Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte, v4
Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne
Part 2 out of 2
the Guides, had been ordered out for the occasion: all marched in the
greatest order; with music at the head of each corps. The generals and
their staffs were on horseback, the Ministers in carriages, which were
somewhat remarkable, as they were almost the only private carriages then
in Paris, for hackney-coaches had been hired to convey the Council of
State, and no trouble had been taken to alter them, except by pasting
over the number a piece of paper of the same colour as the body of the
vehicle. The Consul's carriage was drawn by six white horses. With the
sight of those horses was associated the recollection of days of glory
and of peace, for they had been presented to the General-in-Chief of the
army of Italy by the Emperor of Germany after the treaty of Campo-Formio.
Bonaparte also wore the magnificent sabre given him by the Emperor
Francis. With Cambaceres on his left, and Lebrun in the front of the
carriage, the First Consul traversed a part of Paris, taking the Rue de
Thionville; and the Quai Voltaire to the Pont Royal. Everywhere he was
greeted by acclamations of joy, which at that time were voluntary, and
needed not to be commanded by the police.
From the-wicket-of the Carrousel to the gate of the Tuileries the troops
of the Consular Guard were formed in two lines, through which the
procession passed--a royal custom, which made a singular contrast with an
inscription in front of which Bonaparte passed on entering the courtyard.
Two guard-houses had been built, one on the right and another on the left
of the centre gate. On the one to the right were written these words:
"THE TENTH of AUGUST 1792.--ROYALTY IN FRANCE
IS ABOLISHED; AND SHALL NEVER BE RE-ESTABLISHED!"
It was already re-established!
In the meantime the troops had been drawn up in line in the courtyard.
As soon as the Consul's carriage stopped Bonaparte immediately alighted,
and mounted, or, to speak more properly, leaped on his horse, and
reviewed his troops, while the other two Consuls proceeded to the state
apartments of the Tuileries, where the Council of State and the Ministers
awaited them. A great many ladies, elegantly dressed in Greek costume,
which was then the fashion, were seated with Madame Bonaparte at the
windows of the Third Consul's apartments in the Pavilion of Flora. It is
impossible to give an idea of the immense crowds which flowed in from all
quarters. The windows looking to the Carrousel were let for very large
sums; and everywhere arose, as if from one voice, shouts of "Long live
the First Consul! "Who could help being intoxicated by so much
Bonaparte prolonged the review for some time, passed down all the ranks,
and addressed the commanders of corps in terms of approbation and praise.
He then took his station at the gate of the Tuileries, with Murat on his
right, and Lannes on his left, and behind him a numerous staff of young
warriors, whose complexions had been browned by the sun of Egypt and
Italy, and who had been engaged in more battles than they numbered years
When the colours of the 96th, 43d, and 34th demi-brigades, or rather
their flagstaffs surmounted by some shreds, riddled by balls and
blackened by powder, passed before him, he raised his hat and inclined
his head in token of respect. Every homage thus paid by a great captain
to standards which had been mutilated on the field of battle was saluted
by a thousand acclamations. When the troops had finished defiling before
him, the First Consul, with a firm step, ascended the stairs of the
The General's part being finished for the day, that of the Chief of the
State began; and indeed it might already be said that the First Consul
was the whole Consulate. At the risk of interrupting my narrative of
what occurred on our arrival at the Tuileries, by a digression, which may
be thought out of place, I will relate a fact which had no little weight
in hastening Bonaparte's determination to assume a superiority over his
colleagues. It may be remembered that when Roger Ducos and Sieyes bore
the title of Consuls the three members of the Consular commission were
equal, if not in fact at least in right. But when Cambaceres and Lebrun
took their places, Talleyrand; who had at the same time been appointed to
succeed M. Reinhart as Minister of Foreign Affairs, obtained a private
audience of the First Consul in his cabinet, to which I was admitted.
The observations of Talleyrand on this occasion were highly agreeable to
Bonaparte, and they made too deep an impression on my mind to allow me to
"Citizen Consul," said he to him, "you have confided to me the office of
Minister for Foreign Affairs, and I will justify your confidence; but I
must declare to you that from this moment, I will not transact business
with any but yourself. This determination does not proceed from any vain
pride on my part, but is induced, by a desire to serve France. In order
that France may be well governed, in order that there may be a unity of
action in the government, you must be First Consul, and the First Consul
must have the control over all that relates directly to politics; that is
to say, over the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Police,
for Internal Affairs, and over my department, for Foreign Affairs; and,
lastly, over the two great means of execution, the military and naval
forces. It will therefore be most convenient that the Ministers of those
five departments should transact business with you. The Administration
of Justice and the ordering of the Finances are objects certainly
connected with State politics by numerous links, which, however, are not
of so intimate a nature as those of the other departments. If you will
allow me, General, I should advise that the control over the
Administration of Justice be given to the Second Consul, who is well
versed in jurisprudence; and to the Third Consul, who is equally well
acquainted with Finance, the control over that department. That will
occupy and amuse them, and you, General, having at your disposal all the
vital parts of the government, will be able to reach the end you aim at,
the regeneration of France."
Bonaparte did not hear these remarkable words with indifference. They
were too much in accordance with his own secret wishes to be listened to
without pleasure; and he said to me as soon as Talleyrand had taken
leave, "Do you know, Bourrienne, I think Talleyrand gives good advice.
He is a man of great understanding."--"Such is the opinion," I replied,
"of all who know him."--"He is perfectly right." Afterwards he added,
smiling, "Tallyrand is evidently a shrewd man. He has penetrated my
designs. What he advises you know I am anxious to do. But again I say,
he is right; one gets on quicker by oneself. Lebrun is a worthy man, but
he has no policy in his head; he is a book-maker. Cambaceres carries
with him too many traditions of the Revolution. My government must be an
entirely new one."
Talleyrand's advice had been so punctually followed that even on the
occasion of the installation of the Consular Government, while Bonaparte
was receiving all the great civil and military officers of the State in
the hall of presentation, Cambaceres and Lebrun stood by more like
spectators of the scene than two colleagues of the First Consul. The
Minister of the Interior presented the civil authorities of Paris; the
Minister of War, the staff of the 17th military division; the Minister of
Marine, several naval officers; and the staff of the Consular Guard was
presented by Murat. As our Consular republicans were not exactly
Spartans, the ceremony of the presentations was followed by grand dinner-
parties. The First Consul entertained at his table, the two other
Consuls, the Ministers, and the Presidents of the great bodies of the
State. Murat treated the heads of the army; and the members of the
Council of State, being again seated in their hackney-coaches with
covered numbers, drove off to dine with Lucien.
Before taking possession of the Tuileries we had frequently gone there to
see that the repairs, or rather the whitewashing, which Bonaparte had
directed to be done, was executed. On our first visit, seeing a number
of red caps of liberty painted on the walls, he said to M. Lecomte, at
that time the architect in charge, "Get rid of all these things; I do not
like to see such rubbish."
The First Consul gave directions himself for what little alterations he
wanted in his own apartments. A state bed--not that of Louis XVI.--was
placed in the chamber next his cabinet, on the south side, towards the
grand staircase of the Pavilion of Flora. I may as well mention here
that he very seldom occupied that bed, for Bonaparte was very simple in
his manner of living in private, and was not fond of state, except as a
means of imposing on mankind. At the Luxembourg, at Malmaison, and
during the first period that he occupied the Tuileries, Bonaparte, if I
may speak in the language of common life, always slept with his wife.
He went every evening down to Josephine by a small staircase leading from
a wardrobe attached to his cabinet, and which had formerly been the
chapel of Maria de Medici. I never went to Bonaparte's bedchamber but
by this staircase; and when he came to our cabinet it was always by the
wardrobe which I have mentioned. The door opened opposite the only
window of our room, and it commanded a view of the garden.
As for our cabinet, where so many great, and also small events were
prepared, and where I passed so many hours of my life, I can, even now,
give the most minute description of it to those who like such details.
There were two tables. The best, which was the First Consul's, stood in
the middle of the room, and his armchair was turned with its back to the
fireplace, having the window on the right. To the right of this again
was a little closet where Duroc sat, through which we could communicate
with the clerk of the office and the grand apartments of tile Court.
When the First Consul was seated at his table in his chair (the arms of
which he so frequently mutilated with his penknife) he had a large
bookcase opposite to him. A little to the right, on one side of the
bookcase, was another door, opening into the cabinet which led directly
to the state bedchamber which I have mentioned. Thence we passed into
the grand Presentation Saloon, on the ceiling of which Lebrun had painted
a likeness of Louis XIV. A tri-coloured cockade placed on the forehead
of the great King still bore witness of the imbecile turpitude of the
Convention. Lastly came the hall of the Guards, in front of the grand
staircase of the Pavilion of Flora.
My writing-table, which was extremely plain, stood near the window, and
in summer I had a view of the thick foliage of the chestnut-trees; but in
order to see the promenaders in the garden I was obliged to raise myself
from my seat. My back was turned to the General's side, so that it
required only a slight movement of the head to speak to each other.
