Title: Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte — Volume 02
Author: Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne
Editor: Ramsay Weston Phipps
Release date: December 1, 2002 [eBook #3552]
Most recently updated: August 18, 2011
Produced by David Widger
By LOUIS ANTOINE FAUVELET DE BOURRIENNE
His Private Secretary
Edited by R. W. Phipps
Colonel, Late Royal Artillery
Chapter V. to Chapter XIV. 1798
Signature of the preliminaries of peace—Fall of Venice—My arrival and reception at Leoben—Bonaparte wishes to pursue his success— The Directory opposes him—He wishes to advance on Vienna—Movement of the army of the Sambre-et-Meuse—Bonaparte's dissatisfaction— Arrival at Milan—We take up our residence at Montebello—Napoleon's judgment respecting Dandolo and Melzi.
I joined Bonaparte at Leoben on the 19th of April, the day after the signature of the preliminaries of peace. These preliminaries resembled in no respect the definitive treaty of Campo Formio. The still incomplete fall of the State of Venice did not at that time present an available prey for partition. All was arranged afterwards. Woe to the small States that come in immediate contact with two colossal empires waging war!
Here terminated my connection with Bonaparte as a comrade and equal, and those relations with him commenced in which I saw him suddenly great, powerful, and surrounded with homage and glory. I no longer addressed him as I had been accustomed to do. I appreciated too well his personal importance. His position placed too great a social distance between him and me not to make me feel the necessity of fashioning my demeanour accordingly. I made with pleasure, and without regret, the easy sacrifice of the style of familiar companionship and other little privileges. He said, in a loud voice, when I entered the salon where he was surrounded by the officers who formed his brilliant staff, "I am glad to see you, at last"—"Te voila donc, enfin;", but as soon as we were alone he made me understand that he was pleased with my reserve, and thanked me for it. I was immediately placed at the head of his Cabinet. I spoke to him the same evening respecting the insurrection of the Venetian territories, of the dangers which menaced the French, and of those which I had escaped, etc. "Care thou[*] nothing about it," said he;
[*]—[He used to 'tutoyer' me in this familiar manner until his return to Milan.]—
"those rascals shall pay for it. Their republic has had its day, and is done." This republic was, however, still existing, wealthy and powerful. These words brought to my recollection what I had read in a work by one Gabriel Naude, who wrote during the reign of Louis XIII. for Cardinal de Bagin: "Do you see Constantinople, which flatters itself with being the seat of a double empire; and Venice, which glories in her stability of a thousand years? Their day will come."
In the first conversation which Bonaparte had with me, I thought I could perceive that he was not very well satisfied with the preliminaries. He would have liked to advance with his army to Vienna. He did not conceal this from me. Before he offered peace to Prince Charles, he wrote to the Directory that he intended to pursue his success, but that for this purpose he reckoned on the co-operation of the armies of the Sambre-et- Meuse and the Rhine. The Directory replied that he must not reckon on a diversion in Germany, and that the armies of the Sambre-et-Meuse and the Rhine were not to pass that river. A resolution so unexpected— a declaration so contrary to what he had constantly solicited, compelled him to terminate his triumphs, and renounce his favourite project of planting the standard of the republic on the ramparts of Vienna, or at least of levying contributions on the suburbs of that capital.
A law of the 23d of August 1794 forbade the use of any other names than those in the register of births. I wished to conform to this law, which very foolishly interfered with old habits. My eldest brother was living, and I therefore designated myself Fauvelet the younger. This annoyed General Bonaparte. "Such change of name is absolute nonsense," said he. "I have known you for twenty years by the name of Bourrienne. Sign as you still are named, and see what the advocates with their laws will do."
On the 20th of April, as Bonaparte was returning to Italy, he was obliged to stop on an island of the Tagliamento, while a torrent passed by, which had been occasioned by a violent storm. A courier appeared on the right bank of the river. He reached the island. Bonaparte read in the despatches of the Directory that the armies of the Sambre-et-Meuse and the Rhine were in motion; that they were preparing to cross the Rhine, and had commenced hostilities on the very day of the signing of the preliminaries. This information arrived seven days after the Directory had written that "he must not reckon on the co-operation of the armies of Germany." It is impossible to describe the General's vexation on reading these despatches. He had signed the preliminaries only because the Government had represented the co-operation of the armies of the Rhine as impracticable at that moment, and shortly afterwards he was informed that the co-operation was about to take place! The agitation of his mind was so great that he for a moment conceived the idea of crossing to the left bank of the Tagliamento, and breaking off the negotiations under some pretext or other. He persisted for some time in this resolution, which, however, Berthier and some other generals successfully opposed. He exclaimed, "What a difference would there have been in the preliminaries, if, indeed, there had been any!"
His chagrin, I might almost say his despair, increased when, some days after his entry into the Venetian States, he received a letter from Moreau, dated the 23d of April, in which that general informed him that, having passed the Rhine on the 20th with brilliant success, and taken four thousand prisoners, it would not be long before he joined him. Who, in fact, can say what would have happened but for the vacillating and distrustful policy of the Directory, which always encouraged low intrigues, and participated in the jealousy excited by the renown of the young conqueror? Because the Directory dreaded his ambition they sacrificed the glory of our arms and the honour of the nation; for it cannot be doubted that, had the passage of the Rhine, so urgently demanded by Bonaparte, taken place some days sooner, he would have been able, without incurring any risk, to dictate imperiously the conditions of peace on the spot; or, if Austria were obstinate, to have gone on to Vienna and signed it there. Still occupied with this idea, he wrote to the Directory on the 8th of May: "Since I have received intelligence of the passage of the Rhine by Hoche and Moreau, I much regret that it did not take place fifteen days sooner; or, at least, that Moreau did not say that he was in a situation to effect it." (He had been informed to the contrary.) What, after this, becomes of the unjust reproach against Bonaparte of having, through jealousy of Moreau, deprived France of the advantages which a prolonged campaign would have procured her? Bonaparte was too devoted to the glory of France to sacrifice it to jealousy of the glory of any individual.
In traversing the Venetian States to return to Milan, he often spoke to me of Venice. He always assured me that he was originally entirely unconnected with the insurrections which had agitated that country; that common sense would show, as his project was to advance into the basin of the Danube, he had no interest in having his rear disturbed by revolts, and his communications interrupted or cut off: "Such an idea," said he, "would be absurd, and could never enter into the mind of a man to whom even his enemies cannot deny a certain degree of tact." He acknowledged that he was not vexed that matters had turned out as they had done, because he had already taken advantage of these circumstances in the preliminaries and hoped to profit still more from them in the definitive peace. "When I arrive at Milan," said he, "I will occupy myself with Venice." It is therefore quite evident to me that in reality the General-in-Chief had nothing to do with the Venetian insurrections; that subsequently he was not displeased with them; and that, later still, he derived great advantage from them.
We arrived at Milan on the 5th of May, by way of Laybach, Triest, Palma- Nova, Padua, Verona, and Mantua. Bonaparte soon took up his residence at Montebello, a very fine chateau, three leagues from Milan, with a view over the rich and magnificent plains of Lombard. At Montebello commenced the negotiations for the definitive peace which were terminated at Passeriano. The Marquis de Gallo, the Austrian plenipotentiary, resided half a league from Montebello.
During his residence at Montebello the General-in-Chief made an excursion to the Lake of Como and to the Lago Maggiore. He visited the Borromean Islands in succession, and occupied himself on his return with the organization of the towns of Venice, Genoa, and Milan. He sought for men and found none. "Good God," said he, "how rare men are! There are eighteen millions in Italy, and I have with difficulty found two, Dandolo and Melzi."
He appreciated them properly. Dandolo was one of the men who, in those revolutionary times, reflected the greatest honour upon Italy. After being a member of the great council of the Cisalpine Republic, he exercised the functions of Proveditore-General in Dalmatia. It is only necessary to mention the name of Dandolo to the Dalmatians to learn from the grateful inhabitants how just and vigorous his administration was. The services of Melzi are known. He was Chancellor and Keeper of the Seals of the Italian monarchy, and was created Duke of Lodi.
—[Francesco, Comte de Melzi d'Eryl (1753-1816), vice President of the Italian Republic, 1802; Chancellor of the Kingdom of Italy, 1805; Duc de Lodi, 1807.]—
In those who have seen the world the truth of Napoleon's reproach excites little astonishment. In a country which, according to biographies and newspapers, abounds with extraordinary men, a woman of much talent —(Madame Roland.)—said, "What has most surprised me, since the elevation of my husband has afforded me the opportunity of knowing many persons, and particularly those employed in important affairs, is the universal mediocrity which exists. It surpasses all that the imagination can conceive, and it is observable in all ranks, from the clerk to the minister. Without this experience I never could have believed my species to be so contemptible."
Who does not remember Oxenstiern's remark to his son, who trembled at going so young to the congress of Munster: "Go, my son. You will see by what sort of men the world is governed."
Napoleon's correspondence—Release of French prisoners at Olmutz— Negotiations with Austria—Bonaparte's dissatisfaction—Letter of complaint from Bonaparte to the Executive Directory—Note respecting the affairs of Venice and the Club of Clichy, written by Bonaparte and circulated in the army—Intercepted letter of the Emperor Francis.
During the time when the preliminaries of Leoben suspended military operations, Napoleon was not anxious to reply immediately to all letters. He took a fancy to do, not exactly as Cardinal Dubois did, when he threw into the fire the letters he had received, saying, "There! my correspondents are answered," but something of the same kind. To satisfy himself that people wrote too much, and lost, in trifling and useless answers, valuable time, he told me to open only the letters which came by extraordinary couriers, and to leave all the rest for three weeks in the basket. At the end of that time it was unnecessary to reply to four- fifths of these communications. Some were themselves answers; some were acknowledgments of letters received; others contained requests for favours already granted, but of which intelligence had not been received. Many were filled with complaints respecting provisions, pay, or clothing, and orders had been issued upon all these points before the letters were written. Some generals demanded reinforcements, money, promotion, etc. By not opening their letters Bonaparte was spared the unpleasing office of refusing. When the General-in-Chief compared the very small number of letters which it was necessary to answer with the large number which time alone had answered, he laughed heartily at his whimsical idea. Would not this mode of proceeding be preferable to that of causing letters to be opened by any one who may be employed, and replying to them by a circular to which it is only necessary to attach a date?
During the negotiations which followed the treaty of Leoben, the Directory ordered General Bonaparte to demand the liberty of MM. de La Fayette, Latour-Marbourg, and Bureau de Puzy, detained at Olmutz since 1792 as prisoners of state. The General-in-Chief executed this commission with as much pleasure as zeal, but he often met with difficulties which appeared to be insurmountable. It has been very incorrectly stated that these prisoners obtained their liberty by one of the articles of the preliminaries of Leoben. I wrote a great deal on this subject to the dictation of General Bonaparte, and I joined him only on the day after the signature of these preliminaries. It was not till the end of May of the year 1797 that the liberation of these captives was demanded, and they did not obtain their freedom till the end of August. There was no article in the treaty, public or secret, which had reference to them. Neither was it at his own suggestion that Bonaparte demanded the enlargement of the prisoners, but by order of the Directory. To explain why they did not go to France immediately after their liberation from Olmutz, it is necessary to recollect that the events of the 18th Fructidor occurred between the period when the first steps were taken to procure their liberty and the date of their deliverance. It required all Bonaparte's ascendency and vigour of character to enable him to succeed in his object at the end of three months.
We had arrived at the month of July, and the negotiations were tediously protracted. It was impossible to attribute the embarrassment which was constantly occurring to anything but the artful policy of Austria: Other affairs occupied Bonaparte. The news from Paris engrossed all his attention. He saw with extreme displeasure the manner in which the influential orators of the councils, and pamphlets written in the same spirit as they spoke, criticised him, his army, his victories, the affairs of Venice, and the national glory. He was quite indignant at the suspicions which it was sought to create respecting his conduct and ulterior views.
The following excerpts, attributed to the pens of Dumouriez or Rivarol, are specimens of some of the comments of the time:
EXTRACTS OF LETTERS IN "LE SPECTATUER DU NORD" of 1797.
General Bonaparte is, without contradiction, the most brilliant warrior who has appeared at the head of the armies of the French Republic. His glory is incompatible with democratic equality, and the services he has rendered are too great to be recompensed except by hatred and ingratitude. He is very young, and consequently has to pursue a long career of accusations and of persecutions.
……..Whatever may be the crowning event of his military career, Bonaparte is still a great man. All his glory is due to himself alone; because he alone has developed a character and a genius of which no one else has furnished an example.
EXTRACT OF LETTER OR 18TH APRIL 1797 in "THE SPECTATEUR DU NORD."
Regard, for instance, this wretched war. Uncertain in Champagne, it becomes daring under Dumouriez, unbridled under the brigands who fought the Vendeeans, methodic under Pichegru, vulgar under Jourdan, skilled under Moreau, rash under Bonaparte. Each general has put the seal of his genius on his career, and has given life or death to his army. From the commencement of his career Bonaparte has developed an ardent character which is irritated by obstacles, and a quickness which forestalls every determination of the enemy. It is with heavier and heavier blows that he strikes. He throws his army on the enemy like an unloosed torrent. He is all action, and he is so in everything. See him fight, negotiate, decree, punish, all is the matter of a moment. He compromises with Turin as with Rome. He invades Modena as he burns Binasco. He never hesitates; to cut the Gordian knot is always his method.
