John S. C. Abbott
Part 3 out of 3
him with smiles and choruses of welcome. He carried at Lyons in
the evening. The whole city was brilliant with illuminations. An
immense concourse surrounded him with almost delirious shouts of
joy. The constituted authorities received him as he descended from
his carriage. The major had prepared a long and eulogistic harangue
for the occasion. Napoleon had no time to listen to it. With a
motion of his hand, imposing silence, he said said, "Gentlemen, I
learned that France was in peril, I therefore did not hesitate to
leave my army in Egypt, that I might come to he rescue. I now go
hence. In a few days, if you think fit to wait upon me, I shall be
at leisure to hear you." Fresh horses were by this time attached to
the carriages, and the cavalcade, which like a meteor had burst upon
them, like a meteor disappeared. From Lyons, for some unexplained
reason, Napoleon turned from the regular route to Paris and took
a less frequented road. When Josephine arrived at Lyons, to her
utter consternation she found that Napoleon had left the city,
several hours before her arrival, and that they had passed each
other by different roads. Her anguish was inexpressible. For many
months she had not received a line from her idolized husband, all
communication having been intercepted by the English cruisers. She
knew that many, jealous her power, had disseminated, far and wide,
false reports respecting her conduct. She knew that these, her
enemies, would surround Napoleon immediately upon his arrival,
and take advantage of her absence to inflame his mind against her.
Lyons is 245 miles from Paris. Josephine had passed over those
weary leagues of hill and dale, pressing on without intermission, by
day and by night, alighting not for refreshment of repose. Faint,
exhausted, and her heart sinking within her with fearful apprehensions
of the hopeless alienation of her husband, she received the dreadful
tidings that she had missed him. There was no resource left her but
to retrace the steps with the utmost possible celerity. Napoleon
would, however, have been one or two days in Paris before Josephine
could, by any possibility, re-enter the city. Probably in all France,
there was not, at that time, a more unhappy woman than Josephine.
Secret wretchedness was also gnawing at the heart of Napoleon.
Who has yet fathomed the mystery of human love! Intensest love and
intensest hate can, at the same moment, intertwine their fibres
in inextricable blending. In nothing is the will so impotent as
in guiding or checking the impulses of this omnipotent passion.
Napoleon loved Josephine with that almost superhuman energy which
characterized all the movements of his impetuous spirit. The stream
did not fret and ripple over a shallow bed, but it was serene
in its unfathomable depths. The world contained but two objects
for Napoleon, glory and Josephine; glory first, and then, closely
following the more substantial idol.
Many of the Parisian ladies, proud of a more exalted lineage than
Josephine could boast, were exceedingly envious of the supremacy
she had attained in consequence of the renown of her husband. Her
influence over Napoleon was well known. Philosophers, statesmen,
ambitious generals, all crowded her saloons, paying her homage. A
favorable word from Josephine they knew would pave the way for them
to fame and fortune. Thus Josephine, from the saloons of Paris,
with milder radiance, reflected back the splendor of her husband.
She solicitous of securing as many friends as possible, to aid
him in future emergencies, was as diligent in "winning hearts" at
home, as Napoleon was in conquering provinces abroad. The gracefulness
of Josephine, her consummate delicacy of moral appreciation, her
exalted intellectual gifts, the melodious tones of her winning
voice, charmed courtiers, philosophers, and statesmen alike. Her
saloons were ever crowded. Her entertainments were ever embellished
by the presence of all who were illustrious in rank and power in
the metropolis. And in whatever circles she appeared the eyes of
the gentlemen first sought for her. Two resistless attractions drew
them. She was peculiarly fascinating in person and in character,
and, through her renowned husband, she could dispense the most
precious gifts. It is not difficult to imagine the envy which must
thus have been excited. Many a haughty duchess was provoked, almost
beyond endurance, that Josephine, the untitled daughter of a West
Indian planter, should thus engross the homage of Paris, while she,
with her proud rank, her wit, and her beauty, was comparatively
a cipher. Moreau's wife, in particular resented the supremacy of
Josephine as a personal affront. She thought General Moreau entitled
to as much consideration as General Bonaparte. By the jealousy,
rankling in her own bosom, she finally succeeded in rousing her
husband to conspire against Napoleon, and thus the hero of Hohenlinden
was ruined. Some of the brothers and sisters of Napoleon were also
jealous of the paramount influence of Josephine, and would gladly
wrest a portion of it from her hands. Under these circumstances,
in various ways, slander had been warily insinuated into the ears
of Napoleon, respecting the conduct of his wife. Conspiring enemies
became more and more bold. Josephine was represented as having
forgotten her husband, as reveling exultant with female vanity, in
general flirtation; and, finally, as guilty of gross infidelity.
Nearly all the letters written by Napoleon and Josephine to each
other, were intercepted by the English cruisers. Though Napoleon
did not credit these charges in full, he cherished not a little of
the pride, which led the Roman monarch to exclaim, "Caesar's wife
must not be suspected."
Napoleon was in the troubled state of mind during the latter
months of his residence in Egypt. One day he was sitting alone in
his tent, which was pitched in the great Arabian desert. Several
months had passed since he had heard a word from Josephine. Years
might elapse ere they would meet again. Junot entered, having
just received, through some channel of jealousy and malignity,
communications from Paris. Cautiously, but fully, he unfolded the
whole budget of Parisian gossip. Josephine had found, as he represented,
in the love of others an ample recompense for the absence of her
husband. She was surrounded by admirers with whom she was engaged
in an incessant round of intrigues and flirtations. Regardless
of honor she had surrendered herself to the dominion of passion.
Napoleon was for a few moments in a state of terrible agitation. With
hasty strides, like a chafed lion, he paced his tent, exclaiming,
"Why do I love that woman so? Why can I not tear her image from my
heart? I will do so. I will have an immediate and open divorce-open
and public divorce." He immediately wrote to Josephine, in terms
of the utmost severity accusing her of playing the coquette with
half the world." The letter escaped the British cruisers and she
received it. It almost broke her faithful heart. Such were the
circumstances under which Napoleon and Josephine were to meet after
an absence of eighteen months. Josephine was exceedingly anxious to
see Napoleon before he should have an interview with her enemies.
Hence the depth of anguish with which she heard her husband had
passes her. Two or three days must have elapse ere she could possibly
retraced the weary miles over which she had already traveled.