Duroc was seldom in his little cabinet, and that was the place where I
gave some audiences. The Consular cabinet, which afterwards became the
Imperial, has left many impressions on my mind; and I hope the reader, in
going through these volumes, will not think that they have been of too
slight a description.
The Tuileries--Royalty in perspective--Remarkable observation--
Presentations--Assumption of the prerogative of mercy--M. Defeu--
M. de Frotte--Georges Cadondal's audience of Bonaparte--Rapp's
precaution and Bonaparte's confidence--The dignity of France--
Napper Tandy and Blackwell delivered up by the Senate of Hamburg--
Contribution in the Egyptian style--Valueless bill--Fifteen thousand
francs in the drawer of a secretaire--Josephine's debts--Evening
walks with Bonaparte.
The morning after that ardently wished-for day on which we took
possession of the Palace of the Kings of France I observed to Bonaparte
on entering his chamber, "Well, General, you have got here without much
difficulty, and with the applause of the people! Do you remember what
you said to me in the Rue St. Anne nearly two years ago?"--"Ay, true
enough, I recollect. You see what it is to have the mind set on a thing.
Only two years have gone by! Don't you think we have not worked badly
since that time? Upon the whole I am very well content. Yesterday
passed off well. Do you imagine that all those who came to flatter me
were sincere? No, certainly not: but the joy of the people was real.
They know what is right. Besides, consult the grand thermometer of
opinion, the price of the funds: on the 17th Brumaire at 11 francs, on
the 20th at 16 and to-day at 21. In such a state of things I may let the
Jacobins prate as they like. But let them not talk too loudly either!"
As soon as he was dressed we went to look through the Gallery of Diana
and examine the statues which had been placed there by his orders. We
ended our morning's work by taking complete possession of our new
residence. I recollect Bonaparte saying to me, among other things, "To
be at the Tuileries, Bourrienne, is not all. We must stay here. Who, in
Heaven's name, has not already inhabited this palace? Ruffians,
conventionalists! But hold! there is your brother's house! Was it not
from those windows I saw the Tuileries besieged, and the good Louis XVI.
carried off? But be assured they will not come here again!"
The Ambassadors and other foreign Ministers then in Paris were presented
to the First Consul at a solemn audience. On this occasion all the
ancient ceremonials belonging to the French Court were raked up, and in
place of chamberlains and a grand master of ceremonies a Counsellor of
State, M. Benezech, who was once Minister for Foreign Affairs,
When the Ambassadors had all arrived M. Benezech conducted them into the
cabinet, in which were the three Consuls, the Ministers, and the Council
of State. The Ambassadors presented their credentials to the First
Consul, who handed them to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. These
presentations were followed by others; for example, the Tribunal of
Cassation, over which the old advocate, Target, who refused to defend
Louis XVI., then presided. All this passed in view of the three Consuls;
but the circumstance which distinguished the First Consul from his
colleagues was, that the official personages, on leaving the audience-
chamber, were conducted to Madame Bonaparte's apartments, in imitation of
the old practice of waiting on the Queen after presentation to the King.
Thus old customs of royalty crept by degrees into the former abodes of
royalty. Amongst the rights attached to the Crown, and which the
Constitution of the year VIII. did not give to the First Consul, was one
which he much desired to possess, and which, by the most happy of all
usurpations, he arrogated to himself. This was the right of granting
pardon. Bonaparte felt a real pleasure in saving men under the sentence
of the law; and whenever the imperious necessity of his policy, to which,
in truth, he sacrificed everything, permitted it, he rejoiced in the
exercise of mercy. It would seem as if he were thankful to the persons
to whom he rendered such service merely because he had given them
occasion to be thankful to him. Such was the First Consul: I do not
speak of the Emperor. Bonaparte, the First Consul, was accessible to the
solicitations of friendship in favour of persons placed under
proscription. The following circumstance, which interested me much,
affords an incontestable proof of what I state:--
Whilst we were still at the Luxembourg, M. Defeu, a French emigrant, was
taken in the Tyrol with arms in his hand by the troops of the Republic.
He was carried to Grenoble, and thrown into the military prison of that
town. In the course of January General Ferino, then commanding at
Grenoble, received orders to put the young emigrant on his trial. The
laws against emigrants taken in arms were terrible, and the judges dared
not be indulgent. To be tried in the morning, condemned in the course of
the day, and shot in the evening, was the usual course of those
implacable proceedings. One of my cousins, the daughter of M.
Poitrincourt, came from Sens to Paris to inform me of the dreadful
situation of M. Defeu. She told me that he was related to the most
respectable families of the town of Sens, and that everybody felt the
greatest interest in his fate.
I had escaped for a few moments to keep the appointment I made with
Mademoiselle Poitrincourt. On my return I perceived the First Consul
surprised at finding himself alone in the cabinet, which I was not in the
habit of quitting without his knowledge. "Where have you been?" said he.
"I have been to see one of my relations, who solicits & favour of you."--
"What is it?" I then informed him of the unfortunate situation of M.
Defeu. His first answer was dreadful. "No pity! no pity for emigrants!
Whoever fights against his country is a child who tries to kill his
mother!" This first burst of anger being over, I returned to the charge.
I urged the youth of M. Defeu, and the good effect which clemency would
produce. "Well," said he, "write--
"The First Consul orders the judgment on M. Defeu to be suspended."
He signed this laconic order, which I instantly despatched to General
Ferino. I acquainted my cousin with what had passed, and remained at
ease as to the result of the affair.
Scarcely had I entered the chamber of the First Consul the next morning
when he said to me, "Well, Bourrienne, you say nothing about your M.
Defeu. Are you satisfied?"--"General, I cannot find terms to express my
gratitude."--"Ah, bah! But I do not like to do things by halves. Write
to Ferino that I wish M. Defeu to be instantly set at liberty. Perhaps I
am serving one who will prove ungrateful. Well, so much the worse for
him. As to these matters, Bourrienne, always ask them from me. When I
refuse, it is because I cannot help it."
I despatched at my own expense an extraordinary courier, who arrived in
time to save M. Defeu's life. His mother, whose only son he was, and M.
Blanchet, his uncle, came purposely from Sens to Paris to express their
gratitude to me. I saw tears of joy fall from the eyes of a mother who
had appeared to be destined to shed bitter drops, and I said to her as I
felt, "that I was amply recompensed by the success which had attended my
Emboldened by this success, and by the benevolent language of the First
Consul, I ventured to request the pardon of M. de Frotte, who was
strongly recommended to me by most honourable persons. Comte Louis de
Frotte had at first opposed all negotiation for the pacification of La
Vendee. At length, by a series of unfortunate combats, he was, towards
the end of January, reduced to the necessity of making himself the
advances which he had rejected when made by others. At this period he
addressed a letter to General Guidal, in which he offered pacificatory
proposals. A protection to enable him to repair to Alencon was
transmitted to him. Unfortunately for M. de Frotte, he did not confine
himself to writing to General Guidal, for whilst the safe-conduct which
he had asked was on the way to him, he wrote to his lieutenants, advising
them not to submit or consent to be disarmed. This letter was
intercepted. It gave all the appearance of a fraudulent stratagem to his
proposal to treat for peace. Besides, this opinion appeared to be
confirmed by a manifesto of M. de Frotte, anterior, it is true, to the
offers of pacification, but in which he announced to all his partisans
the approaching end of Bonaparte's "criminal enterprise."
I had more trouble than in M: Defeu's case to induce the First Consul to
exercise his clemency. However, I pressed him so much, I laboured so
hard to convince him of the happy effect of such indulgence, that at
length I obtained an order to suspend the judgment. What a lesson I then
experienced of the evil which may result from the loss of time! Not
supposing that matters were so far advanced as they were, I did not
immediately send off the courier with the order for the suspension of the
judgment. Besides, the Minister-of-Police had marked his victim, and he
never lost time when evil was to be done. Having, therefore, I know not
for what motive, resolved on the destruction of M. de Frotte, he sent an
order to hasten his trial.
Comte Louis de Frotte was brought to trial on the 28th Pluviose,
condemned the same day, and executed the next morning, the day before we
entered the Tuileries. The cruel precipitation of the Minister rendered
the result of my solicitations abortive. I had reason to think that
after the day on which the First Consul granted me the order for delay he
had received some new accusation against M. de Frotte, for when he heard
of his death he appeared to me very indifferent about the tardy arrival
of the order for suspending judgment. He merely said to me, with unusual
insensibility, "You should take your measures better. You see it is not
Though Bonaparte put no faith in the virtue of men, he had confidence in
their honour. I had proof of this in a matter which deserves to be
recorded in history. When, during the first period of our abode at the
Tuileries, he had summoned the principal chiefs of, La Vendee to
endeavour to bring about the pacification of that unhappy country; he
received Georges Cadoudal in a private audience. The disposition in
which I beheld him the evening before the day appointed for this audience
inspired me with the most flattering hopes. Rapp introduced Georges into
the grand salon looking into the garden. Rapp left him alone with the
First Consul, but on returning to the cabinet where I was he did not
close either of the two doors of the state bedchamber which separated the
cabinet from the salon. We saw the First Consul and Georges walk from
the window to the bottom of the salon--then return--then go back again.