Bonaparte could not endure to have his conduct predicated; and enraged at seeing his campaigns depreciated, his glory and that of his army disparaged,
—[The extraordinary folly of the opposition to the Directory in throwing Bonaparte on to the side of the Directory, will be seen by reading the speech of Dumolard, so often referred to by Bourrienne (Thiers, vol. v. pp. 110-111), and by the attempts of Mathieu Dumas to remove the impression that the opposition slighted the fortunate General. (See Dumas, tome iii. p. 80; see also Lanfrey, tome i. pp. 257-299).]—
and intrigues formed against him in the Club of Clichy, he wrote the following letter to the Directory:—
I have just received, Citizens-Directors, a copy of the motion of
Dumolard (23d June 1797).
This motion, printed by order of the Assembly, it is evident, is directed against me. I was entitled, after, having five times concluded peace, and given a death-blow to the coalition, if not to civic triumphs, at least to live tranquilly under the protection of the first magistrates of the Republic. At present I find myself ill-treated, persecuted, and disparaged, by every shameful means, which their policy brings to the aid of persecution. I would have been indifferent to all except that species of opprobrium with which the first magistrates of the Republic endeavour to overwhelm me. After having deserved well of my country by my last act, I am not bound to hear myself accused in a manner as absurd as atrocious. I have not expected that a manifesto, signed by emigrants, paid by England, should obtain more credit with the Council of Five Hundred than the evidence of eighty thousand men—than mine! What! we were assassinated by traitors—upwards of four hundred men perished; and the first magistrates of the Republic make it a crime to have believed the statement for a moment. Upwards of four hundred Frenchmen were dragged through the streets. They were assassinated before the eyes of the governor of the fort. They were pierced with a thousand blows of stilettos, such as I sent you and the representatives of the French people cause it to be printed, that if they believed this fact for an instant, they were excusable. I know well there are societies where it is said, "Is this blood, then, so pure?"
If only base men, who are dead to the feeling of patriotism and national glory, had spoken of me thus, I would not have complained. I would have disregarded it; but I have a right to complain of the degradation to which the first magistrates of the Republic reduce those who have aggrandised, and carried the French name to so high a pitch of glory. Citizens-Directors, I reiterate the demand I made for my dismissal; I wish to live in tranquillity, if the poniards of Clichy will allow me to live. You have employed me in negotiations. I am not very fit to conduct them.
About the same time he drew up the following note respecting the affairs of Venice, which was printed without the author's name, and circulated through the whole army:—
Bonaparte, pausing before the gates of Turin, Parma, Rome, and Vienna, offering peace when he was sure of obtaining nothing but fresh triumphs—Bonaparte, whose every operation exhibits respect for religion, morality, and old age; who, instead of heaping, as he might have done, dishonour upon the Venetians, and humbling their republic to the earth, loaded her with acts of kindness, and took such great interest in her glory—is this the same Bonaparte who is accused of destroying the ancient Government of Venice, and democratising Genoa, and even of interfering in the affairs of the prudent and worthy people of the Swiss Cantons? Bonaparte had passed the Tagliamento, and entered Germany, when insurrections broke out in the Venetian States; these insurrections were, therefore, opposed to Bonaparte's project; surely, then, he could not favour them. When he was in the heart of Germany the Venetians massacred more than four hundred French troops, drove their quarters out of Verona, assassinated the unfortunate Laugier, and presented the spectacle of a fanatical party in arms. He returned to Italy; and on his arrival, as the winds cease their agitation at the presence of Neptune, the whole of Italy, which was in commotion, which was in arms, was restored to order.
However, the deputies from Bonaparte drew up different articles conformable to the situation of the country, and in order to prevent, not a revolution in the Government, for the Government was defunct, and had died a natural death, but a crisis, and to save the city from convulsion, anarchy, and pillage. Bonaparte spared a division of his army to save Venice from pillage and massacre. All the battalions were in the streets of Venice, the disturbers were put down, and the pillage discontinued. Property and trade were preserved, when General Baragney d'Hilliers entered Venice with his division. Bonaparte, as usual, spared blood, and was the protector of Venice. Whilst the French troops remained they conducted themselves peaceably, and only interfered to support the provisional Government.
Bonaparte could not say to the deputies of Venice, who came to ask his protection and assistance against the populace, who wished to plunder them, "I cannot meddle with your affairs." He could not say this, for Venice, and all its territories, had really formed the theatre of war; and, being in the rear of the army of Italy, the Republic of Venice was really under the jurisdiction of that army. The rights of war confer upon a general the powers of supreme police over the countries which are the seat of war. As the great Frederick said, "There are no neutrals where there is war." Ignorant advocates and babblers have asked, in the Club of Clichy, why we occupy the territory of Venice. These declaimers should learn war, and they would know that the Adige, the Brenta, and the Tagliamento, where we have been fighting for two years, are within the Venetian States. But, gentlemen of Clichy, we are at no loss to perceive your meaning. You reproach the army of Italy for having surmounted all difficulties—for subduing all Italy for having twice passed the Alps—for having marched on Vienna, and obliged Austria to acknowledge the Republic that, you, men of Clichy, would destroy. You accuse Bonaparte, I see clearly, for having brought about peace. But I know you, and I speak in the name of eighty thousand soldiers. The time is gone when base advocates and wretched declaimers could induce soldiers to revolt. If, however, you compel them, the soldiers of the army of Italy will soon appear at the Barrier of Clichy, with their General. But woe unto you if they do!
Bonaparte having arrived at Palma-Nova, issued a manifesto on the 2d of May 1797. Arrived at Mestre, where he posted his troops, the Government sent three deputies to him, with a decree of the Great Council, without Bonaparte having solicited it and without his having thought of making any change in the Government of that country: The governor of Venice was an old man, ninety-nine years of age, confined by illness to his apartment. Everyone felt the necessity of renovating this Government of twelve hundred years' existence, and to simplify its machinery, in order to preserve its independence, honour, and glory. It was necessary to deliberate, first, on the manner of renovating the Government; secondly, on the means of atoning for the massacre of the French, the iniquity of which every one was sensible..
Bonaparte, after having received the deputation at Mestre, told them that in order to obtain satisfaction, for the assassination of his brethren in arms, he wished the Great Council to arrest the inquisitors. He afterwards granted them an armistice, and appointed Milan as the place of conference. The deputies arrived at Milan on the . . . A negotiation commenced to re-establish harmony between the Governments. However, anarchy, with all its horrors, afflicted the city of Venice. Ten thousand Sclavonians threatened to pillage the shops. Bonaparte acquiesced in the proposition submitted by the deputies, who promised to verify the loss which had been sustained by pillage.
Bonaparte also addressed a manifesto to the Doge, which appeared in all the public papers. It contained fifteen articles of complaint, and was followed by a decree ordering the French Minister to leave Venice, the Venetian agents to leave Lombard, and the Lion of St. Mark to be pulled down in all the Continental territories of Venice.
The General-in-Chief now openly manifested his resolution of marching on Paris; and this disposition, which was well known in the army, was soon communicated to Vienna. At this period a letter from the Emperor Francis II. to his brother, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, was intercepted by Bonaparte. I translated the letter, which proved to him that Francis II. was acquainted with his project. He likewise saw with pleasure the assurances which the Emperor gave his brother of his love of peace, as well as the wavering of the imperial resolves, and the incertitude respecting the fate of the Italian princes, which the Emperor easily perceived to depend on Bonaparte. The Emperor's letter was as follows:—
MY DEAR BROTHER—I punctually received your third letter, containing a description of your unhappy and delicate situation. You may be assured that I perceive it as clearly as you do yourself; and I pity you the more because, in truth, I do not know what advice to give you. You are, like me, the victim of the former inactivity of the princes of Italy, who ought, at once, to have acted with all their united forces, while I still possessed Mantua. If Bonaparte's project be, as I learn, to establish republics in Italy, this is likely to end in spreading republicanism over the whole country. I have already commenced negotiations for peace, and the preliminaries are ratified. If the French observe them as strictly as I do, and will do, then your situation will be improved; but already the French are beginning to disregard them. The principal problem which remains to be solved is, whether the French Directory approve of Bonaparte's proceedings, and whether the latter, as appears by some papers distributed through his army, is not disposed to revolt against his country, which also seems to be probable, from his severe conduct towards Switzerland, notwithstanding the assurances of the Directory, that he had been ordered to leave the country untouched. If this should be the case, new and innumerable difficulties may arise. Under these circumstances I can, at present, advise nothing; for, as to myself, it is only time and the circumstances of the moment which can point out how I am to act.
There is nothing new here. We are all well; but the heat is
extraordinary. Always retain your friendship and love for me.
Make my compliments to your wife, and believe me ever
Your best Friend and Brother,
HETZENDORF, July 20, 1797.
Unfounded reports—Carnot—Capitulation of Mantua—General Clarke— The Directory yields to Bonaparte—Berthier—Arrival of Eugene Beauharnais at Milan—Comte Delaunay d'Entraigues—His interview with Bonaparte—Seizure of his papers—Copy of one describing a conversation between him and Comte de Montgaillard—The Emperor Francis—The Prince de Conde and General Pichegru.
While Bonaparte was expressing his opinion on his campaigns and the injustice with which they had been criticised, it was generally believed that Carnot dictated to him from a closet in the Luxembourg all the plans of his operations, and that Berthier was at his right hand, without whom, notwithstanding Carnot's plans, which were often mere romances, he would have been greatly embarrassed. This twofold misrepresentation was very current for some time; and, notwithstanding it was contrary to the evidence of facts, it met with much credence, particularly abroad. There was, however, no foundation for the opinion: Let us render to Caesar that which is Caesar's due. Bonaparte was a creator in the art of war, and no imitator. That no man was superior to him in that art is incontestable. At the commencement of the glorious campaign in Italy the Directory certainly sent out instructions to him; but he always followed his own plans, and continually, wrote back that all would be lost if movements conceived at a distance from the scene of action were to be blindly executed. He also offered to resign. At length the Directory perceived the impossibility of prescribing operations of war according to the view of persons in Paris; and when I became the secretary of the General-in- Chief I saw a despatch of the Directory, dated May, 1796, committing the whole plan of the campaign to his judgment; and assuredly there was not a single operation or movement which did not originate with him. Carnot was obliged to yield to his firmness. When the Directory, towards the end of 1796, felt disposed to treat for peace, General Clarke, appointed to conclude the armistice, was authorised, in case Mantua should not be taken before the negotiation was brought to a close, to propose leaving the blockade in statu quo. Had such a condition been adopted it would doubtless have been stipulated that the Emperor of Austria should be allowed to provision the garrison and inhabitants of the city day by day. Bonaparte, convinced that an armistice without Mantua would by no means conduce to peace, earnestly opposed such a condition. He carried his point; Mantua capitulated, and the result is well known. Yet he was not blind to the hazards of war; while preparing, during the blockade, an assault on Mantua, he wrote thus to the Directory: "A bold stroke of this nature depends absolutely for success on a dog or a goose." This was about a question of surprise.
Bonaparte was exceedingly sensitive to the rumours which reached him respecting Carnot and Berthier. He one day said to me: "What gross stupidity, is this? It is very well to say to a general, 'Depart for Italy, gain battles, and sign a peace at Vienna;' but the execution that is not so easy. I never attached any value to the plans which the Directory sent me. Too many circumstances occur on the spot to modify them. The movement of a single corps of the enemy's army may confound a whole plan arranged by the fireside. Only fools can believe such stuff! As for Berthier, since you have been with me, you see what he is—he is a blockhead. Yet it is he who does it all; it is he who gathers a great part of the glory of the army of Italy." I told him that this erroneous opinion could not last long; that each person would be allowed his merit, and that at least posterity would judge rightly. This observation seemed to please him.
Berthier was a man full of honour, courage, and probity, and exceedingly regular in the performance of his duties. Bonaparte's attachment to him arose more from habit than liking. Berthier did not concede with affability, and refused with harshness. His abrupt, egotistic, and careless manners did not, however, create him many enemies, but, at the same time, did not make him many friends. In consequence of our frequent intercourse he had contracted the friendly practice of speaking to me in the second person singular; but he never wrote to me in that style. He was perfectly acquainted with the disposition of all the corps, and could name their commanders and their respective forces. Day or night he was always at hand and made out with clearness all the secondary orders which resulted from the dispositions of the General-in-Chief. In fact, he was an excellent head of the staff of an army; but that is all the praise that can be given, and indeed he wished for no greater. He had such entire confidence in Bonaparte, and looked up to him with so much admiration, that he never would have presumed to oppose his plans or give any advise. Berthier's talent was very limited, and of a special nature; his character was one of extreme weakness. Bonaparte's friendship for him and the frequency of his name in the bulletins and official despatches have unduly elevated his reputation. Bonaparte, giving his opinion to the Directory respecting the generals employed in his army, said, "Berthier has talents, activity, courage, character—all in his favour." This was in 1796. He then made an eagle of him; at St. Helena he called him a goose. He should neither have raised him so high nor sunk him so low.