In the mean time the carriage of Napoleon was rapidly approaching
the metropolis. By night his path was brilliant with bonfires and
illuminations. The ringing of bells, the thunders of artillery,
and the acclamations of the multitude, accompanied him every step
of his way. But no smile of triumph played upon his pale and pensive
cheeks. He felt that he was returning to a desolated home. Gloom
reigned in his heart. He entered Paris, and drove rapidly to his
own dwelling. Behold, Josephine was not there. Conscious guilt, he
thought, had made her afraid to meet him. It is in vain to attempt
to penetrate the hidden anguish of Napoleon's soul. That his proud
spirit must have suffered intensity of woe no one can doubt. The
bitter enemies of Josephine immediately surrounded him, eagerly
taking advantage of her absence, to inflame, to a still higher
degree, by adroit insinuations, his jealousy and anger. Eugene
had accompanied him in his return from Egypt, and his affectionate
heart ever glowed with love and admiration for his mother. With
anxiety, amounting to anguish, he watched at the window for her
arrival. Said one to Napoleon, maliciously endeavoring to prevent
the possibility of reconciliation, "Josephine will appear before
you, with all her fascinations. She will explain matters. You will
forgive all, and tranquillity will be restored." "Never!" exclaimed
Napoleon, with pallid cheek and trembling lip, striding nervously
too and fro, through the room, "never! I forgive! ever!" Then
stopping suddenly, and gazing the interlocutor wildly in the face,
he exclaimed, with passionate gesticulation, "You know me. Were I
not sure of my resolution, I would tear out this heart, and cast
it into the fire."
How strange is the life of the heart of man. From this interview,
Napoleon, two hours after his arrival in Paris with his whole soul
agitated by the tumult of domestic woe, went to the palace of the
Luxembourg, to visit the Directory, to form his plans for overthrow
the government of France. Pale, pensive, joyless, his inflexible
purposes of ambition wavered not--his iron energies yielded not.
Josephine was an idol. He execrated her and he adored her. He loved
her most passionately. He hated her most virulently. He could clasp
her one moment to his bosom with burning kisses; the next moment
he would spurn her from him with as the most loathsome wretch. But
glory was a still more cherished idol, at whose shrine he bowed with
unwavering adoration. He strove to forget his domestic wretchedness
by prosecuting, with new vigor, his schemes of grandeur. As he
ascended the stairs of the Luxembourg, some of the guard, who had
been with him in Italy, recognized his person, and he was instantly
greeted, with enthusiastic shouts. "Long live Bonaparte." The clamor
rolled like a voice of thunder through the spacious halls of the
palace, and fell, like a death knell, upon the ears of the Directors.
The populace upon the pavement, caught the sound and reechoed it
from street to street. The plays at the theatres, and the songs
at the Opera, were stopped, that it might be announced, from the
stage, that Bonaparte had arrived in Paris. Men, women, and children
simultaneously rose to their feet, and a wild burst of enthusiastic
joy swelled upon the night air. All Paris was in commotion. The
name of Bonaparte was upon every lip. The enthusiasm was contagious.
Illuminations began to blaze, here and there, without concert, from
the universal rejoicing, till the whole city was resplendent with
light. One bell rang forth its merry peal of greeting, and then
another, and another till every steeple was vocal with its clamorous
welcome. One gun was heard, rolling its heavy thunders over the
city. It was the signal for an instantaneous, tumultuous roar, from
artillery and musketry, from all the battalions in the metropolis.
The tidings of the great victories of Aboukir and Mount Tabor,
reached Paris with Napoleon. Those Oriental names were shouted
through the streets, and blazed upon the eyes of the delighted
people in letters of light. Thus in an hour the whole of Paris was
thrown into a delirium of joy, was displayed the most triumphant
and gorgeous festival.
The government of France was at the time organized somewhat upon
the model of that the United States. Instead of one President,
they have five, called Directors. Their Senate was called The House
of Ancients; their House of Representatives, The Council of Five
Hundred. The five Directors, as might have been expected, were
ever quarreling among themselves, each wishing for the lion's share
of power. The Monarchist, the Jacobin, and the moderate Republican
could not harmoniously co-operate in the government They only circumvented
each other, while the administration sank into disgrace and ruin.
The Abbe'Sieyes was decidedly the most able man of the Executive.
He was a proud patrician, and his character may be estimated from
the following anecdote, which Napoleon has related respecting him:
"The abbe, before the revolution, was chaplain to one of the
princesses. One day, when he was performing mass before herself,
her attendants, and a large congregation, something occurred which
rendered it necessary for the princess to leave the room. The
ladies in waiting and the nobility, who attended church more out
of complaisance to her than from any sense of religion followed
her example. Sieyes was very busy reading his prayers, and, for a
few moments, he did not perceive their departure. At last, raising
his eyes from his book, behold the princess, the nobles, and all
the ton had disappeared. With an air of displeasure and contempt
he shut the book, and descended from the pulpit, exclaiming, 'I do
not read prayers for the rabble.' He immediately went out of the
chapel, leaving the service half-finished."
Napoleon arrived in Paris on the evening of the 17th of October,
1799. Two days and two nights elapse ere Josephine was able to
retrace the weary leagues over which she had passed. It was the
hour of midnight on the 19th when the rattle of her carriage wheels
was heard entering the court-yard of their dwelling in the Rue
Chanteraine. Eugene, anxiously awaiting her arrival, was instantly
at his mother's side, folding her in his embrace. Napoleon also
heard the arrival, but he remained sternly in his chamber. He had
ever been accustomed to greet Josephine at the door of her carriage,
even when she returned from an ordinary morning ride. No matter what
employments engrossed his mind, no matter what guest were present,
he would immediately leave every thing, and hasten to the door to
assist Josephine to alight and to accompany her into the house. But
now, after an absence of eighteen months, the faithful Josephine,
half-dead with exhaustion, was at the door, and Napoleon, with
pallid check and compressed lip, and jealousy rankling in his bosom,
remained sternly in his room, preparing to overwhelm her with his
Josephine was in a state of terrible agitation. Her limbs tottered
and her heart throbbed most violently. Assisted by Eugene, and
accompanied by Hortense, she tremblingly ascended the stairs to the
little parlor where she had so often received the caresses of her
most affectionate spouse. She opened the door. There stood Napoleon,
as immovable as a statue, leaning against the mantle, with his arms
folded across his breast. Sternly and silently, he cast a withering
look upon Josephine, and then exclaimed in tones, which, like
a dagger pierced her heart "Madame! It is my wish that you retire
immediately to Malmaison."
