalies of the epoch to see the judgment by which criminal enterprises against the Republic were condemned pronounced in the name of the Emperor who had so evidently destroyed that Republic. This anomaly certainly was not removed by the subtlety, by the aid of which he at first declared himself Emperor of the Republic, as a preliminary to his proclaiming himself Emperor of the French. Setting aside the means, it must be acknowledged that it is impossible not to admire the genius of Bonaparte, his tenacity in advancing towards his object, and that adroit employment of suppleness and audacity which made him sometimes dare fortune, sometimes avoid difficulties which he found insurmountable, to arrive, not merely at the throne of Louis XVI., but at the reconstructed throne of Charlemagne.
Pichegru betrayed–His arrest–His conduct to his old aide de camp– Account of Pichegru’s family, and his education at Brienne– Permission to visit M. Carbonnet–The prisoners in the Temple– Absurd application of the word “brigand”–Moreau and the state of public opinion respecting him–Pichegru’s firmness–Pichegru strangled in prison–Public opinion at the time–Report on the death of Pichegru.
I shall now proceed to relate what I knew at the time and what I have since learnt of the different phases of the trial of Georges, Pichegru, Moreau and the other persons accused of conspiracy,–a trial to all the proceedings of which I closely attended. From those proceedings I was convinced that Moreau was no conspirator, but at the same time I must confess that it is very probable the First Consul might believe that he had been engaged in the plot, and I am also of opinion that the real conspirators believed Moreau to be their accomplice and their chief; for the object of the machinations of the police agents was to create a foundation for such a belief, it being important to the success of their scheme.
It has been stated that Moreau was arrested on the day after the confessions made by Bouvet de Lozier; Pichegru was taken by means of the most infamous treachery that a man can be guilty of. The official police had at last ascertained that he was in Paris, but they could not learn the place of his concealment. The police agents had in vain exerted all their efforts to discover him, when an old friend, who had given him his last asylum, offered to deliver him up for 100,000 crowns. This infamous fellow gave an enact description of the chamber which Pichegru occupied in the Rue de Chabanais, and in consequence of his information Comminges, commissary of police, proceeded thither, accompanied by some determined men. Precautions were necessary, because it was known that Pichegru was a man of prodigious bodily strength, and that besides, as he possessed the means of defence, he would not allow himself to be taken without making a desperate resistance. The police entered his chamber by using false keys, which the man who had sold him had the baseness to get made for them. A light was burning on his night table. The party of police, directed by Comminges, overturned the table, extinguished the light, and threw themselves on the general, who struggled with all his strength, and cried out loudly. They were obliged to bind him, and in this state the conqueror of Holland was removed to the Temple, out of which he was destined never to come alive.
It must be owned that Pichegru was far from exciting the same interest as Moreau. The public, and more especially the army, never pardoned him for his negotiations with the Prince de Conde prior to the 18th Fructidor. However, I became acquainted with a trait respecting him while he was in Paris which I think does him much honour. A son of M. Lagrenee, formerly director of the French Academy at Rome, had been one of Pichegru’s aides de camp. This young man, though he had obtained the rank of captain, resigned on the banishment of his general, and resumed the pencil, which he had lad aside for the sword. Pichegru, while he was concealed in Paris; visited his former aide de camp, who insisted upon giving him an asylum; but Pichegru positively refused to accept M. Lagrenee’s offer, being determined not to commit a man who had already given him so strong a proof of friendship. I learned this fact by a singular coincidence. At this period Madame de Bourrienne wished to have a portrait of one of our children; she was recommended to M. Lagrenee, and he related the circumstance to her.
It was on the night of the 22d of February that Pichegru was arrested in the manner I have described. The deceitful friend who gave him up was named Le Blanc, and he went to settle at Hamburg with the reward of his treachery, I had entirely lost sight of Pichegru since we left Brienne, for Pichegru was also a pupil of that establishment; but, being older than either Bonaparte or I, he was already a tutor when we were only scholars, and I very well recollect that it was he who examined Bonaparte in the four first rules of arithmetic.
Pichegru belonged to an agricultural family of Franche-Comte. He had a relation, a minim,’ in that country. The minim, who had the charge of educating the pupils of the Military School of Brienne, being very poor, and their poverty not enabling them to hold out much inducement to other persons to assist them, they applied to the minims of Franche-Comte. In consequence of this application Pichegru’s relation, and some other minims, repaired to Brienne. An aunt of Pichegru, who was a sister of the order of charity, accompanied them, and the care of the infirmary was entrusted to her. This good woman took her nephew to Brienne with her, and he was educated at the school gratuitously. As soon as his age permitted, Pichegru was made a tutor; but all, his ambition was to become a minim. He was, however, dissuaded from that pursuit by his relation, and he adopted the military profession. There is this further remarkable circumstance in the youth of Pichegru, that, though he was older by several years than Bonaparte, they were both made lieutenants of artillery at the same time. What a difference in their destiny! While the one was preparing to ascend a throne the other was a solitary prisoner in the dungeon of the Temple.
I had no motive to induce me to visit either the Temple or La Force, but I received at the time circumstantial details of what was passing in those prisons, particularly in the former; I went, however, frequently to St. Pelagie, where M. Carbonnet was confined. As soon as I knew that he was lodged in that prison I set about getting an admission from Real, who smoothed all difficulties. M. Carbonnet was detained two months in solitary confinement. He was several times examined, but the interrogatories produced no result, and, notwithstanding the desire to implicate him in consequence of the known intimacy between him and Moreau, it was at last found impossible to put him on trial with the other parties accused.