Berthier neither merited the one nor the other. Bonaparte was a man of habit; he was much attached to all the people about him, and did not like new faces. Berthier loved him. He carried out his orders well, and that enabled him to pass off with his small portion of talent.
It was about this time that young Beauharnais came to Milan. He was seventeen years old. He had lived in Paris with his mother since the departure of Bonaparte. On his arrival he immediately entered the service as 'aide de camp' to the General-in-Chief, who felt for him an affection which was justified by his good qualities.
Comte Delaunay d'Entraigues, well known in the French Revolution, held a diplomatic post at Venice when that city was threatened by the French. Aware of his being considered the agent of all the machinations then existing against France, and especially against the army of Italy, he endeavoured to escape; but the city being, surrounded, he was seized, together with all his papers. The apparently frank manners of the Count pleased Bonaparte, who treated him with indulgence. His papers were restored, with the exception of three relating to political subjects. He afterwards fled to Switzerland, and ungratefully represented himself as having been oppressed by Bonaparte. His false statements have induced many writers to make of him an heroic victim. He was assassinated by his own servant in 1802.
I kept a copy of one of his most interesting papers. It has been much spoken of, and Fauche-Borel has, I believe, denied its authenticity and the truth of its contents. The manner in which it fell into the hands of the General-in-Chief, the importance attached to it by d'Entraigues, the differences I have observed between the manuscript I copied and versions which I have since read, and the knowledge of its, authenticity, having myself transcribed it from the handwriting of the Count, who in my presence vouched for the truth of the facts it details—all these circumstances induce me to insert it here, and compel me to doubt that it was, as Fauche-Borel asserted, a fabrication.
This manuscript is entitled, 'My Conversation with Comte de Montgaillard, on the 4th of December 1796, from Six in the Afternoon till midnight, in the presence of the Abbe Dumontel.'
[On my copy are written the words, "Extracts from this conversation, made by me, from the original." I omitted what I thought unimportant, and transcribed only the most interesting passages. Montgaillard spoke of his escape, of his flight to England, of his return to France, of his second departure, and finally of his arrival at Bale in August 1795.]
The Prince de Conde soon afterwards, he said, called me to Mulheim, and knowing the connections I had had in France, proposed that I should sound General Pichegru, whose headquarters were at Altkirch, where he then was, surrounded by four representatives of the Convention.
I immediately went to Neufchatel, taking with me four or five hundred Louis. I cast my eyes on Fauche-Borel, the King's printer at Neufchatel, and also yours and mine, as the instrument by which to make the first overture, and I selected as his colleague M. Courant, a native of Neufchatel. I persuaded them to undertake the business: I supplied them with instructions and passports. They were foreigners: so I furnished them with all the necessary documents to enable them to travel in France as foreign merchants and purchasers of national property. I went to Bale to wait for news from them.
On the 13th of August Fauche and Courant set out for the headquarters at Altkirch. They remained there eight days without finding an opportunity to speak to Pichegru, who was surrounded by representatives and generals. Pichegru observed them, and seeing them continually wheresoever he went, he conjectured that they had something to say to him, and he called out in a loud voice, while passing them, "I am going to Huningen." Fauche contrived to throw himself in his way at the end of a corridor. Pichegru observed him, and fixed his eyes upon him, and although it rained in torrents, he said aloud, "I am going to dine at the chateau of Madame Salomon." This chateau was three leagues from Huningen, and Madame Salomon was Pichegru's mistress.
Fauche set off directly to the chateau, and begged to speak with General Pichegru. He told the general that, being in the possession of some of J. J. Rousseau's manuscripts, he wished to publish them and dedicate them to him. "Very good," said Pichegru; "but I should like to read them first; for Rousseau professed principles of liberty in which I do not concur, and with which I should not like to have my name connected."—"But," said Fauche, "I have something else to speak to you about."—"What is it, and on whose behalf?"— "On behalf of the Prince de Conde."—"Be silent, then, and follow me."
He conducted Fauche alone into a retired cabinet, and said to him, "Explain yourself; what does Monseigneur le Prince de Conde wish to communicate to me?" Fauche was embarrassed, and stammered out something unintelligible. "Compose yourself," said Pichegru; "my sentiments are the same as the Prince de Conde's. What does he desire of me?" Fauche, encouraged by these words, replied, "The Prince wishes to join you. He counts on you, and wishes to connect himself with you."
"These are vague and unmeaning words," observed Pichegru. "All this amounts to nothing. Go back, and ask for written instructions, and return in three days to my headquarters at Altkirch. You will find me alone precisely at six o'clock in the evening."
Fauche immediately departed, arrived at Bale, and informed me of all that had passed. I spent the night in writing a letter to General Pichegru. (The Prince de Conde, who was invested with all the powers of Louis XVIII, except that of granting the 'cordon-bleu', had, by a note in his own handwriting, deputed to me all his powers, to enable me to maintain a negotiation with General Pichegru).
I therefore wrote to the general, stating, in the outset, everything that was calculated to awaken in him that noble sentiment of pride which is the instinct of great minds; and after pointing out to him the vast good it was in his power to effect, I spoke of the gratitude of the King, and the benefit he would confer on his country by restoring royalty. I told him that his Majesty would make him a marshal of France, and governor of Alsace, as no one could better govern the province than he who had so valiantly defended it. I added that he would have the 'cordon-rouge', the Chateau de Chambord, with its park, and twelve pieces of cannon taken from the Austrians, a million of ready money, 200,000 livres per annum, and an hotel in Paris; that the town of Arbors, Pichegru's native place, should bear his name, and be exempt from all taxation for twenty-five years; that a pension of 200,000 livres would be granted to him, with half reversion to his wife, and 50,000 livres to his heirs for ever, until the extinction of his family. Such were the offers, made in the name of the King, to General Pichegru. (Then followed the boons to be granted to the officers and soldiers, an amnesty to the people, etc). I added that the Prince de Conde desired that he would proclaim the King in the camps, surrender the city of Huningen to him, and join him for the purpose of marching on Paris.
Pichegru, having read my letter with great attention, said to Fauche, "This is all very well; but who is this M. de Montgaillard who talks of being thus authorised? I neither know him nor his signature. Is he the author?"—"Yes," replied Fauche. "But," said Pichegru, "I must, before making any negotiation on my part, be assured that the Prince de Conde, with whose handwriting I am well acquainted, approves of all that has been written in his name by M. de Montgaillard. Return directly to M. de Montgaillard, and tell him to communicate my answer to the Prince."
Fauche immediately departed, leaving M. Courant with Pichegru. He arrived at Bale at nine o'clock in the evening. I set off directly for Malheim, the Prince de Conde's headquarters, and arrived there at half-past twelve. The Prince was in bed, but I awoke him. He made me sit down by his bedside, and our conference then commenced.
After having informed the Prince of the state of affairs, all that remained was to prevail on him to write to General Pichegru to confirm the truth of what had been stated in his name. This matter, which appeared so simple, and so little liable to objection, occupied the whole night. The Prince, as brave a man as can possibly be, inherited nothing from the great Conde but his undaunted courage. In other respects he is the most insignificant of men; without resources of mind, or decision of character; surrounded by men of mediocrity, and even baseness; and though he knows them well, he suffers himself to be governed by them.
It required nine hours of hard exertion on my part to get him to write to General Pichegru a letter of eight lines. 1st. He did not wish it to be in his handwriting. 2d. He objected to dating it 3d. He was unwilling to call him General, lest he should recognise the republic by giving that title. 4th. He did not like to address it, or affix his seal to it.
At length he consented to all, and wrote to Pichegru that he might place full confidence in the letters of the Comte de Montgaillard. When all this was settled, after great difficulty, the Prince next hesitated about sending the letter; but at length he yielded. I set off for Bale, and despatched Fauche to Altkirch, to General Pichegru.
The general, after reading the letter of eight lines, and recognising the handwriting and signature, immediately returned it to Fauche, saying, "I have seen the signature: that is enough for me. The word of the Prince is a pledge with which every Frenchman ought to be satisfied. Take back his letter." He then inquired what was the Prince's wish. Fauche explained that he wished—1st. That Pichegru should proclaim the King to his troops, and hoist the White flag. 2d. That he should deliver up Huningen to the Prince. Pichegru objected to this. "I will never take part in such a plot," said he; "I have no wish to make the third volume of La Fayette and Dumouriez. I know my resources; they are as certain as they are vast. Their roots are not only in my army, but in Paris, in the Convention, in the departments, and in the armies of those generals, my colleagues, who think as I do. I wish to do nothing by halves. There must be a complete end of the present state of things. France cannot continue a Republic. She must have a king, and that king must be Louis XVIII. But we must not commence the counter- revolution until we are certain of effecting it. 'Surely and rightly' is my motto. The Prince's plan leads to nothing. He would be driven from Huningen in four days, and in fifteen I should be lost. My army is composed both of good men and bad. We must distinguish between them, and, by a bold stroke, assure the former of the impossibility of drawing back, and that their only safety lies in success. For this purpose I propose to pass the Rhine, at any place and any time that may be thought necessary. In the advance I will place those officers on whom I can depend, and who are of my way of thinking. I will separate the bad, and place them in situations where they can do no harm, and their position shall be such as to prevent them from uniting. That done, as soon as I shall be on the other side of the Rhine, I will proclaim the King, and hoist the white flag. Conde's corps and the Emperor's army will then join us. I will immediately repass the Rhine, and re-enter France. The fortresses will be surrendered, and will be held in the King's name by the Imperial troops. Having joined Conde's army, I immediately advance. All my means now develop themselves on every side. We march upon Paris, and in a fortnight will be there. But it is necessary that you should know that you must give the French soldier wine and a crown in his hand if you would have him cry 'Vive le Roi! Nothing must be wanting at the first moment. My army must be well paid as far as the fourth or fifth march in the French territory. There go and tell all this to the Prince, show my handwriting, and bring me back his answer."
During these conferences Pichegru was surrounded by four representatives of the people, at the head of whom was Merlin de Thionville, the most insolent and the most ferocious of inquisitors. These men, having the orders of the Committee, pressed Pichegru to pass the Rhine and go and besiege Manheim, where Merlin had an understanding with the inhabitants. Thus, if on the one hand the Committee by its orders made Pichegru wish to hasten the execution of his plan, on the other he had not a moment to lose; for to delay obeying the orders of the four representatives was to render himself suspected. Every consideration, therefore, called upon the Prince to decide, and decide promptly. Good sense required him also to do another thing, namely, to examine without prejudice what sort of man Pichegru was, to consider the nature of the sacrifice he made, and what were his propositions. Europe acknowledged his talents, and he had placed the Prince in a condition to judge of his good faith. Besides, his conduct and his plan afforded fresh proofs of his sincerity. By passing the Rhine and placing himself between the armies of Conde and Wurmser, he rendered desertion impossible; and, if success did not attend his attempt, his own acts forced him to become an emigrant. He left in the power of his fierce enemies his wife, his father, his children. Everything bore testimony to his honesty; the talents he had shown were a pledge for his genius, his genius for his resources; and the sacrifices he would have to make in case of failure proved that he was confident of success.
What stupid conceit was it for any one to suppose himself better able to command Pichegru's army than Pichegru himself!—to pretend to be better acquainted with the frontier provinces than Pichegru, who commanded them, and had placed his friends in them as commanders of the towns! This self-conceit, however, ruined the monarchy at this time, as well as at so many others. The Prince de Conde, after reading the plan, rejected it in toto. To render it successful it was necessary to make the Austrians parties to it. This Pichegru exacted, but the Prince of Conde would not hear a word of it, wishing to have confined to himself the glory of effecting the counter-revolution. He replied to Pichegru by a few observations, and concluded his answer by returning to his first plan—that Pichegru should proclaim the King without passing the Rhine, and should give up Huningen; that then the army of Conde by itself, and without the aid of the Austrians, would join him. In that case he could promise 100,000 crowns in louis, which he had at Bale, and 1,400,000 livres, which he had in good bills payable at sight.
No argument or entreaty had any effect on the Prince de Conde. The idea of communicating his plan to Wurmser and sharing his glory with him rendered him blind and deaf to every consideration. However, it was necessary to report to Pichegru the observations of the Prince de Conde, and Courant was commissioned to do so.
This document appeared so interesting to me that while Bonaparte was sleeping I was employed in copying it. Notwithstanding posterior and reiterated denials of its truth, I believe it to be perfectly correct.
Napoleon had ordered plans of his most famous battles to be engraved, and had paid in advance for them. The work was not done quickly enough for him. He got angry, and one day said to his geographer, Bacler d'Albe, whom he liked well enough, "Ah! do hurry yourself, and think all this is only the business of a moment. If you make further delay you will sell nothing; everything is soon forgotten!"