This lasted for a long time. The conversation appeared very animated,
and we heard several things, but without any connection. There was
occasionally a good deal of ill-humour displayed in their tone and
gestures. The interview ended in nothing. The First Consul, perceiving
that Georges entertained some apprehensions for his personal safety, gave
him assurances of security in the most noble manner, saying, "You take a
wrong view of things, and are wrong in not coming to some understanding;
but if you persist in wishing to return to your country you shall depart
as freely as you came to Paris." When Bonaparte returned to his cabinet
he said to Rapp, "Tell me, Rapp, why you left these doors open, and
stopped with Bourrienne?" Rapp replied, "If you had closed the doors I
would have opened them again. Do you think I would have left you alone
with a man like that? There would have been danger in it."--"No, Rapp,"
said Bonaparte, "you cannot think so." When we were alone the First
Consul appeared pleased with Rapp's attachment, but very vexed at
Georges' refusal. He said, "He does not take a correct view of things;
but the extravagance of his principles has its source in noble
sentiments, which must give him great influence over his countrymen.
It is necessary, however, to bring this business soon to an end."
Of all the actions of Louis XIV. that which Bonaparte most admired was
his having made the Doge of Genoa send ambassadors to Paris to apologise
to him. The slightest insult offered in a foreign country to the rights
and dignity of France put Napoleon beside himself. This anxiety to have
the French Government respected exhibited itself in an affair which made
much noise at the period, but which was amicably arranged by the soothing
influence of gold.
Two Irishmen, Napper Tandy and Blackwell, who had been educated in
France, and whose names and rank as officers appeared in the French army
list, had retired to Hamburg. The British Government claimed them as
traitors to their country, and they were given up; but, as the French
Government held them to be subjects of France, the transaction gave rise
to bitter complaints against the Senate of Hamburg.
Blackwell had been one of the leaders of the united Irishmen. He had
procured his naturalisation in France, and had attained the rank, of chef
d'escadrou. Being sent on a secret mission to Norway, the ship in which
he was embarked was wrecked on the coast of that kingdom. He then
repaired to Hamburg, where the Senate placed him under arrest on the
demand of Mr. Crawford, the English Minister. After being detained in
prison a whole year he was conveyed to England to be tried. The French
Government interfered, and preserved, if not, his liberty, at least his
Napper Tandy was also an Irishman. To escape the search made after him,
on account of the sentiments of independence which had induced him to
engage in the contest for the liberty of his country, he got on board a
French brig, intending to land at Hamburg and pass into Sweden. Being
exempted from the amnesty by the Irish Parliament, he was claimed by the
British Government, and the Senators of Hamburg forgot honour and
humanity in their alarm at the danger which at that moment menaced their
little republic both from England and France. The Senate delivered up
Napper Tandy; he was carried to Ireland, and condemned to death, but owed
the suspension of his execution to the interference of France. He
remained two years in prison, when M. Otto, who negotiated with Lord
Hawkesbury the preliminaries of peace, obtained the release of Napper
Tandy, who was sent back to France.
The First Consul spoke at first of signal vengeance; but the Senate of
Hamburg sent him a memorial, justificatory of its conduct, and backed the
apology with a sum of four millions and a half, which mollified him
considerably. This was in some sort a recollection of Egypt--one of
those little contributions with which the General had familiarised the
pashas; with this difference, that on the present occasion not a single
sous went into the national treasury. The sum was paid to the First
Consul through the hands of M. Chapeau Rouge.
--[A solemn deputation from the Senate arrived at the Tuileries to
make public apologies to Napoleon. He again testified his
indignation: and when the envoys urged their weakness he said to
them. "Well and had you not the resource of weak states? was it not
in your power to let them escape?" (Napoleon's Memoirs).]--
I kept the four millions and a half in Dutch bonds in a secretaire for a
week. Bonaparte then determined to distribute them; after paying
Josephine's debts, and the whole of the great expenses incurred at
Malmaison, he dictated to me a list of persons to whom he wished to make
presents. My name did not escape his lips, and consequently I had not
the trouble to transcribe it; but some time after he said to me, with the
most engaging kindness, "Bourrienne, I have given you none of the money
which came from Hamburg, but I will make you amends for it." He took
from his drawer a large and broad sheet of printed paper, with blanks
filled up in his own handwriting, and said to me, "Here is a bill for
300,000 Italian livres on the Cisalpine Republic, for the price of cannon
furnished. It is endorsed Halter and Collot--I give it you." To make
this understood, I ought to state that cannon had been sold to the
Cisalpine. Republic, for the value of which the Administrator-general of
the Italian finances drew on the Republic, and the bills were paid over
to M. Collot, a provision contractor, and other persons. M. Collot had
given one of these bills for 300,000 livres to Bonaparte in quittance of
a debt, but the latter had allowed the bill to run out without troubling
himself about it. The Cisalpine Republic kept the cannons and the money,
and the First Consul kept his bill. When I had examined it I said,
"General, it has been due for a long time; why have you not got it paid?
The endorsers are no longer liable."--"France is bound to discharge debts
of this kind;" said he; "send the paper to de Fermont: he will discount
it for three per cent. You will not have in ready money more than about
9000 francs of renters, because the Italian livre is not equal to the
franc." I thanked him, and sent the bill to M. de Fermont. He replied
that the claim was bad, and that the bill would not be liquidated because
it did not come within the classifications made by the laws passed in the
months the names of which terminated in 'aire, ose, al, and or'.
I showed M. de Fermont's answer to the First Consul, who said, "Ah, bah!
He understands nothing about it--he is wrong: write." He then dictated a
letter, which promised very favourably for the discounting of the bill;
but the answer was a fresh refusal. I said, "General, M. de Fermont does
not attend to you any more than to myself." Bonaparte took the letter,
read it, and said, in the tone of a man who knew beforehand what he was
about to be, informed of, "Well, what the devil would you have me do,
since the laws are opposed to it? Persevere; follow the usual modes of
liquidation, and something will come of it! "What finally happened was,
that by a regular decree this bill was cancelled, torn, and deposited in
the archives. These 300,000 livres formed part of the money which
Bonaparte brought from Italy. If the bill was useless to me it was also
useless to him. This scrap of paper merely proves that be brought more.
than 25,000 francs from Italy.
I never had, from the General-in-Chief of the army of Italy, nor from the
General in-Chief of the army of, Egypt, nor from the First Consul, for
ten years, nor from the Consul for life, any fixed salary: I took from
his drawer what was necessary for my expenses as well as his own: He
never asked me for any account. After the transaction of the bill on the
insolvent Cisalpine Republic he said to me, at the beginning of the
winter of 1800, "Bourrienne, the weather, is becoming very bad; I will go
but seldom to Malmaison. Whilst I am at council get my papers and little
articles from Malmaison; here is the key of my secretaire, take out
everything that is there." I, got into the carriage at two o'clock and
returned at six. When he had dined I placed upon the table of his
cabinet the various articles which I had found in his secretaire
including 15,000 francs (somewhere about L 600 of English money) in
banknotes which were in the corner of a little drawer. When he looked at
them he said, "Here is money--what is the meaning of this?" I replied,
"I know nothing about it, except that it was in your secretaire."--
"Oh yes; I had forgotten it. It was for my trifling expenses. Here,
take it." I remembered well that one summer morning he had given me his
key to bring him two notes of 1000 francs for some incidental expense,
but I had no idea that he had not drawn further on his little treasure.
I have stated the appropriation of the four millions and a half, the
result of the extortion inflicted on the Senate of Hamburg, in the affair
of Napper Tandy and Blackwell.
The whole, however, Was not disposed of in presents. A considerable
portion was reserved fob paying Josephine's debts, and this business
appears to me to deserve some remarks.