Josephine staggered and would have fallen, as if struck by a mortal
blow, had she not been caught in the arms of her son. Sobbing bitterly
with anguish, she was conveyed by Eugene to her own apartment.
Napoleon also was dreadfully agitated. The sight of Josephine had
revived all his passionate love. But he fully believed that Josephine
had unpardonably trifled with his affections, that she had courted
the admiration of a multitude of flatterers, and that she had degraded
herself and her husband by playing the coquette. The proud spirit
of Napoleon could not brook such a requital for his fervid love.
With hasty strides he traversed the room, striving to nourish his
indignation. The sobs of Josephine had deeply moved him. He yearned
to fold her again in fond love to his heart. But he proudly resolved
that he would not relent. Josephine, with that prompt obedience
which ever characterized her, prepared immediately to comply with his
orders. It was midnight. For a week she had lived in her carriage
almost without food or sleep. Malmaison was thirty miles from
Paris. Napoleon did not suppose that she would leave the house until
morning. Much to his surprise, in a few moments he heard Josephine,
Eugene, and Hortense descending the stairs to take the carriage.
Napoleon, even in his anger, could not be thus inhuman. "My heart,"
he said, "was never formed to witness tears without emotion." He
immediately descended to the court-yard, though his pride would
not yet allow him to speak to Josephine. He, however, addressing
Eugene, urged the party to return and obtain refreshment and repose.
Josephine, all submission, unhesitatingly yielded to his wishes,
and re-ascending the stairs, in the extremity of exhaustion and
grief, threw herself upon a couch, in her apartment. Napoleon,
equally wretched, returned to his cabinet. Two days of utter misery
passed away, during which no intercourse took place between the
estranged parties, each of whom loved the other with almost superhuman
Love in the heart will finally triumph over all obstructions. The
struggle was long, but gradually pride and passion yielded, and
love regained the ascendency. Napoleon so far surrendered on the
third day, as to enter the apartment of Josephine. She was seated at
a toilet-table, her face buried in her hands, and absorbed in the
profoundest woe. The letters, which she had received from Napoleon,
and which she had evidently been reading, were spread upon the
table. Hortense the picture of grief and despair, was standing in
the alcove of a window. Napoleon had opened the door softly, and
his entrance had not been heard. With an irresolute step he advanced
toward his wife, and then said, kindly and sadly, "Josephine!"
She started at the sound of that well-known voice, and raising her
swollen eyes, swimming in tears, mournfully exclaimed, "Monami"
--my friend . This was the term of endearment with which she had
invariably addressed her husband. It recalled a thousand delightful
reminiscences. Napoleon was vanquished. He extended his hand.
Josephine threw herself into his arms, pillowed her aching head
upon his bosom, and in the intensity of blended joy and anguish,
wept convulsively. A long explanation ensued. Napoleon became
satisfied that Josephine had been deeply wronged. The reconciliation
was cordial and entire, and was never again interrupted.
Napoleon now, with a stronger heart, turned to the accomplishment of
his designs to rescue France from anarchy. He was fully conscious
of his own ability to govern the nation. He knew that it was
the almost unanimous wish of the people that he should grasp the
reins of power. He was confident of their cordial co-operation in
any plans he might adopt. Still it was an enterprise of no small
difficulty to thrust the five Directors from their thrones, and to
get the control of the Council of Ancients and of The Five Hundred.
Never was a difficult achievement more adroitly and proudly
For many days Napoleon almost entirely secluded himself from
observation, affecting a studious avoidance of the public gaze. He
laid aside his military dress and assumed the peaceful costume of
the National Institute. Occasionally he wore a beautiful Turkish
sabre, suspended by a silk ribbon. This simple dress transported
the imagination of the beholder to Aboukir, Mount Tabor, and the
Pyramids. He studiously sought the society of literary men, and
devoted to them his attention. He invited distinguished men of
the Institute to dine with him, and avoiding political discussion,
conversed only upon literary and scientific subjects.
Moreau and Bernadotte were the two rival generals from whom Napoleon
had the most to fear. Two days after his arrival in Paris Napoleon
said to Bourrienne, "I believe that I shall have Bernadotte and Moreau
against me. But I do not fear Moreau. He is devoid of energy. He
prefers military to political power. We shall gain him by the promise
of a command. But Bernadotte has Moorish blood in his veins. He is
bold and enterprising. He does not like me, and I am certain that
he will oppose me. If he should become ambitious he will venture
anything. Besides, this fellow is not to be seduced. He is disinterested
and clever. But, after all, we have just arrived. We shall see."
Napoleon formed no conspiracy. He confided to no one his designs.
And yet, in his own solitary mind, relying entirely upon his own
capacious resources, he studied the state of affairs and he matured
his plans. Sieyes was the only one whose talents and influence
Napoleon feared. The abbe also looked with apprehension upon his
formidable rival. They stood aloof and eyed each other. Meeting
at a dinner party, each was too proud to make advances. Yet each
thought only of the other. Mutually exasperated, they separated
without having spoken. "Did you see that insolent little fellow?"
said Sieyes, "he would not even condescend to notice a member of
the government, who, if they had done right, would have caused him
to be shot." "What on earth," said Napoleon, "could have induced
them to put that priest in the Directory. He is sold to Prussia.
Unless you take care, he will deliver you up to that power." Napoleon
dined with Moreau, who afterward in hostility to Napoleon pointed
the guns of Russia against the columns of his countrymen. The
dinner party was at (Gohier's, one of the Directors. The following
interesting conversation took place between the rival generals.