We were now in July, and the negotiations were carried on with a tardiness which showed that something was kept in reserve on both sides. Bonaparte at this time was anything but disposed to sign a peace, which he always hoped to be able to make at Vienna, after a campaign in Germany, seconded by the armies of the Rhine and the Sambre-et-Meuse. The minority of the Directory recommended peace on the basis of the preliminaries, but the majority wished for more honourable and advantageous terms; while Austria, relying on troubles breaking out in France, was in no haste to conclude a treaty. In these circumstances Bonaparte drew up a letter to be sent to the Emperor of Austria, in which he set forth the moderation of France; but stated that, in consequence of the many delays, nearly all hope of peace had vanished. He advised the Emperor not to rely on difficulties arising in France, and doubted, if war should continue and the Emperor be successful in the next campaign, that he would obtain a more advantageous peace than was now at his option. This letter was never sent to the Emperor, but was communicated as the draft of a proposed despatch to the Directory. The Emperor Francis, however, wrote an autograph letter to the General-in-Chief of the army of Italy, which will be noticed when I come to the period of its reception. It is certain that Bonaparte at this time wished for war. He was aware that the Cabinet of Vienna was playing with him, and that the Austrian Ministers expected some political convulsion in Paris, which they hoped would be favourable to the Bourbons. He therefore asked for reinforcements. His army consisted of 35,900 men, and he desired it to be raised to 60,000 infantry and 10,000 cavalry ready for the field.
General Desaix, profiting by the preliminaries of Leoben, came in the end of July to visit the scene of the army of Italy's triumphs. His conversations with Bonaparte respecting the army of the Rhine were far from giving him confidence in his military situation in Italy, or assurance of support from that army in the event of hostilities commencing beyond the mountains. It was at this period that their intimacy began. Bonaparte conceived for Desaix the greatest esteem and the sincerest friendship.
—[Desaix discontented with the conduct of affairs in Germany, seceded from the army of the Rhine, to which he belonged, to join that of Napoleon. He was sent to Italy to organise the part of the Egyptian expedition starting from Civita Vecchia. He took with him his two aides de camp, Rapp and Savary (later Duc de Rovigo), both of whom, on his death, were given the same post with Bonaparte.]—
When Desaix was named temporary commander of the force called the army of England, during the absence of General Bonaparte, the latter wrote to the Directory that they could not have chosen a more distinguished officer than Desaix; these sentiments he never belied. The early death of Desaix alone could break their union, which, I doubt not, would eventually have had great influence on the political and military career of General Bonaparte.
All the world knows the part which the General-in-Chief of the army of Italy took at the famous crisis of the 18th Fructidor; his proclamation, his addresses to the army, and his celebrated order of the day. Bonaparte went much into detail on this subject at St. Helena; and I shall now proceed to state what I knew at the time respecting that memorable event, which was in preparation in the month of June.
The royalists of the interior—Bonaparte's intention of marching on Paris with 25,000 men—His animosity against the emigrants and the Clichy Club—His choice between the two parties of the Directory— Augereau's order of the day against the word 'Monsieur'—Bonaparte wishes to be made one of the five Directors—He supports the majority of the Directory—La Vallette, Augereau, and Bernadotte sent to Paris—Interesting correspondence relative to the 18th Fructidor.
Bonaparte had long observed the struggle which was going on between the partisans of royalty and the Republic. He was told that royalism was everywhere on the increase. All the generals who returned from Paris to the army complained of the spirit of reaction they had noticed. Bonaparte was constantly urged by his private correspondents to take one side or the other, or to act for himself. He was irritated by the audacity of the enemies of the Republic, and he saw plainly that the majority of the councils had an evident ill-will towards him. The orators of the Club of Clichy missed no opportunity of wounding his self- love in speeches and pamphlets. They spared no insults, disparaged his success, and bitterly censured his conduct in Italy, particularly with respect to Venice. Thus his services were recompensed by hatred or ingratitude. About this time he received a pamphlet, which referred to the judgments pronounced upon him by the German journals, and more particularly by the Spectator of the North, which he always made me translate.
Bonaparte was touched to the quick by the comparison made between him and Moreau, and by the wish to represent him as foolhardy ("savants sous Moreau, fougueuse sous Buonaparte"). In the term of "brigands," applied to the generals who fought in La Vendee, he thought he recognized the hand of the party he was about to attack and overthrow. He was tired of the way in which Moreau's system of war was called "savants." But what grieved him still more was to see sitting in the councils of the nation Frenchmen who were detractors and enemies of the national glory.
He urged the Directory to arrest the emigrants, to destroy the influence of foreigners, to recall the armies, to suppress the journals sold to England, such as the 'Quotidienne', the 'Memorial', and the 'The', which he accused of being more sanguinary than Marat ever was. In case of there being no means of putting a stop to assassinations and the influence of Louis XVIII., he offered to resign.
His resolution of passing the Alps with 25,000 men and marching by Lyons and Paris was known in the capital, and discussions arose respecting the consequences of this passage of another Rubicon. On the 17th of August 1797 Carnot wrote to him: "People attribute to you a thousand absurd projects. They cannot believe that a man who has performed so many great exploits can be content to live as a private citizen." This observation applied to Bonaparte's reiterated request to be permitted to retire from the service on account of the state of his health, which, he said, disabled him from mounting his horse, and to the need which he constantly urged of having two years' rest.
The General-in-Chief was justly of opinion that the tardiness of the negotiations and the difficulties which incessantly arose were founded on the expectation of an event which would change the government of France, and render the chances of peace more favourable to Austria. He still urgently recommended the arrest of the emigrants, the stopping of the presses of the royalist journals, which he said were sold to England and Austria, the suppression of the Clichy Club. This club was held at the residence of Gerard Desodieres, in the Rue de Clichy. Aubry was one of its warmest partisans, and he was the avowed enemy of the revolutionary cause which Bonaparte advocated at this period. Aubry's conduct at this time, together with the part he had taken in provoking Bonaparte's dismissal in 1795, inspired the General with an implacable hatred of him.
Bonaparte despised the Directory, which he accused of weakness, indecision, pusillanimity, wasteful expenditure, of many errors, and perseverance in a system degrading to the national glory.
—[The Directory merited those accusations. The following sketches of two of their official sittings present a singular contrast:
"At the time that the Directory were first installed in the Luxembourg (27th October 1795)." says M. Baileul, "there was hardly a single article of furniture in it. In a small room, round a little broken table, one of the legs of which had given way from age, on which table they had deposited a quire of letter-paper, and a writing desk 'a calamet', which luckily they had had the precaution to bring with them from the Committee of Public Safety, seated on four rush-bottomed chairs, in front of some logs of wood ill-lighted, the whole borrowed from the porter Dupont; who would believe that it was in this deplorable condition that the members of the new Government, after having examined all the difficulties, nay, let me add, all the horrors of their situation, resolved to confront all obstacles, and that they would either deliver France from the abyss in which she was plunged or perish in the attempt? They drew up on a sheet of letter-paper the act by which they declared themselves constituted, and immediately forwarded it to the Legislative Bodies."
And the Comte de La Vallette, writing to M. Cuvillier Fleury, says: "I saw our five kings, dressed in the robes of Francis I., his hat, his pantaloons, and his lace: the face of La Reveilliere looked like a cork upon two pins, with the black and greasy hair of Clodion. M. de Talleyrand, in pantaloons of the colour of wine dregs, sat in a folding chair at the feet of the Director Barras, in the Court of the Petit Luxembourg, and gravely presented to his sovereigns as ambassador from the Grand Duke of Tuscany, while the French were eating his master's dinner, from the soup to the cheese. At the right hand there were fifty musicians and singers of the Opera, Laine, Lays, Regnault, and the actresses, not all dead of old age, roaring a patriotic cantata to the music of Mehul. Facing them, on another elevation, there were two hundred young and beautiful women, with their arms and bosoms bare, all in ecstasy at the majesty of our Pentarchy and the happiness of the Republic. They also wore tight flesh-coloured pantaloons, with rings on their toes. That was a sight that never will be seen again. A fortnight after this magnificent fete, thousands of families wept over their banished fathers, forty-eight departments were deprived of their representatives, and forty editors of newspapers were forced to go and drink the waters of the Elbe, the Synamary or the Ohio! It would be a curious disquisition to seek to discover what really were at that time the Republic and Liberty."]
He knew that the Clichy party demanded his dismissal and arrest. He was given to understand that Dumolard was one of the most decided against him, and that, finally, the royalist party was on the point of triumphing.
Before deciding for one party or the other Bonaparte first thought of himself. He did not imagine that he had yet achieved enough to venture on possessing himself of that power which certainly he might easily have obtained. He therefore contented himself with joining the party which was, for the moment, supported by public opinion. I know he was determined to march upon Paris with 25,000 men had affairs taken a turn unfavourable to the Republic, which he preferred to royalty. He cautiously formed his plan. To defend the Directory was, he conceived, to defend his own future fortune; that is to say, it was protecting a power which appeared to have no other object than to keep a place for him until his return.
The parties which rose up in Paris produced a reaction in the army. The employment of the word 'Monsieur' had occasioned quarrels, and even bloodshed. General Augereau, in whose division these contests had taken place, published an order of the day, setting forth that every individual in his division who should use the word 'Monsieur', either verbally or in writing, under any pretence whatever, should be deprived of his rank, and declared incapable of serving in the Republican armies. This order was read at the head of each company.
Bonaparte viewed the establishment of peace as the close of his military career. Repose and inactivity were to him unbearable. He sought to take part in the civil affairs of the Republic, and was desirous of becoming one of the five Directors, convinced that, if he obtained that object, he would speedily stand single and alone. The fulfilment of this wish would have prevented the Egyptian expedition, and placed the imperial crown much sooner upon his head. Intrigues were carried on in Paris in his name, with the view of securing to him a legal dispensation on the score of age. He hoped, though he was but eight-and-twenty, to supersede one of the two Directors who were to go out of office.
—[The Directors had to be forty years of age before they could be appointed.]—
His brothers and their friends made great exertions for the success of the project, which, however, was not officially proposed, because it was too adverse to the prevailing notions of the day, and seemed too early a violation of the constitution of the year III., which, nevertheless, was violated in another way a few months after.
The members of the Directory were by no means anxious to have Bonaparte for their colleague. They dissembled, and so did he. Both parties were lavish of their mutual assurances of friendship, while they cordially hated each other. The Directory, however, appealed for the support of Bonaparte, which he granted; but his subsequent conduct clearly proves that the maintenance of the constitution of the year III. was a mere pretext. He indeed defended it meanwhile, because, by aiding the triumph of the opposite party, he could not hope to preserve the influence which he exercised over the Directory. I know well that, in case of the Clichy party gaining the ascendency, he was determined to cross the Alps with his army, and to assemble all the friends of the Republic at Lyons, thence to march upon Paris.
In the Memorial of St. Helena it is stated, in reference to the 18th Fructidor, "that the triumph of the majority of the councils was his desire and hope, we are inclined to believe from the following fact, viz., that at the crisis of the contest between the two factions a secret resolution was drawn up by three of the members of the Directory, asking him for three millions to support the attack on the councils, and that Napoleon, under various pretences, did not send the money, though he might easily have done so."
This is not very comprehensible. There was no secret resolution of the members who applied for the three millions. It was Bonaparte who offered the money, which, however, he did not send; it was he who despatched Augereau; and he who wished for the triumph of the Directorial majority. His memory served him badly at St. Helena, as will be seen from some correspondence which I shall presently submit to the reader. It is very certain that he did offer the money to the Directory; that is to say, to three of its members.
—[Barras, La Revelliere-Lepaux, and Rewbell, the three Directors who carried out the 'coup d'etat' of the 18th Fructidor against their colleagues Carnot and Bartholemy. (See Thiers' French Revolution", vol. v. pp. 114,139, and 163.)]—
Bonaparte had so decidedly formed his resolution that on the 17th of July, wishing to make Augereau his confidant, he sent to Vicenza for him by an extraordinary courier.
Bonaparte adds that when Bottot, the confidential agent of Barras, came to Passeriano, after the 18th Fructidor, he declared to him that as soon as La Vallette should make him acquainted with the real state of things the money should be transmitted. The inaccuracy of these statements will be seen in the correspondence relative to the event. In thus distorting the truth Napoleon's only object could have been to proclaim his inclination for the principles he adopted and energetically supported from the year 1800, but which, previously to that period, he had with no less energy opposed.
He decidedly resolved to support the majority of the Directory, and to oppose the royalist faction; the latter, which was beginning to be important, would have been listened to had it offered power to him. About the end of July he sent his 'aide de camp' La Vallette to Paris. La Vallette was a man of good sense and education, pleasing manners, pliant temper, and moderate opinions. He was decidedly devoted to Bonaparte. With his instructions he received a private cipher to enable him to correspond with the General-in-Chief.
Augereau went after La Vallette, on the 27th of July. Bonaparte officially wrote to the Directory that Augereau "had solicited leave to go to Paris on his own private business."
But the truth is, Augereau was sent expressly to second the revolution which was preparing against the Clichy party and the minority of the Directory.
