The Confessions of J. J. Rousseau, entire
Jean Jacques Rousseau

Part 13 out of 13

situation. In whatever asylum I should take refuge, it appeared
impossible to avoid either of the two means made use of to expel me.
One of which was to stir up against me the populace by secret manoeuvres;
and the other to drive me away by open force, without giving a reason for
so doing. I could not, therefore, depend upon a safe retreat, unless I
went in search of it farther than my strength and the season seemed
likely to permit. These circumstances again bringing to my recollection
the ideas which had lately occurred to me, I wished my persecutors to
condemn me to perpetual imprisonment rather than oblige me incessantly to
wander upon the earth, by successively expelling me from the asylums of
which I should make choice: and to this effect I made them a proposal.
Two days after my first letter to M. de Graffenried, I wrote him a
second, desiring he would state what I had proposed to their
excellencies. The answer from Berne to both was an order, conceived in
the most formal and severe terms, to go out of the island, and leave
every territory, mediate and immediate of the republic, within the space
of twenty-four hours, and never to enter them again under the most
grievous penalties.

This was a terrible moment. I have since that time felt greater anguish,
but never have I been more embarrassed. What afflicted me most was being
forced to abandon the project which had made me desirous to pass the
winter in the island. It is now time I should relate the fatal anecdote
which completed my disasters, and involved in my ruin an unfortunate
people, whose rising virtues already promised to equal those of Rome and
Sparta, I had spoken of the Corsicans in the 'Social Contract' as a new
people, the only nation in Europe not too worn out for legislation,
and had expressed the great hope there was of such a people, if it were
fortunate enough to have a wise legislator. My work was read by some of
the Corsicans, who were sensible of the honorable manner in which I had
spoken of them; and the necessity under which they found themselves of
endeavoring to establish their republic, made their chiefs think of
asking me for my ideas upon the subject. M. Buttafuoco, of one of the
first families in the country, and captain in France, in the Royal
Italians, wrote to me to that effect, and sent me several papers for
which I had asked to make myself acquainted with the history of the
nation and the state of the country. M. Paoli, also, wrote to me several
times, and although I felt such an undertaking to be superior to my
abilities; I thought I could not refuse to give my assistance to so great
and noble a work, the moment I should have acquired all the necessary
information. It was to this effect I answered both these gentlemen, and
the correspondence lasted until my departure.

Precisely at the same time, I heard that France was sending troops to
Corsica, and that she had entered into a treaty with the Genoese. This
treaty and sending of troops gave me uneasiness, and, without imagining
I had any further relation with the business, I thought it impossible and
the attempt ridiculous, to labor at an undertaking which required such
undisturbed tranquillity as the political institution of a people in the
moment when perhaps they were upon the point of being subjugated. I did
not conceal my fears from M. Buttafuoco, who rather relieved me from them
by the assurance that, were there in the treaty things contrary to the
liberty of his country, a good citizen like himself would not remain as
he did in the service of France. In fact, his zeal for the legislation
of the Corsicans, and his connections with M. Paoli, could not leave a
doubt on my mind respecting him; and when I heard he made frequent
journeys to Versailles and Fontainebleau, and had conversations with M.
de Choiseul, all I concluded from the whole was, that with respect to the
real intentions of France he had assurances which he gave me to
understand, but concerning which he did not choose openly to explain
himself by letter.

This removed a part of my apprehensions. Yet, as I could not comprehend
the meaning of the transportation of troops from France, nor reasonably
suppose they were sent to Corsica to protect the liberty of the
inhabitants, which they of themselves were very well able to defend
against the Genoese, I could neither make myself perfectly easy, nor
seriously undertake the plan of the proposed legislation, until I had
solid proofs that the whole was serious, and that the parties meant not
to trifle with me. I much wished for an interview with M. Buttafuoco, as
that was certainly the best means of coming at the explanation I wished.
Of this he gave me hopes, and I waited for it with the greatest
impatience. I know not whether he really intended me any interview or
not; but had this even been the case, my misfortunes would have prevented
me from profiting by it.

The more I considered the proposed undertaking, and the further I
advanced in the examination of the papers I had in my hands, the greater
I found the necessity of studying, in the country, the people for whom
institutions were to be made, the soil they inhabited, and all the
relative circumstances by which it was necessary to appropriate to them
that institution. I daily perceived more clearly the impossibility of
acquiring at a distance all the information necessary to guide me. This
I wrote to M. Buttafuoco, and he felt as I did. Although I did not form
the precise resolution of going to Corsica. I considered a good deal of
the means necessary to make that voyage. I mentioned it to M. Dastier,
who having formerly served in the island under M. de Maillebois, was
necessarily acquainted with it. He used every effort to dissuade me from
this intention, and I confess the frightful description he gave me of the
Corsicans and their country, considerably abated the desire I had of
going to live amongst them.