When first introduced, they looked at each other a moment without
speaking, Napoleon, conscious of his own superiority, and solicitous
to gain the powerful co-operation of Moreau, made the first advances,
and, with great courtesy, expressed the earnest desire he felt to
make his acquaintance. "You have returned victorious from Egypt."
replied Moreau, "and I from Italy after a great defeat. It was the
month which General Joubert passed in Pairs after his marriage,
which caused our disasters. This gave the allies time to reduce
Mantua, and to bring up the force which besieged it to take a part
in the action. It is always the greater number which defeats the
less." "True," replied Napoleon, "it is always, the greater number
which beats the less" "And yet," said Gohier, "with small armies
you have frequently defeated large ones." "Even then," rejoined
Napoleon, "it was always the inferior force which was defeated by
the superior. When with a small body of men I was in the presence
of a large one, collecting my little band, I fell like lightning on
one of the wings of the hostile army, and defeated it. Profiting by
the disorder which such an event never failed to occasion in their
whole line, I repeated the attack, with similar success, in another
quarter, still with my whole force. I thus beat it in detail. The
general victory which was the result, was still an example of the
truth of the principle that the greater force defeats the lesser."
Napoleon, by those fascinations of mind and manner, which enabled
him to win to him whom he would, soon gained an ascendency over
Moreau. And when, two days after, in token of his regard, he sent
him a beautiful poniard set with diamonds, worth two thousand
dollars: the work was accomplished, and Moreau was ready to do his
bidding. Napoleon gave a small and very select dinner party. Gohier
was invited. The conversation turned on the turquoise used by the
Orientals to clasp their turbans. Napoleon, rising from the table
took from a private drawer, two very beautiful brooches, richly set
with those jewels. One he gave to Gohier, the other to his tried
friend Desaix. "It is a little toy," said he, "which we republicans
may give and receive without impropriety." The Director, flattered
by the delicacy of the compliment, and yet not repelled by any thing
assuming the grossness of a bribe, yielded his heart's homage to
Republican France was surrounded by monarchies in arms against
her. Their hostility was so inveterate, and, from the very nature
of the case, so inevitable, that Napoleon thought that France should
ever be prepared for an attack, and that the military spirit should
be carefully fostered. Republican America, most happily, has no foe
to fear, and all her energies may be devoted to filling the land
with peace and plenty, But a republic in monarchical Europe must
sleep by the side of its guns. "Do you, really," said Napoleon,
to Gohier, in this interview, "advocate a general peace! You are
wrong. The Republic should never make but partial accommodations.
It should always contrive to have some war on hand to keep alive
the military spirit." We can, perhaps, find a little extenuation
for this remark, in its apparent necessity, and in the influences
of the martial ardor in which Napoleon from his very infancy had
been enveloped. Even now, it is to be feared that the time is far
distant ere the nations of the earth can learn war no more.
Lefebvre was commandant of the guard of the two legislative bodies.
His co-operation was important. Napoleon sent a special invitation
for an interview. "Lefebvre," said he, "will you, one of the pillars
of the Republic, suffer it to perish in the hands of these lawyers
? Join me and assist to save it." Taking from his own side the
beautiful Turkish scimitar which he wore, he passed the ribbon
over Lefebvre's neck, saying, "accept this sword, which I wore at
the battle of the Pyramids. I give it to you as a token of my esteem
and confidence." "Yes," replied Lefebvre, most highly gratified at
this signal mark of confidence and generosity, "let us throw the
lawyers into the river."
Napoleon soon had an interview with Bernadotte. "He confessed," said
Napoleon to Bourrienne, "that he thought us all lost. He spoke of
external enemies, of internal enemies, and, at that word he looked
steadily in my face. I also gave him a glance. But patience; the
pear will soon be ripe."
In this interview Napoleon inveighed against the violence and
lawlessness of the Jacobin club. "Your own brothers," Bernadotte
replied, "were the founders of that club. And yet you reproach me
with favoring its principles. It is to the instructions of some
one, I know not who , that we are to ascribe the agitation which
now prevails." "True, general," Napoleon replied, most vehemently,
"and I would rather live in the woods, than in a society which
presents no security against violence." This conversation only
strengthened the alienation already existing between them.
Bernadotte, though a brave and efficient officer, was a jealous
braggadocio. At the first interview between these two distinguished
men, when Napoleon was in command of the army of Italy, they
contemplated each other with mutual dislike. "I have seen a man,"
said Bernadotte, "of twenty-six or seven years of age, who assumes
the air of one of fifty; and he presages any thing but good to the
Republic." Napoleon summarily dismissed Bernadotte by saying, "he
has a French head and a Roman heart."
There were three political parties now dividing France, the old
royalist party, in favor of the restoration of the Bourbons; the
radical democrats, or Jacobins, with Barras at its head, supported
by the mob of Paris; and the moderate republicans led by Sieyes.
All these parties struggling together, and fearing each other, in
the midst of the general anarchy which prevailed, immediately paid
court to Napoleon, hoping to secure the support of his all-powerful
arm. Napoleon determined to co-operate with the moderate republicans.
The restoration of the Bourbons was not only out of the question,
but Napoleon had no more power to secure that result, than had
Washington to bring the United States into peaceful submission to
George III. "Had I joined the Jacobins," said Napoleon, "I should
have risked nothing. But after conquering with them, it would have
been necessary almost immediately, to conquer against them. A club
can not endure a permanent chief. It wants one for every successive
passion. Now to make use of a party one day, in order to attack
it the next, under whatever pretext it is done, is still an act of
treachery. It was inconsistent with my principles."
Sieyes, the head of the moderate republicans, and Napoleon soon
understood each other, and each admitted the necessity of co-operation.
The government was in a state of chaos. "Our salvation now demands,"
said the wily diplomatist, "both a head and a sword." Napoleon had
both. In one fortnight from the time when he landed at Frejus, "the
pear was ripe." The plan was all matured for the great conflict.
Napoleon, in solitary grandeur, kept his own counsel. He had
secured the cordial co-operation, the unquestioning obedience of
all his subordinates. Like the general upon the field of battle, he
was simply to give his orders, and columns marched, and squadrons
charged, and generals swept the field in unquestioning obedience.
Though he had determined to ride over and to destroy the existing
government, he wished to avail himself, so far as possible, of the
mysterious power of law, as a conqueror turns a captured battery
upon the foe from whom it had been wrested. Such a plot, so simple,
yet so bold and efficient, was never formed before. And no one,
but another Napoleon, will be able to execute another such again.