The estate of Malmaison had cost 160,000 francs. Josephine had purchased
it of M. Lecouteuix while we were in Egypt. Many embellishments, and
some new buildings, had been made there; and a park had been added, which
had now become beautiful. All this could not be done for nothing, and
besides, it was very necessary that what was due for the original
purchase should be entirely discharged; and this considerable item was
not the only debt of Josephine. The creditors murmured, which had a bad
effect in Paris; and I confess I was so well convinced that the First
Consul would be extremely displeased that I constantly delayed the moment
of speaking to him on the subject. It was therefore with extreme
satisfaction I learned that M. de Talleyrand had anticipated me. No
person was more capable than himself of gilding the pill, as one may say,
to Bonaparte. Endowed with as much independence of character as of mind,
he did him the service, at the risk of offending him, to tell him that a
great number of creditors expressed their discontent in bitter complaints
respecting the debts contracted by Madame Bonaparte during his expedition
to the East. Bonaparte felt that his situation required him promptly to
remove the cause of such complaints. It was one night about half-past
eleven o'clock that M. Talleyrand introduced this delicate subject. As
soon he was gone I entered the little cabinet; Bonaparte said to me,
"Bourrienne, Talleyrand has been speaking to me about the debts of my
Wife. I have the money from Hamburg--ask her the exact amount of her
debts: let her confess all. I wish to finish, and not begin again. But
do not pay without showing me the bills of those rascals: they are a gang
Hitherto the apprehension of an unpleasant scene, the very idea of which
made Josephine tremble, had always prevented me from broaching this
subject to the First Consul; but, well pleased that Talleyrand had first
touched upon it, I resolved to do all in my power to put an end to the
The next morning I saw Josephine. She was at first delighted with her
husband's intentions; but this feeling did not last long. When I asked
her for an exact account of what she owed she entreated me not to press
it, but content myself with what she should confess. I said to her,
"Madame, I cannot deceive you respecting the disposition of the First
Consul. He believes that you owe a considerable sum, and is willing to
discharge it. You will, I doubt not, have to endure some bitter
reproaches, and a violent scene; but the scene will be just the same for
the whole as for a part. If you conceal a large proportion of your debts
at the end of some time murmurs will recommence, they will reach the ears
of the First Consul, and his anger will display itself still more
strikingly. Trust to me--state all; the result will be the same; you
will hear but once the disagreeable things he will say to you; by
reservations you will renew them incessantly." Josephine said, "I can
never tell all; it is impossible. Do me the service to keep secret what
I say to you. I owe, I believe, about 1,200,000 francs, but I wish to
confess only 600,000; I will contract no more debts, and will pay the
rest little by little out of my savings."--"Here, Madame, my first
observations recur. As I do not believe he estimates your debts at so
high a sum as 600,000 francs, I can warrant that you will not experience
more displeasure for acknowledging to 1,200,000 than to 600,000; and by
going so far you will get rid of them for ever."--"I can never do it,
Bourrienne; I know him; I can never support his violence." After a
quarter of an hour's further discussion on the subject I was obliged to
yield to her earnest solicitation, and promise to mention only the
600,000 francs to the First Consul.
The anger and ill-humour of Bonaparte may be imagined. He strongly
suspected that his wife was dissembling in some respect; but he said,
"Well, take 600,000 francs, but liquidate the debts for that sum, and let
me hear nothing more on the subject. I authorise you to threaten these
tradesmen with paying nothing if they, do not reduce their enormous
charges. They ought to be taught not to be so ready in giving credit."
Madame Bonaparte gave me all her bills. The extent to which the articles
had been overcharged, owing to the fear of not being paid for a long
period, and of deductions being made from the amount, was inconceivable.
It appeared to me, also, that there must be some exaggeration in the
number of articles supplied. I observed in the milliner's bill thirty-
eight new hats, of great price, in one month. There was likewise a
charge of 1800 francs for heron plumes, and 800 francs for perfumes.
I asked Josephine whether she wore out two hats in one day? She objected
to this charge for the hats, which she merely called a mistake. The
impositions which the saddler attempted, both in the extravagance of his
prices and in charging for articles which he had not furnished, were
astonishing. I need say nothing of the other tradesmen, it was the same
system of plunder throughout.
I availed myself fully of the First Consul's permission, and spared
neither reproaches nor menaces. I am ashamed to say that the greater
part of the tradesmen were contented with the half of what they demanded.
One of them received 35,000 francs for a bill of 80,000; and he had the
impudence to tell me that he made a good profit nevertheless. Finally, I
was fortunate enough, after the most vehement disputes, to settle
everything for 600,000 francs. Madame Bonaparte, however, soon fell
again into the same excesses, but fortunately money became more
plentiful. This inconceivable mania of spending money was almost the
sole cause of her unhappiness. Her thoughtless provusion occasioned
permanent disorder in her household until the period of Bonaparte's
second marriage, when, I am informed, she became regular in her
expenditure. I could not say so of her when she was Empress in 1804.
--[Notwithstanding her husband's wish, she could never bring her
establishment into any order or rule. He wished that no tradesmen
should ever reach her, but he was forced to yield on this point.
The small inner roams were filled with them, as with artists of all
sorts. She had a mania for having herself painted, and gave her
portraits to whoever wished for one, relations, 'femmes de chambre',
even to tradesmen. They never ceased bringing her diamonds, jewels,
shawls, materials for dresses, and trinkets of all kinds; she bought
everything without ever asking the price; and generally forgot what
she had purchased. . . All the morning she had on a shawl which
she draped on her shoulders with a grace I have seen in no one else.
Bonaparte, who thought her shawls covered her too much, tore them
off, and sometimes threw them into the fire; then she sent for
another (Remusat, tome ii. pp. 343-345). After the divorce her
income, large as it was, was insufficient, but the Emperor was more
compassionate then, and when sending the Comte Mollien to settle her
affairs gave him strict orders "not to make her weep" (Meneval,
tome iii. p.237]--
The amiable Josephine had not less ambition in little thins than her
husband had in great. She felt pleasure in acquiring and not in
possessing. Who would suppose it? She grew tired of the beauty of the
park of Malmaison, and was always asking me to take her out on the high
road, either in the direction of Nanterre, or on that of Marly, in the
midst of the dust occasioned by the passing of carriages. The noise of
the high road appeared to her preferable to the calm silence of the
beautiful avenues of the park, and in this respect Hortense had the same
taste as her mother. This whimsical fancy astonished Bonaparte, and he
was sometimes vexed at it. My intercourse with Josephine was delightful;
for I never saw a woman who so constantly entered society with such an
equable disposition, or with so much of the spirit of kindness, which is
the first principle of amiability. She was so obligingly attentive as to
cause a pretty suite of apartments to be prepared at Malmaison for me and
She pressed me earnestly, and with all her known grace, to accept it; but
almost as much a captive at Paris as a prisoner of state, I wished to
have to myself in the country the moments of liberty I was permitted to
enjoy. Yet what was this liberty? I had bought a little house at Ruel,
which I kept during two years and a half. When I saw my friends there,
it had to be at midnight, of at five o'clock in the morning; and the
First Consul would often send for me in the night when couriers arrived.
It was for this sort of liberty I refused Josephine's kind offer.
Bonaparte came once to see me in my retreat at Ruel, but Josephine and
Hortense came often: It was a favourite walk with these ladies.
At Paris I was less frequently absent from Bonaparte than at Malmaison.
We sometimes in the evening walked together in the garden of the
Tuileries after the gates were closed. In these evening walks he always
wore a gray greatcoat, and a round hat. I was directed to answer,
"The First Consul," to the sentinel's challenge of, "Who goes there?"
These promenades, which were of much benefit to Bonaparte, and me also,
as a relaxation from our labours, resembled those which we had at
Malmaison. As to our promenades in the city, they were often very
At the period of our first inhabiting the Tuileries, when I saw Bonaparte
enter the cabinet at eight o'clock in the evening in his gray coat, I
knew he would say, "Bourrienne, come and take a turn." Sometimes, then,
instead of going out by the garden arcade, we would take the little gate
which leads from the court to the apartments of the Due d'Angouleme. He
would take my arm, and we would go to buy articles of trifling value in
the shops of the Rue St. Honore; but we did not extend our excursions
farther than Rue de l'Arbre Sec. Whilst I made the shopkeeper exhibit
before us the articles which I appeared anxious to buy he played his part
in asking questions.
Nothing was more amusing than to see him endeavouring to imitate the
careless and jocular tone of the young men of fashion. How awkward was
he in the attempt to put on dandy airs when pulling up the corners of his
cravat he would say, "Well, Madame, is there anything new to-day?
Citizen, what say they of Bonaparte? Your shop appears to be well
supplied. You surely have a great deal of custom. What do people say of
that buffoon; Bonaparte?" He was made quite happy one day when we were
obliged to retire hastily from a shop to avoid the attacks drawn upon us
by the irreverent tone in which Bonaparte spoke of the First Consul.
War and monuments--Influence of the recollections of Egypt--
First improvements in Paris--Malmaison too little--St. Cloud taken
--The Pont des Arts--Business prescribed for me by Bonaparte--
Pecuniary remuneration--The First Consul's visit to the Pritanee--
His examination of the pupils--Consular pensions--Tragical death of
Miackzinski--Introduction of vaccination--Recall of the members of
the Constituent Assembly--The "canary" volunteers--Tronchet and
Target--Liberation of the Austrian prisoners--Longchamps and sacred
The destruction of men and the construction of monuments were two things
perfectly in unison in the mind of Bonaparte. It may be said that his
passion for monuments almost equalled his passion for war;
--[Take pleasure, if you can, in reading your returns. The good
condition of my armies is owing to my devoting to them one or two
hours in every day. When the monthly returns of my armies and of my
fleets, which form twenty thick volumes, are sent to me. I give up
every other occupation in order to read them in detail and to
observe the difference between one monthly return and another.
No young girl enjoys her novel so much as I do these returns!
(Napoleon to Joseph, 20th August 1806--Du Casse, tome iii.
but as in all things he disliked what was little and mean, so he liked
vast constructions and great battles. The sight of the colossal ruins of
the monuments of Egypt had not a little contributed to augment his
natural taste for great structures. It was not so much the monuments
themselves that he admired, but the historical recollections they
perpetuate the great names they consecrate, the important events they
attest. What should he have cared for the column which we beheld on our
arrival in Alexandria had it not been Pompey's pillar? It is for artists
to admire or censure its proportions and ornaments, for men of learning
to explain its inscriptions; but the name of Pompey renders it an object
of interest to all.