The Temple had more terrors than St. Pelagie, but not for the prisoners who were committed to it, for none of those illustrious victims of police machination displayed any weakness, with the exception of Bouvet de Lozier, who, being sensible of his weakness, wished to prevent its consequences by death. The public, however, kept their attention riveted on the prison in which Moreau was confined. I have already mentioned that Pichegru was conveyed thither on the night of the 22d of February; a fortnight later Georges was arrested, and committed to the same prison.
Either Real or Desmarets, and sometimes both together, repaired to the Temple to examine the prisoners. In vain the police endeavoured to direct public odium against the prisoners by placarding lists of their names through the whole of Paris, even before they were arrested. In those lists they were styled “brigands,” and at the head of “the brigands,” the name of General Moreau shone conspicuously. An absurdity without a parallel. The effect produced was totally opposite to that calculated on; for, as no person could connect the idea of a brigand with that of a general who was the object of public esteem, it was naturally concluded that those whose names were placarded along with his were no more brigands than he.
Public opinion was decidedly in favour of Moreau, and every one was indignant at seeing him described as a brigand. Far from believing him guilty, he was regarded as a victim fastened on because his reputation embarrassed Bonaparte; for Moreau had always been looked up to as capable of opposing the accomplishment of the First Consul’s ambitious views. The whole crime of Moreau was his having numerous partisans among those who still clung to the phantom of the Republic, and that crime was unpardonable in the eyes of the First Consul, who for two years had ruled the destinies of France as sovereign master. What means were not employed to mislead the opinion of the public respecting Moreau? The police published pamphlets of all sorts, and the Comte de Montgaillard was brought from Lyons to draw up a libel implicating him with Pichegru and the exiled Princes. But nothing that was done produced the effect proposed.
The weak character of Moreau is known. In fact, he allowed himself to be circumvented by a few intriguers, who endeavoured to derive advantage from the influence of his name. But he was so decidedly opposed to the reestablishment of the ancient system that he replied to one of the agents who addressed’ him, “I cannot put myself at the head of any movement for the Bourbons, and such an attempt would not succeed. If Pichegru act on another principle–and even in that case I have told him that the Consuls and the Governor of Paris must disappear–I believe that I have a party strong enough in the Senate to obtain possession of authority, and I will immediately make use of it to protect his friends; public opinion will then dictate what may be fit to be done, but I will promise nothing in writing.” Admitting these words attributed to Moreau to be true, they prove that he was dissatisfied with the Consular Government, and that he wished a change; but there is a great difference between a conditional wish and a conspiracy.
The commander of the principal guard of the Temple was General Savory, and he had reinforced that guard by his select gendarmerie. The prisoners did not dare to communicate one with another for fear of mutual injury, but all evinced a courage which created no little alarm as to the consequences of the trial. Neither offers nor threats produced any confessions in the course of the interrogatories. Pichegru, in particular, displayed an extraordinary firmness, and Real one day, on leaving the chamber where he had been examining him, said aloud in the presence of several persons, “What a man that Pichegru is!”
Forty days elapsed after the arrest of General Pichegru when, on the morning of the 6th of April, he was found dead in the chamber he occupied in the Temple. Pichegru had undergone ten examinations; but he had made no confessions, and no person was committed by his replies.
All his declarations, however, gave reason to believe that he would speak out, and that too in a lofty and energetic manner during the progress of the trial. “When I am before my judges,” said he, “my language shall be conformable to truth and the interests of my country.” What would that language have been? Without doubt there was no wish that it should be heard. Pichegru would have kept his promise, for he was distinguished for his firmness of character above everything, even above his qualities as a soldier; differing in this respect from Moreau, who allowed himself to be guided by his wife and mother-in-law, both of whom displayed ridiculous pretensions in their visits to Madame Bonaparte.
The day on which Real spoke before several persons of Pichegru in the way I have related was the day of his last examination. I afterwards learned, from a source on which I can rely, that during his examination Pichegru, though careful to say nothing which could affect the other prisoners, showed no disposition to be tender of him who had sought and resolved his death, but evinced a firm resolution to unveil before the public the odious machinery of the plot into which the police had drawn him. He also declared that he and his companions had no longer any object but to consider of the means of leaving Paris, with the view of escaping from the snares laid for them when their arrest took place. He declared that they had all of them given up the idea of overturning the power of Bonaparte, a scheme into which they had been enticed by shameful intrigues. I am convinced the dread excited by his manifestation of a resolution to speak out with the most rigid candour hastened the death of Pichegru. M. Real, who is still living, knows better than any one else what were Pichegru’s declarations, as he interrogated him. I know not whether that gentleman will think fit, either at the present or some future period, to raise the veil of mystery which hangs over these events, but of this I am sure, he will be unable to deny anything I advance. There is evidence almost amounting to demonstration that Pichegru was strangled in prison, and consequently all idea of suicide must be rejected as inadmissible. Have I positive and substantive proof of what I assert? I have not; but the concurrence of facts and the weight of probabilities do not leave me in possession of the doubts I should wish to entertain on that tragic event. Besides, there exists a certain popular instinct, which is rarely at fault, and it must be in the recollection of many, not only that the general opinion favoured the notion of Pichegru’s assassination, but that the pains taken to give that opinion another direction, by the affected exhibition of the body, only served to strengthen it. He who spontaneously says, I have not committed such or such a crime, at least admits there is room for suspecting his guilt.
The truth is, the tide of opinion never set in with such force against