All Paris was in a state of intense excitement. Something great was
to be done. Napoleon was to do it. But nobody knew when, or what,
or how. All impatiently awaited orders. The majority of the Senate,
or Council of Ancients, conservative in its tendencies, and having
once seen, during the reign of terror, the horrors of Jacobin
domination, were ready, most obsequiously, to rally beneath the
banner of so resolute a leader as Napoleon. They were prepared,
without question, to pass any vote which he should propose. The House
of Representatives or Council of Five Hundred, more democratic in
its constitution, contained a large number of vulgar, ignorant,
and passionate demagogues, struggling to grasp the reins of power.
Carnot, whose co-operation Napoleon had entirely secured, was
President of the Senate. Lucien Bonaparte, the brother of Napoleon,
was Speaker of the House. The two bodies met in the palace of the
Tuileries. The constitution conferred upon the Council of Ancients,
the right to decide upon the place of meeting for both legislative
All the officers of the garrison in Paris, and all the distinguished
military men in the metropolis, had solicited the honor of
a presentation to Napoleon. Without any public announcement, each
one was privately informed that Napoleon would see him on the
morning of the 9th of November. All the regiments in the city had
also solicited the honor of a review by the distinguished conqueror.
They were also informed that Napoleon would review them early on
the morning of the 9th of November. The Council of Ancients was
called to convene at six o'clock on the morning of the same day.
The Council of Five Hundred were also to convene at 11 o'clock of
the same morning. This, the famous 18th of Brumaire, was the destined
day for the commencement of the great struggle. These appointments
were given in such a way as to attract no public attention. The
general-in-chief was thus silently arranging his forces for the
important conflict. To none did he reveal those combinations, by
which he anticipated a bloodless victory.
The morning of the 9th of November arrived. The sun rose with unwonted
splendor over the domes of the thronged city. A more brilliant day
never dawned. Through all the streets of the mammoth metropolis
there was heard, in the earliest twilight of the day, the music of
martial bands, the tramp of battalions, the clatter of iron hoofs,
and the rumbling of heavy artillery wheels over the pavements,
as regiments of infantry, artillery, and cavlary, in the proudest
array, marched to the Boulevards to receive the honor of a review
from the conqueror of Italy and of Egypt. The whole city was
in commotion, guided by the unseen energies of Napoleon in the
retirement of his closet. At eight o'clock Napoleon's house, in
the Rue Chanteraine, was so thronged with illustrious military men,
in most brilliant uniform, that every room was filled and even the
street was crowded with the resplendent guests. At that moment the
Council of Ancients passed the decree, which Napoleon had prepared,
that the two legislative bodies should transfer their meeting to St.
Cloud, a few miles from Paris; and that Napoleon Bonaparte should
be put in command of all the military forces in the city, to secure
the public peace. The removal to St. Cloud was a merciful precaution
against bloodshed. It secured the legislatures from the ferocious
interference of a Parisian mob. The President of the Council was
himself commissioned to bear the decree to Napoleon. He elbowed
his way through the brilliant throng, crowding the door and the
apartment of Napoleon's dwelling, and presented to him the ordinance.
Napoleon was ready to receive it. He stepped upon the balcony,
gathered his vast retinue of powerful guests before him, and in
a loud and firm voice, read to them the decree. "Gentlemen," said
he, "will you help me save the Republic?" One simultaneous burst
of enthusiasm rose from every lip, as drawing their swords from
their scabbards they waved them in the air and shouted, "We swear
it, we swear it." The victory was virtually won. Napoleon was now
at the head of the French nation. Nothing remained but to finish
his conquest. There was no retreat left open for his foes. There
was hardly the possibility of a rally. And now Napoleon summoned
all his energies to make his triumph most illustrious. Messengers
were immediately sent to read the decree to the troops already
assembled, in the utmost display of martial pomp, to greet the idol
of the army, and who were in a state of mind to welcome him most
exultingly as their chief. A burst of enthusiastic acclamation
ascended from their ranks which almost rent the skies. Napoleon
immediately mounted his horse, and, surrounded by the most magnificent
staff, whom he had thus ingeniously assembled at his house, and,
accompanied by a body of fifteen hundred cavalry, whom he had taken
the precaution to rendezvous near his dwelling proceeded to the
palace of the Tuileries. The gorgeous spectacle burst like a vision
upon astonished Paris. It was Napoleon's first public appearance.
Dressed in the utmost simplicity of a civilian's costume, he rode
upon his magnificent charger, the centre of all eyes. The gleaming
banners, waving in the breeze, and the gorgeous trappings of
silver and gold, with which his retinue was embellished, set off
in stronger relief the majestic simplicity of his own appearance.
With the pump and the authority of an enthroned king, Napoleon
entered the Council of the Ancients. The Ancients themselves were
dazzled by his sudden apparition in such imposing and unexpected
splendor and power. Ascending the bar, attended by an imposing
escort, he addressed the assembly and took his oath of office.
"You," said Napoleon, "are the wisdom of the nation. To you it
belongs to concert measures for the salvation of the Republic. I
come, surrounded by our generals, to offer you support. Faithfully
will I fulfill the task you have intrusted to me. Let us not look
into the pass for precedents. nothing in history resembles the
eighteenth century. Nothing in the eighteenth century resembles
the present moment."
An aid was immediately sent to the palace of the Luxembourg, to
inform the five Directors, there in session, of the decree. Two
of the Directors, Sieyes and Ducos, were pledged to Napoleon, and
immediately resigned their offices, and hastened to the Tuileries.
Barras, bewildered and indignant, sent his secretary with a
remonstrance. Napoleon, already assuming the authority of an emperor,
and speaking as if France were his patrimony, came down upon him
with a torrent of invective. "Where." he indignantly exclaimed,
"is that beautiful France which I left you so brilliant! I left
you peace. I find war. I left you victories. I find but defeats.
I left you millions of Italy. I find taxation and beggary. Where
are the hundred thousand men, my companions in glory! They are dead.
This state of things can not continue. It will lead to despotism."
Barras was terrified. He feared to have Napoleon's eagle eye
investigate his peculations. He resigned. Two Directors only now
were left, Gohier and Moulins. It took a majority of the five to
constitute a quorum. The two were powerless. In despair of successful
resistance and fearing vengeance they hastened to the Tuileries to
find Napoleon. They were introduced to him surrounded by Sieyes,
Ducos, and a brilliant staff. Napoleon received them cordially.