When endeavouring to sketch the character of Bonaparte, I ought to have
noticed his taste for monuments, for without this characteristic trait
something essential is wanting to the completion of the portrait. This
taste, or, as it may more properly be called, this passion for monuments,
exercised no small influence on his thoughts and projects of glory; yet
it did not deter him from directing attention to public improvements; of
a less ostentatious kind. He wished for great monuments to perpetuate
the recollection of his glory; but at the same time he knew how to
appreciate all that was truly useful. He could very rarely be reproached
for rejecting any plan without examination; and this examination was a
speedy affair, for his natural tact enabled him immediately to see things
in their proper light.
Though most of the monuments and embellishments of Paris are executed
from the plans of men of talent, yet some owe their origin to
circumstances merely accidental. Of this I can mention an example.
I was standing at the window of Bonaparte's' cabinet, which looked into
the garden of the Tuileries. He had gone out, and I took advantage of
his absence to arise from my chair, for I was tired of sitting. He had
scarcely been gone a minute when he unexpectedly returned to ask me for a
paper. "What are you doing there, Bourrienne? I'll wager anything you
are admiring the ladies walking on the terrace."--"Why, I must confess I
do sometimes amuse myself in that way," replied I; "but I assure you,
General, I was now thinking of something else. I was looking at that
villainous left bank of the Seine, which always annoys me with the gaps
in its dirty quay, and the floodings which almost every winter prevent
communication with the Faubourg St. Germain; and I was thinking I would
speak to you on the subject." He approached the window, and, looking
out, said, "You are right, it is very ugly; and very offensive to see
dirty linen washed before our windows. Here, write immediately: 'The
quay of the Ecole de Natation is to. be finished during next campaign.'
Send that order to the Minister of the Interior." The quay was finished
the year following.
An instance of the enormous difference which frequently appears between
the original estimates of architects and their subsequent accounts I may
mention what occurred in relation to the Palace of St. Cloud. But I must
first say a word about the manner in which Bonaparte originally refused
and afterwards took possession of the Queen's pleasure-house. Malmaison
was a suitable country residence for Bonaparte as long as he remained
content with his town apartments in the little Luxembourg; but that
Consular 'bagatelle' was too confined in comparison with the spacious
apartments in the Tuileries. The inhabitants of St. Cloud, well-advised,
addressed a petition to the Legislative Body, praying that their deserted
chateau might be made the summer residence of the First Consul. The
petition was referred to the Government; but Bonaparte, who was not yet
Consul for life, proudly declared that so long as he was at the head of
affairs, and, indeed, for a year afterwards, he would accept no national
recompense. Sometime after we went to visit the palace of the 18th
Brumaire. Bonaparte liked it exceedingly, but all was in a, state of
complete dilapidation. It bore evident marks of the Revolution. The
First Consul did not wish, as yet, to burden the budget of the State with
his personal expenses, and he was alarmed at the enormous sum required to
render St. Cloud habitable. Flattery had not yet arrived at the degree
of proficiency which it subsequently attained; but even then his
flatterers boldly assured him he might take possession of St. Cloud for
25,000 francs. I told the First Consul that considering the ruinous
state of the place, I could to say that the expense would amount to more
than 1,200,000 francs. Bonaparte determined to have a regular estimate
of the expense, and it amounted to nearly 3,000,000. He thought it a
great sum; but as he had resolved to make St. Cloud his residence he gave
orders for commencing the repairs, the expense of which, independently of
the furniture, amounted to 6,000,000. So much for the 3,000,000 of the
architect and the 25,000 francs of the flatterers.
When the First Consul contemplated the building of the Pont des Arts we
had a long conversation on the subject. I observed that it would be much
better to build the bridge of stone. "The first object of monuments of
this kind," said I, "is public utility. They require solidity of
appearance, and their principal merit is duration. I cannot conceive,
General, why, in a country where there is abundance of fine stone of
every quality, the use of iron should be preferred."--"Write," said
Bonaparte, "to Fontaine and Percier, the architects, and ask what they
think of it." I wrote and they stated in their answer that "bridges were
intended for public utility and the embellishment of cities. The
projected bridge between the Louvre and the Quatre-Nations would
unquestionably fulfil the first of these objects, as was proved by the
great number of persons who daily crossed the Seine at that point in
boats; that the site fixed upon between the Pont Neuf and the Tuileries
appeared to be the best that could be chosen for the purpose; and that on
the score of ornament Paris would gain little by the construction of an
iron bridge, which would be very narrow, and which, from its light form,
would not correspond with the grandeur of the two bridges between which
it would be placed."
When we had received the answer of MM. Percier and Fontaine, we again had
a conversation on the subject of the bridge. I told the First Consul
that I perfectly concurred in the opinion of MM. Fontame and Percier; how
ever, he would have his own way, and thus was authorised the construction
of the toy which formed a communication between the Louvre and the
Institute. But no sooner was the Pont des Arts finished than Bonaparte
pronounced it to be mean and out of keeping with the other bridges above
and below it. One day when visiting the Louvre he stopped at one of the
windows looking towards the Pout des Arts and said, "There is no
solidity, no grandeur about that bridge. In England, where stone is
scarce, it is very natural that iron should be used for arches of large
dimensions. But the case is different in France, where the requisite
material is abundant."
The infernal machine of the 3d Nivose, of which I shall presently speak
more at length, was the signal for vast changes in the quarter of the
Tuileries. That horrible attempt was at least so far attended by happy
results that it contributed to the embellishment of Paris. It was
thought more advisable for the Government to buy and pull down the houses
which had been injured by the machine than to let them be put under
repair. As an example of Bonaparte's grand schemes in building I may
mention that, being one day at the Louvre, he pointed towards St. Germain
l'Auxerrois and said to me, "That is where I will build an imperial
street. It shall run from here to the Barriere du Trone. It shall be a
hundred feet broad, and have arcades and plantations. This street shall
be the finest in the world."
The palace of the King of Rome, which was to face the Pont de Jena and
the Champ de Mars, would have been in some measure isolated from Paris,
with which, however, it was to be connected by a line of palaces. These
were to extend along the quay, and were destined as splendid residences
for the Ambassadors of foreign sovereigns, at least as long as there
should be any sovereigns Europe except Napoleon. The Temple of Glory,
too, which was to occupy the site of the Church of la Madeleine, was
never finished. If the plan of this monument, proved the necessity.
which Bonaparte felt of constantly holding out stimulants to his
soldiers, its relinquishment was at least a proof of his wisdom. He who
had reestablished religious worship in France, and had restored to its
destination the church of the Invalides, which was for a time
metamorphosed into the Temple of Mars, foresaw that a Temple of Glory
would give birth to a sort of paganism incompatible with the ideas of the
The recollection of the magnificent Necropolis of Cairo frequently
recurred to. Bonaparte's mind. He had admired that city of the dead,
which he had partly contributed to people; and his design was to make,
at, the four cardinal points of Paris, four vast cemeteries on the plan
of that at Cairo.
Bonaparte determined that all the new streets of Paris should be 40 feet
wide, and be provided with foot-pavements; in short, he thought nothing
too grand for the embellishment of the capital of a country which he
wished to make the first in the world. Next to war, he regard the
embellishment of Paris as the source of his glory; and he never
considered a victory fully achieved until he had raised a monument to
transmit its memory to posterity. He, wanted glory, uninterrupted
glory, for France as well as for himself: How often, when talking over
his schemes, has he not said, "Bourrienne, it is for France I am doing
all this! All I wish, all I desire, the end of all my labours is, that
my name should be indissolubly connected with that of France!"
Paris is not the only city, nor is France the only kingdom, which bears
traces of Napoleon's passion for great and useful monuments. In Belgium,
in Holland, in Piedmont, in all Italy, he executed great improvements.
At Turin a splendid bridge was built over the Po, in lieu of an old
bridge which was falling in ruins.
How many things were undertaken and executed in Napoleon s short and
eventful reign! To obviate the difficulty of communication between Metz
and Mayence a magnificent road was made, as if by magic, across
impracticable marshes and vast forests. Mountains were cut through and
ravines filled up. He would not allow nature more than man to resist
him. One day when be was proceeding to Belgium by the way of Civet, he
was detained for a short time at Little Givet, on the right bank of the
Meuse, in consequence of an accident which happened to the ferry-boat.
He was within a gunshot of the fortress of Charlemont, on the left bank,
and in the vexation which the delay occasioned he dictated the following
decree: "A bridge shall be built over the Meuse to join Little Civet to
Great Givet. It shall be terminated during the ensuing campaign." It
was completed within the prescribed time: In the great work of bridges
and highways Bonaparte's chief object was to remove the obstacles and
barriers which nature had raised up as the limits of old France so as to
form a junction with the provinces which he successively annexed to the
Empire. Thus in Savoy a road, smooth as a garden-walk, superseded the
dangerous ascents and descents of the wood of Bramant; thus was the
passage of Mont Cenis a pleasant promenade at almost every season of the
year; thus did the Simplon bow his head, and Bonaparte might have said,
"There are now my Alps," with more reason than Louis XIV. said, "There
are now no Pyrenees."