Bonaparte made choice of Augereau because he knew his staunch republican principles, his boldness, and his deficiency in political talent. He thought him well calculated to aid a commotion, which his own presence with the army of Italy prevented him from directing in person; and besides, Augereau was not an ambitious rival who might turn events to his own advantage. Napoleon said, at St. Helena, that he sent the addresses of the army of Italy by Augereau because he was a decided supporter of the opinions of the day. That was the true reason for choosing him.
Bernadotte was subsequently despatched on the same errand. Bonaparte's pretence for sending him was, that he wished to transmit to the Directory four flags, which, out of the twenty-one taken at the battle of Rivoli, had been left, by mistake, at Peschiera. Bernadotte, however, did not take any great part in the affair. He was always prudent.
The crisis of the 18th Fructidor, which retarded for three years the extinction of the pentarchy, presents one of the most remarkable events of its short existence. It will be seen how the Directors extricated themselves from this difficulty. I subjoin the correspondence relating to this remarkable episode of our Revolution, cancelling only such portions of it as are irrelevant to the subject. It exhibits several variations from the accounts given by Napoleon at St. Helena to his noble companions in misfortune.
Augereau thus expressed himself on the 18th Fructidor (4th September 1797):—
At length, General, my mission is accomplished, and the promises of the army of Italy are fulfilled. The fear of being anticipated has caused measures to be hurried.
At midnight I despatched orders to all the troops to march towards the points specified. Before day all the bridges and principal places were planted with cannon. At daybreak the halls of the councils were surrounded, the guards of the councils were amicably mingled with our troops, and the members, of whom I send you a list, were arrested and conveyed to the Temple. The greater number have escaped, and are being pursued. Carnot has disappeared.'
—[In 1824 Louis XVIII. sent letters of nobility to those members of the two councils who were, as it was termed, 'fructidorized'. —Bourrienne]—
Paris is tranquil, and every one is astounded at an event which promised to be awful, but which has passed over like a fete.
The stout patriots of the faubourgs proclaim the safety of the Republic, and the black collars are put down. It now remains for the wise energy of the Directory and the patriots of the two councils to do the rest. The place of sitting is changed, and the first operations promise well. This event is a great step towards peace; which it is your task finally to secure to us.
On the 24th Fructidor (10th September 1797) Augereau writes:
My 'aide de camp', de Verine, will acquaint you with the events of the 18th. He is also to deliver to you some despatches from the Directory, where much uneasiness is felt at not hearing from you. No less uneasiness is experienced on seeing in Paris one of your 'aides de camp',—(La Vallette)—whose conduct excites the dissatisfaction and distrust of the patriots, towards whom he has behaved very ill.
The news of General Clarke's recall will have reached you by this time, and I suspect has surprised you. Amongst the thousand and one motives which have determined the Government to take this step may be reckoned his correspondence with Carnot, which has been communicated to me, and in which he treated the generals of the army of Italy as brigands.
Moreau has sent the Directory a letter which throws a new light on
Pichegru's treason. Such baseness is hardly to be conceived.
The Government perseveres in maintaining the salutary measures which it has adopted. I hope it will be in vain for the remnant of the factions to renew their plots. The patriots will continue united.
Fresh troops having been summoned to Paris, and my presence at their head being considered indispensable by the Government, I shall not have the satisfaction of seeing you so soon as I hoped. This has determined me to send for my horses and carriages, which I left at Milan.
Bernadotte wrote to Bonaparte on the 24th Fructidor as follows:—
The arrested deputies are removed to Rochefort, where they will be embarked for the island of Madagascar. Paris is tranquil. The people at first heard of the arrest of the deputies with indifference. A feeling of curiosity soon drew them into the streets; enthusiasm followed, and cries of 'Vive la Republique', which had not been heard for a long time, now resounded in every street. The neighbouring departments have expressed their discontent. That of Allier has, it is said, protested; but it will cut a fine figure. Eight thousand men are marching to the environs of Paris. Part is already within the precincts; under the orders of General Lemoine. The Government has it at present in its power to elevate public spirit; but everybody feels that it is necessary the Directory should be surrounded by tried and energetic Republicans. Unfortunately a host of men, without talent and resources, already suppose that what has taken place has been done only in order to advance their interests. Time is necessary to set all to rights. The armies have regained consistency. The soldiers of the interior are esteemed, or at least feared. The emigrants fly, and the non- juring priests conceal themselves. Nothing could have happened more fortunately to consolidate the Republic.
Bonaparte wrote as follows, to the Directory on the 26th Fructidor:
Herewith you will receive a proclamation to the army, relative to the events of the 18th. I have despatched the 45th demi-brigade, commanded by General Bon, to Lyons, together with fifty cavalry; also General Lannes, with the 20th light infantry and the 9th regiment of the line, to Marseilles. I have issued the enclosed proclamation in the southern departments. I am about to prepare a proclamation for the inhabitants of Lyons, as soon as I obtain some information of what may have passed there.
If I find there is the least disturbance, I will march there with the utmost rapidity. Believe that there are here a hundred thousand men, who are alone sufficient to make the measures you have taken to place liberty on a solid basis be respected. What avails it that we gain victories if we are not respected in our country. In speaking of Paris, one may parody what Cassius said of Rome: "Of what use to call her queen on the banks of the Seine, when she is the slave of Pitt's gold?"
After the 18th Fructidor Augereau wished to have his reward for his share in the victory, and for the service which he had rendered. He wished to be a Director. He got, however, only the length of being a candidate; honour enough for one who had merely been an instrument on that day.
Bonaparte's joy at the result of the 18th Fructidor.—His letter to Augereau—His correspondence with the Directory and proposed resignation—Explanation of the Directory—Bottot—General Clarke— Letter from Madame Bacciocchi to Bonaparte—Autograph letter of the Emperor Francis to Bonaparte—Arrival of Count Cobentzel—Autograph note of Bonaparte on the conditions of peace.
Bonaparte was delighted when he heard of the happy issue of the 18th Fructidor. Its result was the dissolution of the Legislative Body and the fall of the Clichyan party, which for some months had disturbed his tranquillity. The Clichyans had objected to Joseph Bonaparte's right to sit as deputy for Liamone in the Council of Five Hundred.
—[He was ambassador to Rome, and not a deputy at this time. When he became a member of the council, after his return from Rome, he experienced no opposition (Bourrienne et ses Erreurs, tome i. p. 240).]—
His brother's victory removed the difficulty; but the General-in-Chief soon perceived that the ascendant party abused its power, and again compromised the safety of the Republic, by recommencing the Revolutionary Government. The Directors were alarmed at his discontent and offended by his censure. They conceived the singular idea of opposing to Bonaparte, Augereau, of whose blind zeal they had received many proofs. The Directory appointed Augereau commander of the army of Germany. Augereau, whose extreme vanity was notorious, believed himself in a situation to compete with Bonaparte. What he built his arrogance on was, that, with a numerous troop, he had arrested some unarmed representatives, and torn the epaulettes from the shoulders of the commandant of the guard of the councils. The Directory and he filled the headquarters at Passeriano with spies and intriguers.
Bonaparte, who was informed of everything that was going on, laughed at the Directory, and tendered his resignation, in order that he might be supplicated to continue in command.
The following post-Thermidorian letters will prove that the General's judgment on this point was correct.
On the 2d Vendemiaire, year VI. (23d September 1797), he wrote to Augereau, after having announced the arrival of his 'aide de camp' as follows:
The whole army applauds the wisdom and vigour which you have displayed upon this important occasion, and participates in the success of the country with the enthusiasm and energy which characterise our soldiers. It is only to be hoped, however, that the Government will not be playing at see saw, and thus throw itself into the opposite party. Wisdom and moderate views alone can establish the happiness of the country on a sure foundation. As for myself, this is the most ardent wish of my heart. I beg that you will sometimes let me know what you are doing in Paris.
On the 4th Vendemiaire Bonaparte wrote a letter to the Directory in the following terms:
The day before yesterday an officer arrived at the army from Paris. He reported that he left Paris on the 25th, when anxiety prevailed there as to the feelings with which I viewed the events of the 18th He was the bearer of a sort of circular from General Augereau to all the generals of division; and he brought a letter of credit from the Minister of War to the commissary-general, authorising him to draw as much money as he might require for his journey.
It is evident from these circumstances that the Government is acting towards me in somewhat the same way in which Pichegru was dealt with after Vendemiaire (year IV.).
I beg of you to receive my resignation, and appoint another to my place. No power on earth shall make me continue in the service after this shocking mark of ingratitude on the part of the Government, which I was very far from expecting. My health, which is considerably impaired, imperiously demands repose and tranquillity.
The state of my mind, likewise, requires me to mingle again in the mass of citizens. Great power has for a long time been confided to my hands. I have employed it on all occasions for the advantage of my country; so much the worse for those who put no faith in virtue, and may have suspected mine. My recompense is in my own conscience, and in the opinion of posterity.
Now that the country is tranquil and free from the dangers which have menaced it, I can, without inconvenience, quit the post in which I have been placed.
Be sure that if there were a moment of danger, I would be found in
the foremost rank of the defenders of liberty and of the
constitution of the year III.
The Directory, judging from the account which Bottot gave of his mission that he had not succeeded in entirely removing the suspicions of Bonaparte, wrote the following letter on the 30th Vendemiaire:
The Directory has itself been troubled about the impression made on you by the letter to the paymaster-general, of which an 'aide de camp' was the bearer. The composition of this letter has very much astonished the Government, which never appointed nor recognised such an agent: it is at least an error of office. But it should not alter the opinion you ought otherwise to entertain of the manner in which the Directory thinks of and esteems you. It appears that the 18th Fructidor was misrepresented in the letters which were sent to the army of Italy. You did well to intercept them, and it may be right to transmit the most remarkable to the Minister of Police. —(What an ignoble task to propose to the conqueror of Italy.)
In your observations on the too strong tendency of opinion towards military government, the Directory recognises an equally enlightened and ardent friend of the Republic.
Nothing is wiser than the maxim, 'cedant arma togae', for the maintenance of republics. To show so much anxiety on so important a point is not one of the least glorious features in the life of a general placed at the head of a triumphant army.
The Directory had sent General Clarke
—[H. J. G. Clarke, afterwards Minister of War under Napoleon, 1807-1814, and under the Bourbons in 1816, when he was made a Marshal of France. He was created Duc de Feltre in 1819.]—
to treat for peace, as second plenipotentiary. Bonaparte has often told me he had no doubt from the time of his arrival that General Clarke was charged with a secret mission to act as a spy upon him, and even to arrest him if an opportunity offered for so doing without danger. That he had a suspicion of this kind is certain; but I must own that I was never by any means able to discover its grounds; for in all my intercourse since with Clarke he never put a single question to me, nor did I ever hear a word drop from his mouth, which savoured of such a character. If the fact be that he was a spy, he certainly played his part well. In all the parts of his correspondence which were intercepted there never was found the least confirmation of this suspicion. Be this as it may, Bonaparte could not endure him; he did not make him acquainted with what was going on, and his influence rendered this mission a mere nullity. The General-in-Chief concentrated all the business of the negotiation in his own closet; and, as to what was going on, Clarke continued a mere cipher until the 18th Fructidor, when he was recalled. Bonaparte made but little count of Clarke's talents. It is but justice, however, to say that he bore him no grudge for the conduct of which he suspected he was guilty in Italy. "I pardon him because I alone have the right to be offended."
He even had the generosity to make interest for an official situation for him. These amiable traits were not uncommon with Bonaparte.
Bonaparte had to encounter so many disagreeable contrarieties, both in the negotiators for peace and the events at Paris, that he often displayed a good deal of irritation and disgust. This state of mind was increased by the recollection of the vexation his sister's marriage had caused him, and which was unfortunately revived by a letter he received from her at this juncture. His excitement was such that he threw it down with an expression of anger. It has been erroneously reported in several publications that "Bacciocchi espoused Marie-Anne-Eliza Bonaparte on the 5th of May 1797. The brother of the bride was at the time negotiating the preliminaries of peace with Austria."
In fact, the preliminaries were signed in the month of April, and it was for the definitive peace we were negotiating in May. But the reader will find by the subjoined letter that Christine applied to her brother to stand godfather to her third child. Three children in three months would be rather quick work.
AJACCIO, 14th, Thermidor, year V. (1st August 1797).
GENERAL—Suffer me to write to you and call you by the name of brother. My first child was born at a time when you were much incensed against us. I trust she may soon caress you, and so make you forget the pain my marriage has occasioned you. My second child was still-born. Obliged to quit Paris by your order,
—[Napoleon had written in August 1796 to Carnot, to request that Lucien might be ordered to quit Paris; see Iung, tome iii. p. 223.]—
I miscarried in Germany. In a month's time I hope to present you with a nephew. A favourable time, and other circumstances, incline me to hope my next will be a boy, and I promise you I will make a soldier of him; but I wish him to bear your name, and that you should be his godfather. I trust you will not refuse your sister's request.