"I am glad to see you," said he. "I doubt not that you will both
sign. Your patriotism will not allow you to appose a revolution
which is both inevitable and necessary." "I do not yet despair,"
said Gohier, vehemently, "aided by my colleage, Moulins, of saving
the Republic." "With what will you save it?" exclaimed Napoleon.
"With the Constitution which is crumbling to pieces?" Just at that
moment a messenger came in and informed the Directors that Santeree,
the brewer, who, during the Reign of Terror, had obtained a bloody
celebrity as leader of the Jacobins, was rousing the mob in the
faubourgs to resistance. "General Moulins," said Napoleon, firmly,
"you are the friend of Santerre. Tell him that at the very first
movement he makes, I will cause him to be shot." Moulins, exasperated
yet appalled, made an apologetic reply. "The Republic is in danger,"
said Napoleon. We must save it. It is my will . Sieyes, Ducos,
and Barras have resigned. You are two individuals insulated and
powerless. I advise you not to resist." They still refused. Napoleon
had no time to spend in parleying. He immediately sent them both
back into the Luxembourg, separated them and placed them under
arrest. Fouche, * occupying the important post of Minister of
Police, though not in Napoleon's confidence, yet anxious to display
his homage to the rising luminary, called upon Napoleon and informed
him that he had closed the barriers, and had thus prevented all
ingress or egress. "What means this folly?" said Napoleon. "Let
those orders be instantly countermanded. Do we not march with the
opinion of the nation, and by its strength alone? Let no citizen
be interrupted. Let every publicity be given to what is done."
"Fouche," said Napoleon, is a miscreant of all colors, a terrorist,
and one who took an active part in many bloody scenes of the
Revolution. He is a man who can worm all your secrets out of you,
with an air of calmness and unconcern. He is very rich; but his
riches have been badly acquired. He never was my confidant. Never
did he approach me without bending to the ground. But I never had
any esteem for him. I employed him merely as an instrument."
The Council of Five Hundred, in great confusion and bewilderment,
assembled at eleven o'clock. Lucien immediately communicated the
degree transferring their session to St. Cloud. This cut off all
debate. The decree was perfectly legal. There could therefore be no
legal pretext for opposition. Napoleon, the idol of the army, had
the whole military power obedient to his nod. Therefore resistance
of any kind was worse than folly. The deed was adroitly done. At
eleven o'clock the day's work was accomplished. There was no longer
a Directory. Napoleon was the appointed chief of the troops, and
they were filling the streets with enthusiastic shouts of "Live
Napoleon." The Council of Ancients were entirely at his disposal.
An a large party in the Council of Five Hundred were also wholly
subservient to his will. Napoleon, proud, silent, reserved reserved,
fully conscious of his own intellectual supremacy, and regarding
the generals, the statesmen, and the multitude around him, as
a man contemplates children, ascended the grand staircase of the
Tuileries as it were his hereditary home. Nearly all parties united
to sustain his triumph. Napoleon was a solider. The guns of Paris
joyfully thundered forth the victory of one who seemed the peculiar
favorite of the God of war. Napoleon was a scholar, stimulating
intellect to its mightiest achievements. The scholars of Paris,
gratefully united to weave a chaplet for the brow of their honored
associate and patron. Napoleon was, for those days of profligacy and
unbridled lust, a model of purity of morals, and of irreproachable
integrity. The proffered bribe of millions could not tempt him.
The dancing daughters of Herodias, with all their blandishments,
could not lure him from his life of Herculean toil and from his
majestic patriotism. The wine which glitters in the cup, never
vanquished him. At the shrine of no vice was he found a worshiper.
The purest and the best in France, disgusted with that gilded
corruption which had converted the palaces of the Bourbons into
harems of voluptuous sin, and still more deeply loathing that vulgar
and revolting vice, which had transformed Paris into a house of
infamy, enlisted all their sympathies in behalf of the exemplary
husband and the incorruptible patriot. Napoleon was one of the most
firm and unflinching friends of law and order. France was weary of
anarchy and was trembling under the apprehension that the gutters
of the guillotine were again to be clotted with blood. And mothers
and maidens prayed for God's blessing upon Napoleon, who appeared
to them as a messenger sent from Heaven for their protection.
During the afternoon and the night his room at the Tuileries was
thronged with the most illustrious statesmen, generals, and scholars
of Paris, hastening to pledge to him their support. Napoleon,
perfectly unembarrassed and never at a loss in any emergency,
gave his orders for the ensuing day. Lannes was intrusted with a
body of troops to guard the Tuileries. Murat, who, said Napoleon,
"was superb at Aboukir," with a numerous cavalry and a crops of
grenadiers was stationed at St. Cloud, a thunderbolt in Napoleon's
right hand. Woe betide the mob into whose ranks that thunderbolt
may be hurled. Moreau, with five hundred men, was stationed to
guard the Luxembourg, where the two refractory Directors were held
under arrest. Serrurier was posted in a commanding position with a
strong reserve, prompt for any unexpected exigence. Even a body of
troops were sent to accompany Barras to his country seat, ostensibly
as an escort of honor, but in reality to guard against any change
in that venal and versatile mind. The most energetic measures were
immediately adopted to prevent any rallying point for the disaffected.
Bills were everywhere posted, exhorting the citizens to be quiet,
and assuring them that powerful efforts were making to save the
Republic. These minute precaution were characteristic of Napoleon.
He believed in destiny. Yet he left nothing for destiny to accomplish.
He ever sought to make provision for all conceivable contingencies.
These measures were completely successful. Though Paris was in a
delirium of excitement, there were outbreaks of lawless violence.
Neither Monarchist, Republican, nor Jacobin knew what Napoleon
intended to do. All were conscious that he would do something. It
was known that the Jacobin party in the Council of Five Hundred
on the ensuing day, would make a desperate effort at resistance.
Sieyes, perfectly acquainted with revolutionary movements, urged
Napoleon to arrest some forty of the Jacobins most prominent in
the Council. This would have secured an easy victory on the morrow.
Napoleon, however, rejected the advice, saying, "I pledged my word
this morning to protect the national representation. I will not this
evening violate my oath." Had the Assembly been convened in Paris,
all the mob of the faubourgs would have risen, like an inundation,
in their behalf, and torrents of blood must have been shed. The
sagacious transferrence of the meeting to St. Cloud, several miles
from Paris, saved those lives. The powerful military display,
checked any attempt at a march upon St. Cloud. What could the mob
do, with Murat, Lannes, and Serrurier, guided by the energies of
Napoleon, ready to hurl their solid columns upon them!