But when the persecutions of Motiers made me think of quitting
Switzerland, this desire was again strengthened by the hope of at length
finding amongst these islanders the repose refused me in every other
place. One thing only alarmed me, which was my unfitness for the active
life to which I was going to be condemned, and the aversion I had always
had to it. My disposition, proper for meditating at leisure and in
solitude, was not so for speaking and acting, and treating of affairs
with men. Nature, which had endowed me with the first talent, had
refused me the last. Yet I felt that, even without taking a direct and
active part in public affairs, I should as soon as I was in Corsica,
be under the necessity of yielding to the desires of the people, and of
frequently conferring with the chiefs. The object even of the voyage
required that, instead of seeking retirement, I should in the heart of
the country endeavor to gain the information of which I stood in need.
It was certain that I should no longer be master of my own time, and
that, in spite of myself, precipitated into the vortex in which I was not
born to move, I should there lead a life contrary to my inclination,
and never appear but to disadvantage. I foresaw that ill-supporting by
my presence the opinion my books might have given the Corsicans of my
capacity, I should lose my reputation amongst them, and, as much to their
prejudice as my own, be deprived of the confidence they had in me,
without which, however, I could not successfully produce the work they
expected from my pen. I am certain that, by thus going out of my sphere,
I should become useless to the inhabitants, and render myself unhappy.

Tormented, beaten by storms from every quarter, and, for several years
past, fatigued by journeys and persecution, I strongly felt a want of the
repose of which my barbarous enemies wantonly deprived me: I sighed more
than ever after that delicious indolence, that soft tranquillity of body
and mind, which I had so much desired, and to which, now that I had
recovered from the chimeras of love and friendship, my heart limited its
supreme felicity. I viewed with terror the work I was about to
undertake; the tumultuous life into which I was to enter made me tremble,
and if the grandeur, beauty, and utility of the object animated my
courage, the impossibility of conquering so many difficulties entirely
deprived me of it.

Twenty years of profound meditation in solitude would have been less
painful to me than an active life of six months in the midst of men and
public affairs, with a certainty of not succeeding in my undertaking.

I thought of an expedient which seemed proper to obviate every
difficulty. Pursued by the underhand dealings of my secret persecutors
to every place in which I took refuge, and seeing no other except Corsica
where I could in my old days hope for the repose I had until then been
everywhere deprived of, I resolved to go there with the directions of M.
Buttafuoco as soon as this was possible, but to live there in
tranquillity; renouncing, in appearance, everything relative to
legislation, and, in some measure, to make my hosts a return for their
hospitality, to confine myself to writing in the country the history of
the Corsicans, with a reserve in my own mind of the intention of secretly
acquiring the necessary information to become more useful to them should
I see a probability of success. In this manner, by not entering into an
engagement, I hoped to be enabled better to meditate in secret and more
at my ease, a plan which might be useful to their purpose, and this
without much breaking in upon my dearly beloved solitude, or submitting
to a kind of life which I had ever found insupportable.

But the journey was not, in my situation, a thing so easy to get over.
According to what M. Dastier had told me of Corsica, I could not expect
to find there the most simple conveniences of life, except such as I
should take with me; linen, clothes, plate, kitchen furniture, and books,
all were to be conveyed thither. To get there myself with my
gouvernante, I had the Alps to cross, and in a journey of two hundred
leagues to drag after me all my baggage; I had also to pass through the
states of several sovereigns, and according to the example set to all
Europe, I had, after what had befallen me, naturally to expect to find
obstacles in every quarter, and that each sovereign would think he did
himself honor by overwhelming me with some new insult, and violating in
my person all the rights of persons and humanity. The immense expense,
fatigue, and risk of such a journey made a previous consideration of
them, and weighing every difficulty, the first step necessary. The idea
of being alone, and, at my age, without resource, far removed from all my
acquaintance, and at the mercy of these semi-barbarous and ferocious
people, such as M. Dastier had described them to me, was sufficient to
make me deliberate before I resolved to expose myself to such dangers.
I ardently wished for the interview for which M. Buttafuoco had given me
reason to hope, and I waited the result of it to guide me in my