Will you send, for this purpose, your power of attorney to Bacciocchi, or to whomsoever you think fit? I shall expect with impatience your assent. Because we are poor let not that cause you to despise us; for, after all, you are our brother, mine are the only children that call you uncle, and we all love you more than we do the favours of fortune. Perhaps I may one day succeed in convincing you of the love I bear you.—Your affectionate sister,
—[Madame Bacciocchi went by the name of Marianne at St. Cyr, of
Christine while on her travels, and of Eliza under the Consulate.—
P.S.—Do not fail to remember me to your wife, whom I strongly
desire to be acquainted with. They told me at Paris I was very like
her. If you recollect my features you can judge. C. B.
This letter is in the handwriting of Lucien Bonaparte.'
—[Joseph Bonaparte in his Notes says, "It is false that Madame Bonaparte ever called herself Christine; it is false that she ever wrote the letter of which M. de Bourrienne here gives a copy." It will be observed that Bourrienne says it was written by her brother Lucien. This is an error. The letter is obviously from Christine Boyer, the wife of Lucien Bonaparte, whose marriage had given such displeasure to Napoleon. (See Erreurs, tome i. p. 240, and Iung's Lucien, tome i p. 161).]—
General Bonaparte had been near a month at Passeriano when he received the following autograph letter from the Emperor of Austria:
MONSIEUR LE GENERAL BONAPARTE—When I thought I had given my plenipotentiaries full powers to terminate the important negotiation with which they were charged, I learn, with as much pain as surprise, that in consequence of swerving continually from the stipulations of the preliminaries, the restoration of tranquillity, with the tidings of which I desire to gladden the hearts of my subjects, and which the half of Europe devoutly prays for, becomes day after day more uncertain.
Faithful to the performance of my engagements, I am ready to execute what was agreed to at Leoben, and require from you but the reciprocal performance of so sacred a duty. This is what has already been declared in my name, and what I do not now hesitate myself to declare. If, perhaps, the execution of some of the preliminary articles be now impossible, in consequence of the events which have since occurred, and in which I had no part, it may be necessary to substitute others in their stead equally adapted to the interests and equally conformable to the dignity of the two nations. To such alone will I put my hand. A frank and sincere explanation, dictated by the same feelings which govern me, is the only way to lead to so salutary a result. In order to accelerate this result as far as in me lies, and to put an end at once to the state of uncertainty we remain in, and which has already lasted too long, I have determined to despatch to the place of the present negotiations Comte de Cobentzel, a man who possesses my most unlimited confidence, and who is instructed as to my intentions and furnished with my most ample powers. I have authorised him to receive and accept every proposition tending to the reconciliation of the two parties which may be in conformity with the principles of equity and reciprocal fitness, and to conclude accordingly.
After this fresh assurance of the spirit of conciliation which animates me, I doubt not you will perceive that peace lies in your own hands, and that on your determination will depend the happiness or misery of many thousand men. If I mistake as to the means I think best adapted to terminate the calamities which for along time have desolated Europe, I shall at least have the consolation of reflecting that I have done all that depended on me. With the consequences which may result I can never be reproached.
I have been particularly determined to the course I now take by the opinion I entertain of your upright character, and by the personal esteem I have conceived towards you, of which I am very happy, M. le General Bonaparte, to give you here an assurance.
In fact, it was only on the arrival of the Comte de Cobentzel that the negotiations were seriously set on foot. Bonaparte had all along clearly perceived that Gallo and Meerweldt were not furnished with adequate powers. He saw also clearly enough that if the month of September were to be trifled away in unsatisfactory negotiations, as the month which preceded it had been, it would be difficult in October to strike a blow at the house of Austria on the side of Carinthia. The Austrian Cabinet perceived with satisfaction the approach of the bad weather, and insisted more strongly on its ultimatum, which was the Adige, with Venice.
Before the 18th Fructidor the Emperor of Austria hoped that the movement which was preparing in Paris would operate badly for France and favourably to the European cause. The Austrian plenipotentiaries, in consequence, raised their pretensions, and sent notes and an ultimatum which gave the proceedings more an air of trifling than of serious negotiation. Bonaparte's original ideas, which I have under his hand, were as follows:
1. The Emperor to have Italy as far as the Adda. 2. The King of Sardinia as far as the Adda. 3. The Genoese Republic to have the boundary of Tortona as far as the Po (Tortona to be demolished), as also the imperial fiefs. (Coni to be ceded to France, or to be demolished.) 4. The Grand Duke of Tuscany to be restored. 5. The Duke of Parma to be restored.
Influence of the 18th Fructidor on the negotiations—Bonaparte's suspicion of Bottot—His complaints respecting the non-erasure of Bourrienne—Bourrienne's conversation with the Marquis of Gallo— Bottot writes from Paris to Bonaparte on the part of the Directory Agents of the Directory employed to watch Bonaparte—Influence of the weather on the conclusion of peace—Remarkable observation of Bonaparte—Conclusion of the treaty—The Directory dissatisfied with the terms of the peace—Bonaparte's predilection for representative government—Opinion on Bonaparte.
After the 18th Fructidor Bonaparte was more powerful, Austria less haughty and confident. Venice was the only point of real difficulty. Austria wanted the line of the Adige, with Venice, in exchange for Mayence, and the boundary of the Rhine until that river enters Holland. The Directory wished to have the latter boundary, and to add Mantua to the Italian Republic, without giving up all the line of the Adige and Venice. The difficulties were felt to be so irreconcilable that within about a month of the conclusion of peace the Directory wrote to General Bonaparte that a resumption of hostilities was preferable to the state of uncertainty which was agitating and ruining France. The Directory, therefore, declared that both the armies of the Rhine should take the field. It appears from the Fructidorian correspondence, which has been already given, that the majority of the Directory then looked upon a peace such as Bonaparte afterwards made as infamous.
But Bonaparte, from the moment the Venetian insurrection broke out, perceived that Venice might be used for the pacification. Bonaparte, who was convinced that, in order to bring matters to an issue, Venice and the territory beyond the Adige must fall beneath the Hapsburg sceptre, wrote to the Directory that he could not commence operations, advantageously, before the end of March, 1798; but that if the objections to giving Venice to the Emperor of Austria were persisted in, hostilities would certainly be resumed in the month of October, for the Emperor would not renounce Venice. In that case it would be necessary to be ready on the Rhine for an advance in Germany, as the army of Italy, if it could make head against the Archduke Charles, was not sufficiently strong for any operations on a grand scale. At this period the conclusion of peace was certainly very doubtful; it was even seriously considered in what form the rupture should be notified.
Towards the end of September Bottot, Barras' secretary, arrived at Passeriano. He was despatched by the Directory. Bonaparte immediately suspected he was a new spy, come on a secret mission, to watch him. He was therefore received and treated with coolness; but Bonaparte never had, as Sir Walter Scott asserts, the idea of ordering him to be shot. That writer is also in error when he says that Bottot was sent to Passeriano to reproach Bonaparte for failing to fulfil his promise of sending money to the Directory.
Bonaparte soon gave Bottot an opportunity of judging of the kind of spirit which prevailed at headquarters. He suddenly tendered his resignation, which he had already several times called upon the Directory to accept. He accused the Government, at table, in Bottot's presence, of horrible ingratitude. He recounted all his subjects of complaint, in loud and impassioned language, without any restraint, and before twenty or thirty persons.
Indignant at finding that his reiterated demands for the erasure of my name from the list of emigrants had been slighted, and that, in spite of his representations, conveyed to Paris by General Bernadotte, Louis Bonaparte, and others, I was still included in that fatal list, he apostrophised M. Bottot at dinner one day, before forty individuals, among whom were the diplomatists Gallo, Cobentzel, and Meerweldt. The conversation turned upon the Directory. "Yes, truly," cried Bonaparte, in a loud voice, "I have good reason to complain; and, to pass from great to little things, look, I pray you, at Bourrienne's case. He possesses my most unbounded confidence. He alone is entrusted, under my orders, with all the details of the negotiation. This you well know; and yet your Directory will not strike him off the list. In a word it is not only an inconceivable, but an extremely stupid piece of business; for he has all my secrets; he knows my ultimatum, and could by a single word realize a handsome fortune, and laugh at your obstinacy. Ask M. de Gallo if this be not true."
Bottot wished to offer some excuse; but the general murmur which followed this singular outburst reduced him to silence.
The Marquis de Gallo had conversed with me but three days before, in the park of Passeriano, on the subject of my position with regard to France, of the determination expressed by the Directory not to erase my name, and of the risk I thereby ran. "We have no desire," continued he, "to renew the war; we wish sincerely for peace; but it must be an honourable one. The Republic of Venice presents a large territory for partition, which would be sufficient for both parties. The cessions at present proposed are not, however, satisfactory. We want to know Bonaparte's ultimatum; and I am authorised to offer an estate in Bohemia, with a title and residence, and an annual revenue of 90,000 florins."
I quickly interrupted M. de Gallo, and assured him that both my conscience and my duty obliged me to reject his proposal; and so put at once an end to the conversation.
I took care to let the General-in-Chief know this story, and he was not surprised at my reply. His conviction, however, was strong, from all that M. de Gallo had said, and more particularly from the offer he had made, that Austria was resolved to avoid war, and was anxious for peace.
After I had retired to rest M. Bottot came to my bedroom and asked me, with a feigned surprise, if it was true that my name was still on the list of emigrants. On my replying in the affirmative, he requested me to draw up a note on the subject. This I declined doing, telling him that twenty notes of the kind he required already existed; that I would take no further steps; and that I would henceforth await the decision in a state of perfect inaction.
General Bonaparte thought it quite inexplicable that the Directory should express dissatisfaction at the view he took of the events of the 18th Fructidor, as, without his aid, they would doubtless have been overcome. He wrote a despatch, in which he repeated that his health and his spirits were affected—that he had need of some years' repose-that he could no longer endure the fatigue of riding; but that the prosperity and liberty of his country would always command his warmest interests. In all this there was not a single word of truth. The Directory thought as much, and declined to accept his resignation in the most flattering terms.
Bottot proposed to him, on the part of the Directory, to revolutionise Italy. The General inquired whether the whole of Italy would be included in the plan. The revolutionary commission had, however, been entrusted to Bottot in so indefinite a way that he could only hesitate, and give a vague reply. Bonaparte wished for more precise orders. In the interval peace was concluded, and the idea of that perilous and extravagant undertaking was no longer agitated. Bottot, soon after his return to Paris, wrote a letter to General Bonaparte, in which he complained that the last moments he had passed at Passeriano had deeply afflicted his heart. He said that cruel suspicions had followed him even to the gates of the Directory. These cruel suspicions had, however, been dissipated by the sentiments of admiration and affection which he had found the Directory entertained for the person of Bonaparte.
These assurances, which were precisely what Bonaparte had expected, did not avail to lessen the contempt he entertained for the heads of the Government, nor to change his conviction of their envy and mistrust of himself. To their alleged affection he made no return. Bottot assured the hero of Italy of "the Republican docility" of the Directory, and touched upon the reproaches Bonaparte had thrown out against them, and upon his demands which had not been granted. He said:
"The three armies, of the North, of the Rhine, and of the Sambre-et- Meuse, are to form only one, the army of Germany.—Augereau? But you yourself sent him. The fault committed by the Directory is owing to yourself! Bernadotte?—he is gone to join you. Cacault?—he is recalled. Twelve thousand men for your army?—they are on their march. The treaty with Sardinia?—it is ratified. Bourrienne?—he is erased. The revolution of Italy?—it is adjourned. Advise the Directory, then: I repeat it, they have need of information, and it is to you they look for it."
The assertion regarding me was false. For six months Bonaparte demanded my erasure without being able to obtain it. I was not struck off the list until the 11th of November 1797.
Just before the close of the negotiation Bonaparte, disgusted at the opposition and difficulties with which he was surrounded, reiterated again and again the offer of his resignation, and his wish to have a successor appointed. What augmented his uneasiness was an idea he entertained that the Directory had penetrated his secret, and attributed his powerful concurrence on the 18th Fructidor to the true cause—his personal views of ambition. In spite of the hypocritical assurances of gratitude made to him in writing, and though the Directory knew that his services were indispensable, spies were employed to watch his movements, and to endeavour by means of the persons about him to discover his views. Some of the General's friends wrote to him from Paris, and for my part I never ceased repeating to him that the peace, the power of making which he had in his own hands, would render him far more popular than the renewal of hostilities undertaken with all the chances of success and reverse. The signing of the peace, according to his own ideas, and in opposition to those of the Directory, the way in which he just halted at Rastadt, and avoided returning to the Congress, and, finally, his resolution to expatriate himself with an army in order to attempt new enterprises, sprung more than is generally believed from the ruling idea that he was distrusted, and that his ruin was meditated. He often recalled to mind what La Vallette had written to him about his conversation with Lacuée; and all he saw and heard confirmed the impression he had received on this subject.