The delicacy of attention with which Napoleon treated Josephine,
was one of the most remarkable traits in his character. It is not
strange that he should have won from her a love almost more than
human. During the exciting scenes of this day, when no one could
tell whether events were guiding him to a crown or to the guillotine,
Napoleon did not forget his wife, who was awaiting the result,
with deep solicitude, in her chamber in the Rue Chanteraine. Nearly
every hour he dispatched a messenger to Josephine, with a hastily
written line communicating to her the progress of events. Late at
night he returned to his home, apparently has fresh and unexhausted
as in the morning. He informed Josephine minutely of the scenes of
the day, and then threw himself upon a sofa, for an hour's repose.
Early the next morning he was on horseback, accompanied by a regal
retinue, directing his steps to St. Cloud. Three halls had been
prepared in the palace; one for the Ancients, one for the Five
Hundred, and one for Napoleon. He thus assumed the position which
he knew it to be the almost unanimous will of the nation that
he should fill. During the night the Jacobins had arranged a very
formidable resistance. Napoleon was considered to be in imminent
peril. He would be denounced as a traitor. Sieyes and Ducos had
each a post-chaise and six horses, waiting at the gate of St. Cloud,
prepared, in case of reverse, to escape for life. There were many
ambitious generals, ready to mount the crest of any refluent wave
to sweep Napoleon to destruction. Benadotte was the most to be
feared. Orders were given to cut down the first person who should
attempt to harangue the troops. Napoleon, riding at the head of
this imposing military display, manifested no agitation. He knew,
however, perfectly well the capriciousness of the popular voice,
and that the multitude in the same hour could cry "Hosanna!" and
"crucify!" The two Councils met. The tumult in the Five Hundred was
fearful. Cries of "Down with the dictator!" "Death to the tyrant!"
"Live the Constitution!" filled the hall, and drowned the voice of
deliberation. The friends of Napoleon were swept before the flood
of passion. It was proposed that every member should immediately
take anew the oath to support the Constitution. No one dared to peril
his life by the refusal. Even Lucien, the Speaker, was compelled
to descend from his chair and take the oath. The Ancients, overawed
by the unexpected violence of this opposition in the lower and more
popular house, began to be alarmed and to recede. The opposition
took a bold and aggressive stand, and proposed a decree of outlawry
against Napoleon. The friends of Napoleon, remembering past scenes
of earnage, were timid and yielding. Defeat seemed inevitable.
Victory was apparently turned into discomfiture and death. In this
emergency Napoleon displayed the same coolness, energy, and tact
with which so often, on the field of battle, in the most disastrous
hour, he had rolled back the tide of defeat in the resplendent
waves of victory. His own mind was the corps de reserve which he
now marched into the conflict to arrest the rout of his friends.
Taking with him a few aids and a band of grenadiers, he advanced
to the door of the hall. On his way he met Bernadotte. "You are
marching to the guillotine, " said his rival, sternly. "We shall
see," Napoleon coolly replied. Leaving the soldiers, with their
glittering steel and nodding plumes, at the entrance of the room,
he ascended the tribune. The hush of perfect silence pervaded the
agitated hall. "Gentlemen," said he, "you are on a volcano. You
deemed the Republic in danger. You called me to your aid. I obeyed.
And now I am assailed by a thousand calumnies. They talk of Caesar,
of Cromwell, of military despotism, as if any thing in antiquity
resembled the present moment.
Danger presses. Disaster thickens. We have no longer a government.
The Directors have resigned. The Five Hundred are in a tumult.
Emissaries are instigating Paris to revolt. Agitators would gladly
bring back the revolutionary tribunals. But fear not. Aided by my
companions in arms I will protect you. I desire nothing for myself,
but to save the Republic. And I solemnly swear to protect that
liberty and equality , for which we have made such sacrifices."
"And the Constitution !" some one cried out. Napoleon had purposely
omitted the Constitution in his oath, for he despised it, and was
at that moment laboring for its overthrow. He paused for a moment,
and then, with increasing energy exclaimed, "The institution! you
have none. You violated when the Executive infringed the rights
of the Legislature. You violated it when the Legislature struck
at the independence of the Executive. You violated it when, with
sacriligious hand, both the Legislature and Executive struck at
the sovereignty of the people, by annulling their elections. The
Constitution! It is a mockery; invoked by all, regarded by none."
Rallied by the presence of Napoleon, and by these daring words,
his friends recovered their courage, and two-thirds of the Assembly
rose in expression of their confidence and support. At this moment
intelligence arrived that the Five Hundred were compelling Lucien
to put to the vote Napoleon's outlawry. Not an instant was to be
lost. There is a mysterious power in law. The passage of that vote
would probably have been fatal. Life and death were trembling in
the balance. "I would then have given two hundred millions," said
Napoleon, "to have had Ney by my side." Turning to the Ancients,
he exclaimed, "if any orator, paid by foreigners, shall talk of
outlawing me, I will appeal for protection to my brave companions
in arms, whose plumes are nodding at the door. Remember that I
march accompanied by the God of fortune and by the God of war."
He immediately left the Ancients, and, attended by his military
band, hastened to the Council of Five Hundred. On his way he met
Augereau, who was pale and trembling, deeming Napoleon lost. "You
have got yourself into a pretty fix," said he, with deep agitation.
"Matters were worse at Arcola," Napoleon coolly replied. "Keep quiet.
All will be changed in half an hour." Followed by his grenadiers,
he immediately entered the Hall of the Five Hundred. The soldiers
remained near the door. Napoleon traversed alone half of the room
to reach the bar. It was an hour in which nothing could save him
but the resources of his own mind. Furious shouts rose from all
parts of the house. "What means this! down with the tyrant! begone!"
"The winds," says Napoleon, "suddenly escaping from the caverns of
Aeolus can give but a faint idea of that tempest." In the midst of
the horrible confusion he in vain endeavored to speak. The members,
in the wildest fray, crowded around him. The grenadiers witnessing
the peril of their chief rushed to his rescue. A dagger was struck
at his bosom. A soldier, with his arm, parried the blow. With their
bayonets they drove back the members, and encircling Napoleon, bore
him from the Hall. Napoleon had hardly descended the outer steps
ere some one informed him that his brother Lucien was surrounded by
the infuriated deputies, and that his life was in imminent jeopardy.