Whilst I thus hesitated came on the persecutions of Motiers, which
obliged me to retire. I was not prepared for a long journey, especially
to Corsica. I expected to hear from Buttafuoco; I took refuge in the
island of St. Peter, whence I was driven at the beginning of winter, as I
have already stated. The Alps, covered with snow, then rendered my
emigration impracticable, especially with the promptitude required from
me. It is true, the extravagant severity of a like order rendered the
execution of it almost impossible; for, in the midst of that concentred
solitude, surrounded by water, and having but twenty-four hours after
receiving the order to prepare for my departure, and find a boat and
carriages to get out of the island and the territory, had I had wings,
I should scarcely have been able to pay obedience to it. This I wrote to
the bailiff of Nidau, in answer to his letter, and hastened to take my
departure from a country of iniquity. In this manner was I obliged to
abandon my favorite project, for which reason, not having in my
oppression been able to prevail upon my persecutors to dispose of me
otherwise, I determined, in consequence of the invitation of my lord
marshal, upon a journey to Berlin, leaving Theresa to pass the winter in
the island of St. Peter, with my books and effects, and depositing my
papers in the hands of M. du Peyrou. I used so much diligence that the
next morning I left the island and arrived at Bienne before noon. An
accident, which I cannot pass over in silence, had here well nigh put an
end to my journey.

As soon as the news or my having received an order to quit my asylum was
circulated, I received a great number of visits from the neighborhood,
and especially from the Bernois, who came with the most detestable
falsehood to flatter and soothe me, protesting that my persecutors had
seized the moment of the vacation of the senate to obtain and send me the
order, which, said they, had excited the indignation of the two hundred.
Some of these comforters came from the city of Bienne, a little free
state within that of Berne, and amongst others a young man of the name of
Wildremet whose family was of the first rank, and had the greatest credit
in that city. Wildremet strongly solicited me in the name of his fellow-
citizens to choose my retreat amongst them, assuring me that they were
anxiously desirous of it, and that they would think it an honor and their
duty to make me forget the persecutions I had suffered; that with them I
had nothing to fear from the influence of the Bernois, that Bienne was a
free city, governed by its own laws, and that the citizens were
unanimously resolved not to hearken to any solicitation which should be
unfavorable to me.

Wildremet perceiving all he could say to be ineffectual, brought to his
aid several other persons, as well from Bienne and the environs as from
Berne; even, and amongst others, the same Kirkeberguer, of whom I have
spoken, who, after my retreat to Switzerland had endeavored to obtain my
esteem, and by his talents and principles had interested me in his favor.
But I received much less expected and more weighty solicitations from M.
Barthes, secretary to the embassy from France, who came with Wildremet to
see me, exhorted me to accept his invitation, and surprised me by the
lively and tender concern he seemed to feel for my situation. I did not
know M. Barthes; however I perceived in what he said the warmth and zeal
of friendship, and that he had it at heart to persuade me to fix my
residence at Bienne. He made the most pompous eulogium of the city and
its inhabitants, with whom he showed himself so intimately connected as
to call them several times in my presence his patrons and fathers.

This from Barthes bewildered me in my conjectures. I had always
suspected M. de Choisuel to be the secret author of all the persecutions
I suffered in Switzerland. The conduct of the resident of Geneva,
and that of the ambassador at Soleure but too much confirmed my
suspicion; I perceived the secret influence of France in everything that
happened to me at Berne, Geneva and Neuchatel, and I did not think I had
any powerful enemy in that kingdom, except the Duke de Choiseul. What
therefore could I think of the visit of Barthes and the tender concern he
showed for my welfare? My misfortunes had not yet destroyed the
confidence natural to my heart, and I had still to learn from experience
to discern snares under the appearance of friendship. I sought with
surprise the reason of the benevolence of M. Barthes; I was not weak
enough to believe he had acted from himself; there was in his manner
something ostentatious, an affectation even which declared a concealed
intention, and I was far from having found in any of these little
subaltern agents, that generous intrepidity which, when I was in a
similar employment, had often caused a fermentation in my heart. I had
formerly known something of the Chevalier Beauteville, at the castle of
Montmorency; he had shown me marks of esteem; since his appointment to
the embassy he had given me proofs of his not having entirely forgotten
me, accompanied with an invitation to go and see him at Soleure. Though
I did not accept this invitation, I was extremely sensible of his
civility, not having been accustomed to be treated with such kindness by
people in place. I presume M. de Beauteville, obliged to follow his
instructions in what related to the affairs of Geneva, yet pitying me
under my misfortunes, had by his private cares prepared for me the asylum
of Bienne, that I might live there in peace under his auspices. I was
properly sensible of his attention, but without wishing to profit by it
and quite determined upon the journey to Berlin, I sighed after the
moment in which I was to see my lord marshal, persuaded I should in
future find zeal repose and lasting happiness nowhere but near his

On my departure from the island, Kirkeberguer accompanied me to Bienne.
I found Wildremet and other Biennois, who, by the water side, waited my
getting out of the boat. We all dined together at the inn, and on my
arrival there my first care was to provide a chaise, being determined to
set off the next morning. Whilst we were at dinner these gentlemen
repeated their solicitations to prevail upon me to stay with them, and
this with such warmth and obliging protestations, that notwithstanding
all my resolutions, my heart, which has never been able to resist
friendly attentions, received an impression from theirs; the moment they
perceived I was shaken, they redoubled their efforts with so much effect
that I was at length overcome, and consented to remain at Bienne, at
least until the spring.