--[Metternich (tome iv. p. 187) says on this subject, 'If you look
closely at the course of human affairs you will make strange
discoveries. For instance, that the Simplon Pass has contributed as
surely to Napoleon's immortality as the numerous works done in the
reign of the Emperor Francis will fail to add to his.]--
Such was the implicit confidence which Bonaparte reposed in me that I was
often alarmed at the responsibility it obliged me to incur.
--[Of this confidence the following instructions for me, which he
dictated to Duroc, afford sufficient proof:--
"1st. Citizen Bourrienne shall open all the letters addressed to
the First Consul, Vol, and present them to him three times a day, or
oftener in case of urgent business. The letters shall be deposited
in the cabinet when they are opened. Bourrienne is to analyse all
those which are of secondary interest, and write the First Consul's
decision on each letter. The hours for presenting the letters shall
be, first, when the Consul rises; second, a quarter of an hour
before dinner; and third, at eleven at night.
"2d. He is to have the superintendence of the Topographical office,
and of an office of Translation, in which there shall be a German
and an English clerk. Every day he shall present to the First
Consul, at the hours above mentioned the German and English
journals, together with a translation. With respect to the Italian
journals, it will only be necessary to mark what the First Consul is
"3d. He shall keep a register of appointments to offices under
Government; a second, for appointments to judicial posts; a third
for appointments to places abroad; and a fourth, for the situations
of receivers and great financial posts, where he is to inscribe the
names of all the individuals whom the First Consul may refer to him.
These registers must be written by his own hand, and must be kept
"4th. Secret correspondence, and the different reports of
surveillance, are to be addressed directly to Bourrienne, and
transmitted by him to the hand of the First Consul, by whom they
will be returned without the intervention of any third party.
"6th. There shall be a register for all that relates to secret
extraordinary expenditure. Bourrienne shall write the whole with
his own hand, in order that the business may be kept from the
knowledge of any one.
"7th. He shall despatch all the business which maybe referred to
him, either from Citizen Duroc, or from the cabinet of the First
Consul, taking care to arrange everything so as to secure secrecy.
"(Signed) "BONAPARTE, First Council.
"Paris, 13th Germinal, year VIII.
"(3d. April 1800.)"]--
Official business was not the only labour that devolved upon me. I had
to write to the dictation of the First Consul during a great part of the
day, or to decipher his writing, which was always the most laborious part
of my duty. I was so closely employed that I scarcely ever went out; and
when by chance I dined in town, I could not arrive until the very moment
of dinner, and I was obliged to run away immediately after it. Once a
month, at most, I went without Bonaparte to the Comedie Francaise, but I
was obliged to return at nine o'clock, that being the hour at which we
resumed business. Corvisart, with whom I was intimately acquainted,
constantly expressed his apprehensions about my health; but my zeal
carried me through every difficulty, and during our stay at the Tuileries
I cannot express how happy I was in enjoying the unreserved confidence of
the man on whom the eyes of all Europe were filed. So perfect was this
confidence that Bonaparte, neither as General, Consul, nor Emperor, ever
gave me any fixed salary. In money matters we were still comrades: I
took from his funds what was necessary to defray my expenses, and of this
Bonaparte never once asked me for any account.
He often mentioned his wish to regenerate public education, which he
thought was ill managed. The central schools did not please him; but he
could not withhold his admiration from the Polytechnic School, the finest
establishment of education that was ever founded, but which he afterwards
spoiled by giving it a military organisation. In only one college of
Paris the old system of study was preserved: this was the Louis-le-Grand,
which had received the name of Pritanee. The First Consul directed the
Minister of the Interior to draw up a report on that establishment; and
he himself went to pay an unexpected visit to the Pritanee, accompanied
by M. Lebrun and Duroc. He remained there upwards of an hour, and in the
evening he spoke to me with much interest on the subject of his visit.
"Do you know, Bourrienne," said he, "that I have been performing the
duties of professor?"--"you, General!"--"Yes! and I did not acquit
myself badly. I examined the pupils in the mathematical class; and I
recollected enough of my Bezout to make some demonstrations before them.
I went everywhere, into the bedrooms and the dining-room. I tasted the
soup, which is better than we used to have at Brienne. I must devote
serious attention to public education and the management of the colleges.
The pupils must have a uniform. I observed some well and others ill
dressed. That will not do. At college, above all places, there should
be equality. But I was much pleased with the pupils of the Pritanee.
I wish to know the names of those I examined, and I have desired Duroc to
report them to me. I will give them rewards; that stimulates young
people. I will provide for some of them."
On this subject Bonaparte did not confine himself to an empty scheme.
After consulting with the headmaster of the Pritanee, he granted pensions
of 200 francs to seven or eight of the most distinguished pupils of the
establishment, and he placed three of them in the department of Foreign
Affairs, under the title of diplomatic pupils.
--[This institution of diplomatic pupils was originally suggested by
M. de Talleyrand.]--
What I have just said respecting the First Consul's visit to the Pritanee
reminds me of a very extraordinary circumstance which arose out of it.
Among the pupils at the Pritanee there was a son of General Miackzinski,
who died fighting under the banners of the Republic. Young Miackzinski
was then sixteen or seventeen years of age. He soon quitted the college,
entered the army as a volunteer, and was one of a corps reviewed by
Bonaparte, in the plain of Sablons. He was pointed out to the First
Consul, who said to him. "I knew your father. Follow his example, and
in six months you shall be an officer." Six months elapsed, and
Miackzinski wrote to the First Consul, reminding him of his promise. No
answer was returned, and the young man then wrote a second letter as
You desired me to prove myself worthy of my father; I have done so.
You promised that I should be an officer in six months; seven have
elapsed since that promise was made. When you receive this letter I
shall be no more. I cannot live under a Government the head of
which breaks his word.
Poor Miackzinski kept his word but, too faithfully. After writing the
above letter to the First Consul he retired to his chamber and blew out
his brains with a pistol. A few days after this tragical event
Miackzinski's commission was transmitted to his corps, for Bonaparte had
not forgotten him. A delay in the War Office had caused the death of
this promising young man Bonaparte was much affected at the circumstance,
and he said to me, "These Poles have such refined notions of honour....
Poor Sulkowski, I am sure, would have done the same."
At the commencement of the Consulate it was gratifying, to see how
actively Bonaparte was seconded in the execution of plans for the social
regeneration of France all seemed animated with new life, and every one
strove to do good as if it were a matter of competition.
Every circumstance concurred to favour the good intentions of the
First Consul. Vaccination, which, perhaps, has saved as many lives
as war has sacrificed, was introduced into France by M. d Liancourt; and
Bonaparte, immediately appreciating the 'value of such a discovery, gave
it his decided approbation. At the same time a council of Prizes was
established, and the old members of the Constituent Assembly were invited
to return to France. It was for their sake and that of the Royalists
that the First Consul recalled them, but it was to please the Jacobins,
whom he was endeavouring to conciliate, that their return was subject to
restrictions. At first the invitation to return to France extended only
to those who could prove that they had voted in favour of the abolition
of nobility. The lists of emigrants were closed, and committees were
appointed to investigate their claims to the privilege of returning.
From the commencement of the month of Germinal the reorganisation of the
army of Italy had proceeded with renewed activity. The presence in Paris
of the fine corps of the Consular Guard, added to the desire of showing
themselves off in gay uniforms, had stimulated the military ardour of
many respectable young men of the capital. Taking advantage of this
circumstance the First Consul created a corps of volunteers destined for
the army of reserve, which was to remain at Dijon. He saw the advantage
of connecting a great number of families with his cause, and imbuing them
with the spirit of the army. This volunteer corps wore a yellow uniform
which, in some of the salons of Paris where it was still the custom to
ridicule everything, obtained for them the nickname of "canaries."
Bonaparte, who did not always relish a joke, took this in very ill part,
and often expressed to me his vexation at it. However, he was gratified
to observe in the composition of this corps a first specimen of
privileged soldiers; an idea which he acted upon when he created the
orderly gendarmes in the campaign of Jena, and when he organised the
guards of honour after the disasters of Moscow.
In every action of his life Bonaparte had some particular object in view.
I recollect his saying to me one day, "Bourrienne, I cannot yet venture
to do anything against the regicides; but I will let them see what I
think of them. To-morrow I shall have some business with Abrial
respecting the organisation of the court of Cassation. Target, who is
the president of that court, would not defend Louis XVI. Well, whom do
you think I mean to appoint in his place? . . . Tronchet, who did
defend the king. They may say what they please; I care not."
--[On this, as on many other occasions, the cynicism of Bonaparte's
language does, not admit of a literal translation.]--
Tronchet was appointed.
Nearly about the same time the First Consul, being informed of the escape
of General Mack, said to me, "Mack may go where he pleases; I am not
afraid of him. But I will tell you what I have been thinking. There are
some other Austrian officers who were prisoners with Mack; among the
number is a Count Dietrichstein, who belongs to a great family in Vienna.