"Colonel Dumoulin," said he, "take a battalion of grenadiers and
hasten to my brother's deliverance." The soldiers rushed into the
room, drove back the crowd who, with violent menaces, were surrounding
Lucien, and saying, "It is by your brother's commands," escorted
him in safety out of the ball into the court-yard. Napoleon, now
mounting his horse, with Lucien by his side, rode along in front
of his troops." The Council of Five Hundred," exclaimed Lucien,
"is dissolved. It is I that tell you so. Assassins have taken
possession of the hall of meeting. I summon you to march and clear
it of them." "Soldiers!" said Napoleon, "can I rely upon you!"
.......... "Long live Bonaparte," was the simultaneous response
Murat took a battalion of grenadiers and marched to the entrance of
the hall. When Murat headed a column it was well known that there
would be no child's play. "Charge bayonets, forward!" he exclaimed,
with imperturbable coolness. The drums beat the charge. Steadily
the bristling line of steel advanced. The terrified representatives
leaped over the benches, rushed through the passage ways, and sprang
out of the windows, throwing upon the floor, in their precipitate
flight, gowns, scarfs, and hats. In two minutes the hall was cleared.
As the Representatives were flying in dismay across the garden, on
officer proposed that the soldiers should be ordered to fire upon
them. Napoleon decisively refused, saying, "It is my wish that not
a single drop of blood be split."
As Napoleon wished to avail himself as far as possible, of the forms
of law, he assembled the two legislative bodies in the evening.
Those only attended who were friendly to his cause. Unanimously
they decreed that Napoleon had deserved well of his country; they
abolished the Directory. The executive power they vested in Napoleon,
Sieyes, and Ducos, with the title of Consuls. Two committees of
twenty-five members each, taken from the two Councils, were appointed
to co-operate with the Consuls in forming a new Constitution. During
the evening the rumor reached Paris that Napoleon had failed in his
enterprise. The consternation was great. The mass of the people,
of all ranks, dreading the renewal of revolutionary horrors, and
worn out with past convulsions, passionately longed for repose Their
only hope was in Napoleon. At nine o'clock at night intelligence of
the change of government was officially announced, by a proclamation
which the victor had dictated with the rapidity and the glowing
eloquence which characterized all of his mental acts. It was read
by torchlight to assembled and deeply agitated groups, all over
the city. The welcome tidings were greeted with the liveliest
demonstrations of applause. At three o'clock in the morning Napoleon
threw himself into his carriage to return to Paris. Bourrienne
accompanied him. Napoleon appeared so absorbed in thought, that he
uttered not one single word during the ride.
At four o'clock in the morning he alighted from his carriage,
at the door of his dwelling in the Rue Chanteraine. Josephine, in
the greatest anxiety, was watching at the window for his approach.
Napoleon had not been able to send her one single line during the
turmoil and the peril of that eventful day. She sprang to meet him.
Napoleon foundly encircled her in his arms, briefly recapitulated
the scenes of the day, and assured her that since he had taken the
oath of office, he had not allowed himself to speak to a single
individual, for he wished that the beloved voice of his Josephine
might be the first to congratulate him upon his virtual accession
to the Empire of France. The heart of Josephine could appreciate
a delicacy of love so refined and so touching. Well might she say,
"Napoleon is the most fascinating of men." It was then after four
o'clock in the morning. The dawn of the day to conduct Napoleon to
a new scene of Herculean toil in organizing the Republic Throwing
himself upon a couch, for a few moments of repose, he exclaimed,
gayly, "good-night, my Josephine! To-morrow, we sleep in the palace
of the Luxembourg."
Napoleon was then but twenty-nine years of age. And yet, under
circumstances of inconceivable difficulty, with unhesitating reliance
upon his own mental resources, he assumed the enormous care of
creating and administering a Lew government for thirty millions
of people. Never did he achieve a victory which displayed more
consummate genius. On no occasion of his life did his majestic
intellectual power beam forth with more brilliance. It is not to
be expected that, for ages to come, the world will be united in
opinion respecting this transaction. Some represent it as an outrage
against law and liberty. Others consider it a necessary act which
put an end to corruption and anarchy. That the course which Napoleon
pursued was in accordance with the wished of the overwhelming
majority of the French people on one can doubt. It is questionable
whether, even now, France is prepared for self-government. There
can be no question that then the republic had totally failed.
Said Napoleon, in reference to this revolution, "For my part, all
my share of the plot, was confined to assembling the crowd of my
visitors at the same hour in the morning, and marching at their
head to seize upon power. It was from the threshold of my door, and
without my friends having any previous knowledge of my intentions,
that I led them to this conquest. p It was amidst the brilliant
escort which they formed, their lively joy and unanimous ardor,
that I presented myself a the bar of the Ancients to thank them for
the dictatorship with which they invested me. Metaphysicians have
disputed and will long dispute, whether we did not violate the laws,
and whether we were not criminal. But these are mere abstractions
which should disappear before imperious necessity. One might as well
blame a sailor for waste and destruction, when he cuts away a mast
to save his ship. the fact is, had it not been for us the country
must have been lost. We saved it. The authors of that memorable
state transaction ought to answer their accusers proudly, like the
Roman, 'We protest that we have saved our country. Come with us
and render thanks to the Gods.'"
With the exception of the Jacobins all parties were strongly
in favor of this revolution. For ten years the people had been so
accustomed to the violation of the laws, that they had ceased to
condemn such acts, and judged of them only by their consequences.
All over France the feeling was nearly universal in favor of the
new government. Says Alison, who surely will not be accused of
regarding Napoleon with a partial eye, "Napoleon rivaled Caesar in
the elemency with which he used his victory. No proscriptions or
massacres, few arrests or imprisonments followed the triumph of
order over revolution. On the contrary, numerous acts of merey, as
wise as they were magnanimous, illustrated the rise of the consular
throne. The elevation of Napoleon was not only unstained by blood,
but not even a single captive long lamented the car of the victor.
A signal triumph of the principles of humility over those of cruelty,
glorious alike to the actors and the age in which it occurred: and
a memorable proof how much more durable are the victories obtained
by moderation and wisdom, than those achieved by violence
and stained by blood." ˜
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