Wildremet immediately set about providing me with a lodging, and boasted,
as of a fortunate discovery, of a dirty little chamber in the back of the
house, on the third story, looking into a courtyard, where I had for a
view the display of the stinking skins of a dresser of chamois leather.
My host was a man of a mean appearance, and a good deal of a rascal; the
next day after I went to his house I heard that he was a debauchee, a
gamester, and in bad credit in the neighborhood. He had neither wife,
children, nor servants, and shut up in my solitary chamber, I was in the
midst of one of the most agreeable countries in Europe, lodged in a
manner to make me die of melancholy in the course of a few days. What
affected me most was, that, notwithstanding what I had heard of the
anxious wish of the inhabitants to receive me amongst them, I had not
perceived, as I passed through the streets, anything polite towards me in
their manners, or obliging in their looks. I was, however, determined to
remain there; but I learned, saw, and felt, the day after, that there was
in the city a terrible fermentation, of which I was the cause. Several
persons hastened obligingly to inform me that on the next day I was to
receive an order conceived in the most severe terms, immediately to quit
the state, that is the city. I had nobody in whom I could confide; they
who had detained me were dispersed. Wildremet had disappeared; I heard
no more of Barthes, and it did not appear that his recommendation had
brought me into great favor with those whom he had styled his patrons and
fathers. One M. de Van Travers, a Bernois, who had an agreeable house
not far from the city, offered it to me for my asylum, hoping, as he
said, that I might there avoid being stoned. The advantage this offer
held out was not sufficiently flattering to tempt me to prolong my abode
with these hospitable people.

Yet, having lost three days by the delay, I had greatly exceeded the
twenty-four hours the Bernois had given me to quit their states, and
knowing their severity, I was not without apprehensions as to the manner
in which they would suffer me to cross them, when the bailiff of Nidau
came opportunely and relieved me from my embarrassment. As he had highly
disapproved of the violent proceedings of their excellencies, he thought,
in his generosity, he owed me some public proof of his taking no part in
them, and had courage to leave his bailiwick to come and pay me a visit
at Bienne. He did me this favor the evening before my departure, and far
from being incognito he affected ceremony, coming in fiocchi in his coach
with his secretary, and brought me a passport in his own name that I
might cross the state of Berne at my ease, and without fear of
molestation. I was more flattered by the visit than by the passport,
and should have been as sensible of the merit of it, had it had for
object any other person whatsoever. Nothing makes a greater impression
on my heart than a well-timed act of courage in favor of the weak
unjustly oppressed.

At length, after having with difficulty procured a chaise, I next morning
left this barbarous country, before the arrival of the deputation with
which I was to be honored, and even before I had seen Theresa, to whom I
had written to come to me, when I thought I should remain at Bienne,
and whom I had scarcely time to countermand by a short letter, informing
her of my new disaster. In the third part of my memoirs, if ever I be
able to write them, I shall state in what manner, thinking to set off for
Berlin, I really took my departure for England, and the means by which
the two ladies who wished to dispose of my person, after having by their
manoeuvres driven me from Switzerland, where I was not sufficiently in
their power, at last delivered me into the hands of their friend.

I added what follows on reading my memoirs to M. and Madam, the Countess
of Egmont, the Prince Pignatelli, the Marchioness of Mesme, and the
Marquis of Juigne.

I have written the truth: if any person has heard of things contrary to
those I have just stated, were they a thousand times proved, he has heard
calumny and falsehood; and if he refuses thoroughly to examine and
compare them with me whilst I am alive, he is not a friend either to
justice or truth. For my part, I openly, and without the least fear
declare, that whoever, even without having read my works, shall have
examined with his own eyes, my disposition, character, manners,
inclinations, pleasures, and habits, and pronounce me a dishonest man,
is himself one who deserves a gibbet.

Thus I concluded, and every person was silent; Madam d'Egmont was the
only person who seemed affected; she visibly trembled, but soon recovered
herself, and was silent like the rest of the company. Such were the
fruits of my reading and declaration.


I never much regretted sleep
In company I suffer cruelly by inaction
Indolence of company is burdensome because it is forced
More stunned than flattered by the trumpet of fame
Nothing absurd appears to them incredible
Obliged to pay attention to every foolish thing uttered
Only prayer consisted in the single interjection "Oh!"
Reproach me with so many contradictions
Substituting cunning to knowledge
Wish thus to be revenged of me for their humiliation


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