I will liberate them all. At the moment of opening a campaign this will
have a good effect. They will see that I fear nothing; and who knows but
this may procure me some admirers in Austria." The order for liberating
the Austrian prisoners was immediately despatched. Thus Bonaparte's acts
of generosity, as well as his acts of severity and his choice of
individuals, were all the result of deep calculation.
This unvarying attention to the affairs of the Government was manifest in
all he did. I have already mentioned the almost simultaneous suppression
of the horrible commemoration of the month of January, and the permission
for the revival of the opera balls. A measure something similar to this
was the authorisation of the festivals of Longchamps, which had been
forgotten since the Revolution. He at the same time gave permission for
sacred music to be performed at the opera. Thus, while in public acts he
maintained the observance of the Republican calendar, he was gradually
reviving the old calendar by seasons of festivity. Shrove-Tuesday was
marked by a ball, and Passion-week by promenades and concerts.
The Memorial of St. Helena--Louis XVIII.'s first letter to Bonaparte
--Josephine, Hortense, and the Faubourg St. Germain--
Madame Bonaparte and the fortune-teller--Louis XVIII's second letter
--Bonaparte's answer--Conversation respecting the recall of Louis
XVIII.--Peace and war--A battle fought with pins-Genoa and Melas--
Realisation of Bonaparte's military plans--Ironical letter to
Berthier--Departure from Paris--Instructions to Lucien and
Cambaceres--Joseph Bonaparte appointed Councillor of State--
Travelling conversation--Alexander and Caesar judged by Bonaparte.
It sometimes happens that an event which passes away unnoticed at the
time of its occurrence acquires importance from events which subsequently
ensue. This reflection naturally occurs to my mind now that I am about
to notice the correspondence which passed between Louis XVIII. and the
First Consul. This is certainly not one of the least interesting
passages in the life of Bonaparte.
But I must first beg leave to make an observation on the 'Memorial of St.
Helena.' That publication relates what Bonaparte said respecting the
negotiations between Louis XVIII. and himself; and I find it necessary to
quote a few lines on the subject, in order to show how far the statements
contained in the Memorial differ from the autograph letters in my
At St. Helena Napoleon said that he never thought of the princes of the
House of Bourbon. This is true to a certain point. He did not think of
the princes of the House of Bourbon with the view of restoring them to
their throne; but it has been shown, in several parts of these Memoirs,
that he thought of them very often, and on more than one occasion their
very names alarmed him.
--[The Memorial states that "A letter was delivered to the First
Consul by Lebrun who received it from the Abbe de Montesquieu, the
secret agent of the Bourbons in Paris." This letter which was very
cautiously written, said:--
"You are long delaying the restoration of my throne. It is to be
feared you are suffering favourable moments to escape. You cannot
secure the happiness of France without me, and I can do nothing for
France without you. Hasten, then, to name the offices which you
would choose for your friends."
The answer, Napoleon said, was as follows:--
"I have received your royal highness' letter. I have always taken a
lively interest in your misfortunes, and those of your family. You
must not think of appearing in France; you could only return here by
trampling over a hundred thousand dead bodies. I shall always be
happy to do anything that can alleviate your fate and help to banish
the recollection of your misfortunes."--Bourrienne.]--
The substance of the two letters given in the 'Memorial of St. Helena' is
correct. The ideas are nearly the same as those of the original letters.
But it is not surprising that, after the lapse of so long an interval,
Napoleon's memory should somewhat have failed him. However, it will not,
I presume, be deemed unimportant if I present to the reader literal
copies of this correspondence; together with the explanation of some
curious circumstances connected with it.
The following is Louis XVIII's letter:--
SIR--Whatever may be their apparent conduct, men like you never
inspire alarm. You have accepted an eminent station, and I thank
you for having done so. You know better than any one how much
strength and power are requisite to secure the happiness of a great
nation. Save France from her own violence, and you will fulfil the
first wish of my heart. Restore her King to her, and future
generations will bless your memory. You will always be too
necessary to the State for me ever to be able to discharge, by
important appointments, the debt of my family and myself.
The First Consul was much agitated on the reception of this letter.
Though he every day declared his determination to have nothing to do with
the Princes, yet he hesitated whether or no he should reply to this
overture. The numerous affairs which then occupied his mind favoured
this hesitation. Josephine and Hortense conjured him to hold out hope to
the King, as by so doing he would in no way pledge himself, and would
gain time to ascertain whether he could not ultimately play a far greater
part than that of Monk. Their entreaties became so urgent that he said
to me, "These devils of women are mad! The Faubourg St. Germain has
turned their heads! They make the Faubourg the guardian angel of the
royalists; but I care not; I will have nothing to do with them."
Madame Bonaparte said she was anxious he should adopt the step she
proposed in order to banish from his mind all thought of making himself
King. This idea always gave rise to a painful foreboding which she could
In the First Consul's numerous conversations with me he discussed with
admirable sagacity Louis XVIII.'s proposition and its consequences.
"The partisans of the Bourbons," said he, "are deceived if they suppose
I am the man to play Monk's part." Here the matter rested, and the
King's letter remained on the table. In the interim Louis XVIII. wrote a
second letter, without any date. It was as follows:
You must have long since been convinced, General, that you possess
my esteem. If you doubt my gratitude, fix your reward and mark out
the fortune of your friends. As to my principles, I am a Frenchman,
merciful by character, and also by the dictates of reason.
No, the victor of Lodi, Castiglione, and Arcola, the conqueror of
Italy and Egypt, cannot prefer vain celebrity to real glory. But
you are losing precious time. We may ensure the glory of France.
I say we, because I require the aid of Bonaparte, and he can do
nothing without me.
General, Europe observes you. Glory awaits you, and I am impatient
to restore peace to my people.
This dignified letter the First Consul suffered to remain unanswered for
several weeks; at length he proposed to dictate an answer to me. I
observed, that as the King's letters were autographs, it would be more
proper that he should write himself. He then wrote with his own hand the
Sir--I have received your letter, and I thank you for the
compliments you address to me.
You must not seek to return to France. To do so you must trample
over a hundred thousand dead bodies.
Sacrifice your interest to the repose and happiness of France, and
history will render you justice.
I am not insensible to the misfortunes of your family. I shall
learn with pleasure, and shall willingly contribute to ensure, the
tranquillity of your retirement.
He showed me this letter, saying, "What do you think of it? is it not
good? "He was never offended when I pointed out to him an error of
grammar or style, and I therefore replied, "As to the substance, if such
be your resolution, I have nothing to say against it; but," added I,
"I must make one observation on the style. You cannot say that you shall
learn with pleasure to ensure, etc." On reading the passage over again
he thought he had pledged himself too far in saying that he would
willingly contribute, etc. He therefore scored out the last sentence,
and interlined, "I shall contribute with pleasure to the happiness and
tranquillity of your retirement."
The answer thus scored and interlined could not be sent off, and it lay
on the table with Bonaparte's signature affixed to it.
Some time after he wrote another answer, the three first paragraphs of
which were exactly alike that first quoted; but far the last paragraph he
substituted the following
"I am not insensible to the misfortunes of your family; and I shall
learn with pleasure that you are surrounded with all that can
contribute to the tranquillity of your retirement."
By this means he did not pledge himself in any way, not even in words,
for he himself made no offer of contributing, to the tranquillity of the
retirement. Every day which augmented his power and consolidated his
position diminished, he thought, the chances of the Bourbons; and seven
months were suffered to intervene between the date of the King's first
letter and the answer of the First Consul, which was written on the 2d
Vendemiaire, year IX. (24th September 1800) just when the Congress of
Luneville was on the point of opening.
Soma days after the receipt of Louis XVIII.'s letter we were walking in
the gardens of Malmaison; he was in good humour, for everything was going
on to his mind. "Has my wife been saying anything more to you about the
Bourbons?" said he.--"No, General."--"But when you converse with her you
concur a little in her opinions. Tell me why you wish the Bourbons back?
You have no interest in their return, nothing to expect from them. Your
family rank is not high enough to enable you to obtain any great post.
You would be nothing under them. Through the patronage of M. de
Chambonas you got the appointment of Secretary of Legation at Stuttgart;
but had it not been for the change you would have remained all your life
in that or some inferior post. Did you ever know men rise by their own
merit under kings? Everything depends on birth, connection, fortune, and
intrigue. Judge things more accurately; reflect more maturely on the
future."--"General," replied I, "I am quite of your opinion on one
point. I never received gift, place, or favour from the Bourbons; and
I have not the vanity to believe that I should ever have attained any
important Appointment. But you must not forget that my nomination as
Secretary of Legation at Stuttgart preceded the overthrow of the throne
only by a few days; and I cannot infer, from what took place under
circumstances unfortunately too certain, what might have happened in the
reverse case. Besides, I am not actuated by personal feelings;
I consider not my own interests, but those of France. I wish you to hold
the reins of government as long as you live; but you have no children,
and it is tolerably certain that you will have none by Josephine: What
will become of us when you are gone? You talk of the future; but what
will be the future fate of France? I have often heard you say that your
brothers are not--"--"You are right," said he, abruptly interrupting
me. "If I do not live thirty years to complete my work you will have a
long series of civil wars after my death. My brothers will not suit
France; you know what they are. A violent conflict will therefore arise
among the most distinguished generals, each of whom will think himself
entitled to succeed me."--"Well, General, why not take means to obviate
the mischief you foresee?"--"Do you imagine I do not think of it? But
look at the difficulties that stand in my way. How are so many acquired-
rights and material results to be secured against the efforts of a family
restored to power, and returning with 80,000 emigrants and the influence
of fanaticism? What would become of those who voted for the death, of
the King--the men who acted a conspicuous part in the Revolution--the
national domains, and a multitude of things that have been done during
twelve years? Can you see how far reaction would extend?"--"General,
need I remind you that Louis, in his letter, guarantees the contrary of
all you apprehend? I know what will be your answer; but are you not able
to impose whatever conditions you may think fit? Grant what is asked of
you only at that price. Take three or four years; in that time you may
ensure the happiness of France by institutions conformable to her wants.