The early appearance of bad weather precipitated his determination. On the 13th of October, at daybreak, on opening my window, I perceived the mountains covered with snow. The previous night had been superb, and the autumn till then promised to be fine and late. I proceeded, as I always did, at seven o'clock in the morning, to the General's chamber. I woke him, and told him what I had seen. He feigned at first to disbelieve me, then leaped from his bed, ran to the window, and, convinced of the sudden change, he calmly said, "What! before the middle of October! What a country is this! Well, we must make peace!" While he hastily put on his clothes I read the journals to him, as was my daily custom. He paid but little attention to them.
Shutting himself up with me in his closet, he reviewed with the greatest care all the returns from the different corps of his army. "Here are," said he, "nearly 80,000 effective men. I feed, I pay them: but I can bring but 60,000 into the field on the day of battle. I shall gain it, but afterwards my force will be reduced 20,000 men—by killed, wounded, and prisoners. Then how oppose all the Austrian forces that will march to the protection of Vienna? It would be a month before the armies of the Rhine could support me, if they should be able; and in a fortnight all the roads and passages will be covered deep with snow. It is settled—I will make peace. Venice shall pay for the expense of the war and the boundary of the Rhine: let the Directory and the lawyers say what they like."
He wrote to the Directory in the following words: "The summits of the hills are covered with snow; I cannot, on account of the stipulations agreed to for the recommencement of hostilities, begin before five-and- twenty days, and by that time we shall be overwhelmed with snow."
Fourteen years after, another early winter, in a more severe climate, was destined to have a fatal influence on his fortunes. Had he but then exercised equal foresight!
It is well known that, by the treaty of Campo-Formio, the two belligerent powers made peace at the expense of the Republic of Venice, which had nothing to do with the quarrel in the first instance, and which only interfered at a late period, probably against her own inclination, and impelled by the force of inevitable circumstances. But what has been the result of this great political spoliation? A portion of the Venetian territory was adjudged to the Cisalpine Republic; it is now in the possession of Austria.
Another considerable portion, and the capital itself, fell to the lot of Austria in compensation for the Belgic provinces and Lombard, which she ceded to France. Austria has now retaken Lombard, and the additions then made to it, and Belgium is in the possession of the House of Orange. France obtained Corfu and some of the Ionian isles; these now belong to England.
—[Afterwards to be ceded by her to Greece. Belgium is free.]—
Romulus never thought he was founding Rome for Goths and priests.
Alexander did not foresee that his Egyptian city would belong to the
Turks; nor did Constantine strip Rome for the benefit of Mahomet II. Why
then fight for a few paltry villages?
Thus have we been gloriously conquering for Austria and England. An ancient State is overturned without noise, and its provinces, after being divided among different bordering States, are now all under the dominion of Austria. We do not possess a foot of ground in all the fine countries we conquered, and which served as compensations for the immense acquisitions of the House of Hapsburgh in Italy. Thus that house was aggrandised by a war which was to itself most disastrous. But Austria has often found other means of extending her dominion than military triumphs, as is recorded in the celebrated distich of Mathias Corvinus:
"Bella gerunt alli, to felix Austria nube;
Nam quae Mars allis, dat tibi regna Venus."
["Glad Austria wins by Hymen's silken chain
What other States by doubtful battle gain,
And while fierce Mars enriches meaner lands,
Receives possession from fair Venus' hands."]
The Directory was far from being satisfied with the treaty of Campo- Formio, and with difficulty resisted the temptation of not ratifying it. A fortnight before the signature the Directors wrote to General Bonaparte that they would not consent to give to the Emperor Venice, Frioul, Padua, and the 'terra firma' with the boundary of the Adige. "That," said they, "would not be to make peace, but to adjourn the war. We shall be regarded as the beaten party, independently of the disgrace of abandoning Venice, which Bonaparte himself thought so worthy of freedom. France ought not, and never will wish, to see Italy delivered up to Austria. The Directory would prefer the chances of a war to changing a single word of its ultimatum, which is already too favourable to Austria."
All this was said in vain. Bonaparte made no scruple of disregarding his instructions. It has been said that the Emperor of Austria made an offer of a very considerable sum of money, and even of a principality, to obtain favourable terms. I was never able to find the slightest ground for this report, which refers to a time when the smallest circumstance could not escape my notice. The character of Bonaparte stood too high for him to sacrifice his glory as a conqueror and peacemaker for even the greatest private advantage. This was so thoroughly known, and he was so profoundly esteemed by the Austrian plenipotentiaries, that I will venture to say none of them would have been capable of making the slightest overture to him of so debasing a proposition. Besides, it would have induced him to put an end to all intercourse with the plenipotentiaries. Perhaps what I have just stated of M. de Gallo will throw some light upon this odious accusation. But let us dismiss this story with the rest, and among them that of the porcelain tray, which was said to have been smashed and thrown at the head of M. de Cobentzel. I certainly know nothing of any such scene; our manners at Passeriano were not quite so bad!
The presents customary on such occasions were given, and the Emperor of Austria also took that opportunity to present to General Bonaparte six magnificent white horses.
Bonaparte returned to Milan by way of Gratz, Laybach, Triest, Mestre,
Verona, and Mantua.
At this period Napoleon was still swayed by the impulse of the age. He thought of nothing but representative governments. Often has he said to me, "I should like the era of representative governments to be dated from my time." His conduct in Italy and his proclamations ought to give, and in fact do give, weight to this account of his opinion. But there is no doubt that this idea was more connected with lofty views of ambition than a sincere desire for the benefit of the human race; for, at a later period, he adopted this phrase: "I should like to be the head of the most ancient of the dynasties of Europe." What a difference between Bonaparte, the author of the 'Souper de Beaucaire', the subduer of royalism at Toulon; the author of the remonstrance to Albitte and Salicetti, the fortunate conqueror of the 13th Vendemiaire, the instigator and supporter of the revolution of Fructidor, and the founder of the Republics of Italy, the fruits of his immortal victories,—and Bonaparte, First Consul in 1800, Consul for life in 1802, and, above all, Napoleon, Emperor of the French in 1804, and King of Italy in 1805!
Effect of the 18th Fructidor on the peace—The standard of the army
of Italy—Honours rendered to the memory of General Hoche and of
Virgil at Mantua—Remarkable letter—In passing through Switzerland
Bonaparte visits the field of Morat—Arrival at Rastadt—Letter from
the Directory calling Bonaparte to Paris—Intrigues against
Josephine—Grand ceremony on the reception of Bonaparte by the
Directory—The theatres—Modesty of Bonaparte—An assassination—
Bonaparte's opinion of the Parisians—His election to the National
Institute—Letter to Camus—Projects—Reflections.
The day of the 18th Fructidor had, without any doubt, mainly contributed to the conclusion of peace at Campo Formio. On the one hand, the Directory, hitherto not very pacifically inclined, after having effected a 'coup d'etat', at length saw the necessity of appeasing the discontented by giving peace to France. On the other hand, the Cabinet of Vienna, observing the complete failure of all the royalist plots in the interior, thought it high time to conclude with the French Republic a treaty which, notwithstanding all the defeats Austria had sustained, still left her a preponderating influence over Italy.
Besides, the campaign of Italy, so fertile in glorious achievements of arms, had not been productive of glory alone. Something of greater importance followed these conquests. Public affairs had assumed a somewhat unusual aspect, and a grand moral influence, the effect of victories and of peace, had begun to extend all over France. Republicanism was no longer so sanguinary and fierce as it had been some years before. Bonaparte, negotiating with princes and their ministers on a footing of equality, but still with all that superiority to which victory and his genius entitled him, gradually taught foreign courts to be familiar with Republican France, and the Republic to cease regarding all States governed by Kings as of necessity enemies.
In these circumstances the General-in-Chief's departure and his expected visit to Paris excited general attention. The feeble Directory was prepared to submit to the presence of the conqueror of Italy in the capital.
It was for the purpose of acting as head of the French legation at the Congress of Rastadt that Bonaparte quitted Milan on the 17th of November. But before his departure he sent to the Directory one of those monuments, the inscriptions on which may generally be considered as fabulous, but which, in this case, were nothing but the truth. This monument was the "flag of the Army of Italy," and to General Joubert was assigned the honourable duty of presenting it to the members of the Executive Government.
On one side of the flag were the words "To the Army of Italy, the grateful country." The other contained an enumeration of the battles fought and places taken, and presented, in the following inscriptions, a simple but striking abridgment of the history of the Italian campaign.
Thus were recapitulated on a flag, destined to decorate the Hall of the
Public Sittings of the Directory, the military deeds of the campaign in
Italy, its political results, and the conquest of the monuments of art.
Most of the Italian cities looked upon their conqueror as a liberator— such was the magic of the word liberty, which resounded from the Alps to the Apennines. On his way to Mantua the General took up his residence in the palace of the ancient dukes. Bonaparte promised the authorities of Mantua that their department should be one of the most extensive; impressed on them the necessity of promptly organising a local militia, and of putting in execution the plans of Mari, the mathematician, for the navigation of the Mincio from Mantua to Peschiera.
He stopped two days at Mantua, and the morrow of his arrival was devoted to the celebration of a military funeral solemnity, in honour of General Hoche, who had just died. His next object was to hasten the execution of the monument which was erecting to the memory of Virgil. Thus, in one day, he paid honour to France and Italy, to modern and to ancient glory, to the laurels of war and to the laurels of poetry.
A person who saw Bonaparte on this occasion for the first time thus described him in a letter he wrote to Paris:—"With lively interest and extreme attention I have observed this extraordinary man, who has performed such great deeds, and about whom there is something which seems to indicate that his career is not yet terminated. I found him very like his portraits—little, thin, pale, with an air of fatigue, but not of ill-health, as has been reported of him. He appears to me to listen with more abstraction than interest, and that he was more occupied with what he was thinking of than with what was said to him. There is great intelligence in his countenance, along with which may be marked an air of habitual meditation, which reveals nothing of what is passing within. In that thinking head, in that bold mind, it is impossible not to believe that some daring designs are engendering which will have their influence on the destinies of Europe."
From the last phrase, in particular, of this letter, one might suspect that it was written after Bonaparte had made his name feared throughout Europe; but it really appeared in a journal in the month of December 1797, a little before his arrival in Paris.
There exists a sort of analogy between celebrated men and celebrated places; it was not, therefore, an uninteresting spectacle to see Bonaparte surveying the field of Morat, where, in 1476, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, daring like himself, fell with his powerful army under the effects of Helvetian valour. Bonaparte slept during the night at Maudon, where, as in every place through which he passed, the greatest honours were paid him. In the morning, his carriage having broken down, we continued our journey on foot, accompanied only by some officers and an escort of dragoons of the country. Bonaparte stopped near the Ossuary, and desired to be shown the spot where the battle of Morat was fought. A plain in front of the chapel was pointed out to him. An officer who had served in France was present, and explained to him how the Swiss, descending from the neighbouring mountains, were enabled, under cover of a wood, to turn the Burgundian army and put it to the rout. "What was the force of that army?" asked Bonaparte.—"Sixty thousand men."—"Sixty thousand men!" he exclaimed: "they ought to have completely covered these mountains!"—"The French fight better now," said Lannes, who was one of the officers of his suite. "At that time," observed Bonaparte, interrupting him, "the Burgundians were not Frenchmen."
Bonaparte's journey through Switzerland was not without utility; and his presence served to calm more than one inquietude. He proceeded on his journey to Rastadt by Aix in Savoy, Berne, and Bale. On arriving at Berne during night we passed through a double file of well-lighted equipages, filled with beautiful women, all of whom raised the cry of "Long live, Bonaparte!—long live the Pacificator!" "To have a proper idea of this genuine enthusiasm it is necessary to have seen it.
The position in society to which his services had raised him rendered it unfit to address him in the second person singular and the familiar manner sometimes used by his old schoolfellows of Brienne. I thought this very natural.
M. de Cominges, one of those who went with him to the military school at Paris, and who had emigrated, was at Bale. Having learned our arrival, he presented himself without ceremony, with great indecorum, and with a complete disregard of the respect due to a man who had rendered himself so illustrious. General Bonaparte, offended at this behaviour, refused to receive him again, and expressed himself to me with much warmth on the occasion of this visit. All my efforts to remove his displeasure were unavailing; this impression always continued, and he never did for M. de Cominges what his means and the old ties of boyhood might well have warranted.
On arriving at Rastadt
—[The conference for the formal peace with the Empire of Germany was held there. The peace of Leoben was only one made with Austria.]—
Bonaparte found a letter from the Directory summoning him to Paris. He eagerly obeyed this invitation, which drew him from a place where he could act only an insignificant part, and which he had determined to leave soon, never again to return. Some time after his arrival in Paris, on the ground that his presence was necessary for the execution of different orders, and the general despatch of business, he required that authority should be given to a part of his household, which he had left at Rastadt, to return.
How could it ever be said that the Directory "kept General Bonaparte away from the great interests which were under discussion at Rastadt"? Quite the contrary! The Directory would have been delighted to see him return there, as they would then have been relieved from his presence in Paris; but nothing was so disagreeable to Bonaparte as long and seemingly interminable negotiations. Such tedious work did not suit his character, and he had been sufficiently disgusted with similar proceedings at Campo- Formio.