Custom and habit would give them a power which it would not be easy to
destroy; and even supposing such a design were entertained, it could not
be accomplished. I have heard you say it is wished you should act the
part of Monk; but you well know the difference between a general opposing
the usurper of a crown, and one whom victory and peace have raised above
the ruins of a subverted throne, and who restores it voluntarily to those
who have long occupied it. You are well aware what you call ideology
will not again be revived; and--"--"I know what you are going to say;
but it all amounts to nothing. Depend upon it, the Bourbons will think
they have reconquered their inheritance, and will dispose of it as they
please. The most sacred pledges, the most positive promises, will be
violated. None but fools will trust them. My resolution is formed;
therefore let us say no more on the subject. But I know how these women
torment you. Let them mind their knitting, and leave me to do what I
Every one knows the adage, 'Si vis pacem para bellum'. Had Bonaparte
been a Latin scholar he would probably have reversed it and said, 'Si vis
bellum para pacem'. While seeking to establish pacific relations with
the powers of Europe the First Consul was preparing to strike a great
blow in Italy. As long as Genoa held out, and Massena continued there,
Bonaparte did not despair of meeting the Austrians in those fields which
not four years before had been the scenes of his success. He resolved to
assemble an army of reserve at Dijon. Where there was previously nothing
he created everything. At that period of his life the fertility of his
imagination and the vigour of his genius must have commanded the
admiration of even his bitterest enemies. I was astonished at the
details into which he entered. While every moment was engrossed by the
most important occupations he sent 24,000 francs to the hospital of Mont
St. Bernard. When he saw that his army of reserve was forming, and
everything was going on to his liking, he said to me, "I hope to fall on
the rear of Melas before he is aware I am in Italy . . . that is to
say, provided Genoa holds out. But MASSENA is defending it."
On the 17th of March, in a moment of gaiety and good humour, he desired
me to unroll Chauchard's great map of Italy. He lay down upon it, and
desired me to do likewise. He then stuck into it pins, the heads of
which were tipped with wax, some red and some black. I silently observed
him; and awaited with no little curiosity the result of this plan of
campaign. When he had stationed the enemy's corps, and drawn up the pins
with red heads on the points where he hoped to bring his own troops, he
said to me, "Where do you think I shall beat Melas?"--"How the devil
should I know?"--"Why, look here, you fool! Melas is at Alessandria with
his headquarters. There he will remain until Genoa surrenders. He has
in Alessandria his magazines, his hospitals, his artillery, and his
reserves. Crossing the Alps here (pointing to the Great Mont St.
Bernard) I shall fall upon Melas, cut off his communications with
Austria, and meet him here in the plains of Scrivia" (placing a red, pin
at San Giuliano). Finding that I looked on this manoeuvre of pins as
mere pastime, he addressed to me some of his usual compliments, such as
fool, ninny, etc., and then proceeded to demonstrate his plans more
clearly on the map. At the expiration of a quarter of an hour we rose;
I folded up the map, and thought no more of the matter.
Four months after this, when I was at San Giuliano with Bonaparte's
portfolio and despatches, which I had saved from the rout which had taken
place during the day, and when that very evening I was writing at Torre
di Galifolo the bulletin of the battle to Napoleon's dictation, I frankly
avowed my admiration of his military plans. He himself smiled at the
accuracy of his own foresight.
The First Consul was not satisfied with General Berthier as War Minister,
and he superseded him by Carnot,
--[There were special reasons for the appointment of Carnot,
Berthier was required with his master in Italy, while Carnot, who
had so long ruled the armies of the Republic, was better fitted to
influence Moreau, at this time advancing into Germany. Carnot
probably fulfilled the main object of his appointment when he was
sent to Moreau, and succeeded in getting that general, with natural
reluctance, to damage his own campaign by detaching a large body of
troops into Italy. Berthier was reappointed to the Ministry on the
8th of October 1800,--a very speedy return if he had really been
who had given great proofs of firmness and integrity, but who,
nevertheless, was no favourite of Bonaparte, on account of his decided
republican principles. Berthier was too slow in carrying out the
measures ordered, [duplicated line removed here D.W.] and too lenient in
the payment of past charges and in new contracts. Carnot's appointment
took place on the 2d of April 1800; and to console Berthier, who, he
knew, was more at home in the camp than in the office, he dictated to me
the following letter for him:--
PARIS, 2d April 1800.
CITIZEN-GENERAL,--The military talents of which you have given so
many proofs, and the confidence of the Government, call you to the
command of an army. During the winter you have REORGANISED the War
Department, and you have provided, as far as circumstances would
permit, for the wants of our armies. During the spring and summer
it must be your task to lead our troops to victory, which is the
effectual means of obtaining peace and consolidating the Republic.
Bonaparte laughed heartily while he dictated this epistle, especially
when he uttered the word which I have marked in italics [CAPS]. Berthier
set out for Dijon, where he commenced the formation of the army of
The Consular Constitution did not empower the First Consul to command an
army out of the territory of France. Bonaparte therefore wished to keep
secret his long-projected plan of placing himself at the head of the army
of Italy, which, he then for the first time called the grand army. I
observed that by his choice of Berthier nobody could be deceived, because
it must be evident that he would have made another selection had he not
intended to command in person. He laughed at my observation.
Our departure from Paris was fixed for the 6th of May, or, according to
the republican calendar, the 16th Floreal Bonaparte had made all his
arrangements and issued all his orders; but still he did not wish it to
be known that he was going to take the command of the army. On the eve
of our departure, being in conference with the two other Consuls and the
Ministers, he said to Lucien, "Prepare, to-morrow morning, a circular to
the prefects, and you, Fouche, will publish it in the journals. Say I am
gone to Dijon to inspect the army of reserve. You may add that I shall
perhaps go as far as Geneva; but you must affirm positively that I shall
not be absent longer than a fortnight: You, Cambaceres, will preside to-
morrow at the Council of State. In my absence you are the Head of the
Government. State that my absence will be but of short duration, but
specify nothing. Express my approbation of the Council of State; it has
already rendered great services, and I shall be happy to see it continue
in the course it has hitherto pursued. Oh! I had nearly forgotten--you
will at the same time announce that I have appointed Joseph a Councillor
of State. Should anything happen I shall be back again like a
thunderbolt. I recommend to you all the great interests of France, and I
trust that I shall shortly be talked of in Vienna and in London."
We set out at two in the morning, taking the Burgundy road, which we had
already so often travelled under very different circumstances.
On the journey Bonaparte conversed about the warriors of antiquity,
especially Alexander, Caesar, Scipio, and Hannibal. I asked him which he
preferred, Alexander or Caesar. "I place Alexander in the first rank,"
said he, "yet I admire Caesar's fine campaign in Africa. But the ground
of my preference for the King of Macedonia is the plan, and above all the
execution, of his campaign in Asia. Only those who are utterly ignorant
of war can blame Alexander for having spent seven months at the siege of
Tyre. For my part, I would have stayed there seven years had it been
necessary. This is a great subject of dispute; but I look upon the siege
of Tyre, the conquest of Egypt, and the journey to the Oasis of Ammon as
a decided proof of the genius of that great captain. His object was to
give the King of Persia (of whose force he had only beaten a feeble
advance-guard at the Granicus and Issus) time to reassemble his troops,
so that he might overthrow at a blow the colossus which he had as yet
only shaken. By pursuing Darius into his states Alexander would have
separated himself from his reinforcements, and would have met only
scattered parties of troops who would have drawn him into deserts where
his army would have been sacrificed. By persevering in the taking of
Tyre he secured, his communications with Greece, the country he loved as
dearly as I love France, and in whose glory he placed his own. By taking
possession of the rich province of Egypt he forced Darius to come to
defend or deliver it, and in so doing to march half-way to meet him.
By representing himself as the son of Jupiter he worked upon the ardent
feelings of the Orientals in a way that powerfully seconded his designs.
Though he died at thirty-three what a name he has left behind him!"
Though an utter stranger to the noble profession of arms, yet I could
admire Bonaparte's clever military plans and his shrewd remarks on the
great captains of ancient and modern times. I could not refrain from
saying, "General, you often reproach me for being no flatterer, but now I
tell you plainly I admire you." And certainly, I really spoke the true
sentiments of my mind.
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