On our arrival at Rastadt I soon found that General Bonaparte was determined to stay there only a short time. I therefore expressed to him my decided desire to remain in Germany. I was then ignorant that my erasure from the emigrant list had been ordered on the 11th of November, as the decree did not reach the commissary of the Executive Directory at Auxerre until the 17th of November, the day of our departure from Milan.
The silly pretext of difficulties by which my erasure, notwithstanding the reiterated solicitations of the victorious General, was so long delayed made me apprehensive of a renewal, under a weak and jealous pentarchy, of the horrible scenes of 1796. Bonaparte said to me, in a tone of indignation, "Come, pass the Rhine; they will not dare to seize you while near me. I answer for your safety." On reaching Paris I found that my erasure had taken place. It was at this period only that General Bonaparte's applications in my favour were tardily crowned with success. Sotin, the Minister of General Police, notified the fact to Bonaparte; but his letter gave a reason for my erasure very different from that stated in the decree. The Minister said that the Government did not wish to leave among the names of traitors to their country the name of a citizen who was attached to the person of the conqueror of Italy; while the decree itself stated as the motive for removing my name from the list that I never had emigrated.
At St. Helena it seems Bonaparte said that he did not return from Italy with more than 300,000 francs; but I assert that he had at that time in his possession something more than 3,000,000.
—[Joseph says that Napoleon, when he exiled for Egypt, left with him all his fortune, and that it was much nearer 300,000 francs than 3,000,000. (See Erreurs, tome i. pp. 243, 259)]—
How could he with 300,000 francs have been able to provide for the extensive repairs, the embellishment, and the furnishing of his house in the Rue Chantereine? How could he have supported the establishment he did with only 15,000 francs of income and the emoluments of his rank? The excursion which he made along the coast, of which I have yet to speak, of itself cost near 12,000 francs in gold, which he transferred to me to defray the expense of the journey; and I do not think that this sum was ever repaid him. Besides, what did it signify, for any object he might have in disguising his fortune, whether he brought 3,000,000 or 300,000 francs with him from Italy? No one will accuse him of peculation. He was an inflexible administrator. He was always irritated at the discovery of fraud, and pursued those guilty of it with all the vigour of his character. He wished to be independent, which he well knew that no one could be without fortune. He has often said to me, "I am no Capuchin, not I." But after having been allowed only 300,000 francs on his arrival from the rich Italy, where fortune never abandoned him, it has been printed that he had 20,000,000 (some have even doubled the amount) on his return from Egypt, which is a very poor country, where money is scarce, and where reverses followed close upon his victories. All these reports are false. What he brought from Italy has just been stated, and it will be seen when we come to Egypt what treasure he carried away from the country of the Pharaohs.
Bonaparte's brothers, desirous of obtaining complete dominion over his mind, strenuously endeavoured to lessen the influence which Josephine possessed from the love of her husband. They tried to excite his jealousy, and took advantage of her stay at Milan after our departure, which had been authorised by Bonaparte himself. My intimacy with both the husband and the wife fortunately afforded me an opportunity of averting or lessening a good deal of mischief. If Josephine still lived she would allow me this merit. I never took part against her but once, and that unwillingly. It was on the subject of the marriage of her daughter Hortense. Josephine had never as yet spoken to me on the subject. Bonaparte wished to give his stepdaughter to Duroc, and his brothers were eager to promote the marriage, because they wished to separate Josephine from Hortense, for whom Bonaparte felt the tenderest affection. Josephine, on the other hand, wished Hortense to marry Louis Bonaparte. Her motives, as may easily be divined, were to gain support in a family where she experienced nothing but enmity, and she carried her point.
—[Previous to her marriage with Louis, Hortense cherished an attachment for Duroc, who was at that time a handsome man about thirty, and a great favourite of Bonaparte. However, the indifference with which Duroc regarded the marriage of Louis Bonaparte sufficiently proves that the regard with which he had inspired Hortense was not very ardently returned. It is certain that Duroc might have become the husband of Mademoiselle de Beauharnais had he been willing to accede to the conditions on which the First Consul offered him his step-daughter's hand. But Duroc looked forward to something better, and his ordinary prudence forsook him at a moment when he might easily have beheld a perspective calculated to gratify even a more towering ambition than his. He declined the proposed marriage; and the union of Hortense and Louis, which Madame Bonaparte, to conciliate the favour of her brothers-in-law, had endeavoured to bring about, was immediately determined on (Memoires de Constant).
In allusion to the alleged unfriendly feeling of Napoleon's brothers towards Josephine, the following observation occurs in Joseph Bonaparte's Notes on Bourrienne:
"None of Napoleon's brothers," he says, "were near him from the time of his departure for Italy except Louis who cannot be suspected of having intrigued against Josephine, whose daughter he married. These calumnies are without foundation" (Erreurs, tome i. p. 244)]—
On his arrival from Rastadt the most magnificent preparations were made at the Luxembourg for the reception of Bonaparte. The grand court of the Palace was elegantly ornamented; and at its farther end, close to the Palace, a large amphitheatre was erected for the accommodation of official persons. Curiosity, as on all like occasions, attracted multitudes, and the court was filled. Opposite to the principal vestibule stood the altar of the country, surrounded by the statues of Liberty, Equality, and Peace. When Bonaparte entered every head was uncovered. The windows were full of young and beautiful females. But notwithstanding this great preparation an icy coldness characterized the ceremony. Every one seemed to be present only for the purpose of beholding a sight, and curiosity was the prevailing expression rather than joy or gratitude. It is but right to say, however, that an unfortunate event contributed to the general indifference. The right wing of the Palace was not occupied, but great preparations had been making there, and an officer had been directed to prevent anyone from ascending. One of the clerks of the Directory, however, contrived to get upon the scaffolding, but had scarcely placed his foot on the first plank when it tilted up, and the imprudent man fell the whole height into the court. This accident created a general stupor. Ladies fainted, and the windows were nearly deserted.
However, the Directory displayed all the Republican splendour of which they were so prodigal on similar occasions. Speeches were far from being scarce. Talleyrand, who was then Minister for Foreign Affairs, on introducing Bonaparte to the Directory, made a long oration, in the course of which he hinted that the personal greatness of the General ought not to excite uneasiness, even in a rising Republic. "Far from apprehending anything from his ambition, I believe that we shall one day be obliged to solicit him to tear himself from the pleasures of studious retirement. All France will be free, but perhaps he never will; such is his destiny."
Talleyrand was listened to with impatience, so anxious was every one to hear Bonaparte. The conqueror of Italy then rose, and pronounced with a modest air, but in a firm voice, a short address of congratulation on the improved position of the nation.
Barras, at that time President of the Directory, replied to Bonaparte with so much prolixity as to weary everyone; and as soon as he had finished speaking he threw himself into the arms of the General, who was not much pleased with such affected displays, and gave him what was then called the fraternal embrace. The other members of the Directory, following the example of the President, surrounded Bonaparte and pressed him in their arms; each acted, to the best of his ability, his part in the sentimental comedy.
Chenier composed for this occasion a hymn, which Mehul set to music. A few days after an opera was produced, bearing the title of the 'Fall of Carthage', which was meant as an allusion to the anticipated exploits of the conqueror of Italy, recently appointed to the command of the "Army of England." The poets were all employed in praising him; and Lebrun, with but little of the Pindaric fire in his soul, composed the following distich, which certainly is not worth much:
"Heros, cher a la paix, aux arts, a la victoire—
Il conquit en deux ans mille siecles de gloire."
The two councils were not disposed to be behind the Directory in the manifestation of joy. A few days after they gave a banquet to the General in the gallery of the Louvre, which had recently been enriched by the masterpieces of painting conquered in Italy.
At this time Bonaparte displayed great modesty in all his transactions in Paris. The administrators of the department of the Seine having sent a deputation to him to inquire what hour and day he would allow them to wait on him, he carried himself his answer to the department, accompanied by General Berthier. It was also remarked that the judge of the peace of the arrondissement where the General lived having called on him on the 6th of December, the evening of his arrival, he returned the visit next morning. These attentions, trifling as they may appear, were not without their effect on the minds of the Parisians.
In consequence of General Bonaparte's victories, the peace he had effected, and the brilliant reception of which he had been the object, the business of Vendemiaire was in some measure forgotten. Every one was eager to get a sight of the young hero whose career had commenced with so much 'eclat'. He lived very retiredly, yet went often to the theatre. He desired me, one day, to go and request the representation of two of the best pieces of the time, in which Elleviou, Mesdames St. Aubin, Phillis, and other distinguished performers played. His message was, that he only wished these two pieces on the same night, if that were possible. The manager told me that nothing that the conqueror of Italy wished for was impossible, for he had long ago erased that word from the dictionary. Bonaparte laughed heartily at the manager's answer. When we went to the theatre he seated himself, as usual, in the back of the box, behind Madame Bonaparte, making me sit by her side. The pit and boxes, however, soon found out that he was in the house, and loudly called for him. Several times an earnest desire to see him was manifested, but all in vain, for he never showed himself.
Some days after, being at the Theatre des Arts, at the second representation of 'Horatius Cocles', although he was sitting at the back of a box in the second tier, the audience discovered that he was in the house. Immediately acclamations arose from all quarters; but he kept himself concealed as much as possible, and said to a person in the next box, "Had I known that the boxes were so exposed, I should not have come."
During Bonaparte's stay at Paris a woman sent a messenger to warn him that his life would be attempted, and that poison was to be employed for that purpose. Bonaparte had the bearer of this information arrested, who went, accompanied by the judge of the peace, to the woman's house, where she was found extended on the floor, and bathed in her blood. The men whose plot she had overheard, having discovered that she had revealed their secret, murdered her. The poor woman was dreadfully mangled: her throat was cut; and, not satisfied with that, the assassins had also hacked her body with sharp instruments.
On the night of the 10th of Nivose the Rue Chantereine, in which Bonaparte had a small house (No. 6), received, in pursuance of a decree of the department, the name of Rue de la Victoire. The cries of "Vive Bonaparte!" and the incense prodigally offered up to him, did not however seduce him from his retired habits. Lately the conqueror and ruler of Italy, and now under men for whom he had no respect, and who saw in him a formidable rival, he said to me one day, "The people of Paris do not remember anything. Were I to remain here long, doing nothing, I should be lost. In this great Babylon one reputation displaces another. Let me be seen but three times at the theatre and I shall no longer excite attention; so I shall go there but seldom." When he went he occupied a box shaded with curtains. The manager of the opera wished to get up a special performance in his honour; but he declined the offer. When I observed that it must be agreeable to him to see his fellow-citizens so eagerly running after him, he replied, "Bah! the people would crowd as fast to see me if I were going to the scaffold."
—[A similar remark made to William III. on his lending at Brixham elicited the comment, "Like the Jews, who cried one day 'Hosanna!' and the next 'Crucify Him! crucify Him!'"]—
On the 28th of December Bonaparte was named a member of the Institute, in the class of the Sciences and arts.
—[Napoleon seems to have really considered this nomination as a great honour. He was fond of using the title in his proclamations; and to the last the allowance attached to the appointment figured in the Imperial accounts. He replaced Carnot, the exiled Director.]—
He showed a deep sense of this honour, and wrote the following letter to
Camus; the president of the class:
CITIZEN PRESIDENT—The suffrage of the distinguished men who compose the institute confers a high honour on me. I feel well assured that, before I can be their equal, I must long be their scholar. If there were any way more expressive than another of making known my esteem for you, I should be glad to employ it. True conquests—the only ones which leave no regret behind them—are those which are made over ignorance. The most honourable, as well as the most useful, occupation for nations is the contributing to the extension of human knowledge. The true power of the French Republic should henceforth be made to consist in not allowing a single new idea to exist without making it part of its property. BONAPARTE.
The General now renewed, though unsuccessfully, the attempt he had made before the 18th Fructidor to obtain a dispensation of the age necessary for becoming a Director. Perceiving that the time was not yet favourable for such a purpose, he said to me, on the 29th of January 1798, "Bourrienne, I do not wish to remain here; there is nothing to do. They are unwilling to listen to anything. I see that if I linger here, I shall soon lose myself. Everything wears out here; my glory has already disappeared. This little Europe does not supply enough of it for me. I must seek it in the East, the fountain of glory. However, I wish first to make a tour along the coast, to ascertain by my own observation what may be attempted. I will take you, Lannes, and Sulkowsky, with me. If the success of a descent on England appear doubtful, as I suspect it will, the army of England shall become the army of the East, and I will go to Egypt."
This and other conversations give a correct insight into his character. He always considered war and conquest as the most noble and inexhaustible source of that glory which was the constant object of his desire. He revolted at the idea of languishing in idleness at Paris, while fresh laurels were growing for him in distant climes. His imagination inscribed, in anticipation, his name on those gigantic monuments which alone, perhaps, of all the creations of man, have the character of eternity. Already proclaimed the most illustrious of living generals, he sought to efface the rival names of antiquity by his own. If Caesar fought fifty battles, he longed to fight a hundred—if Alexander left Macedon to penetrate to the Temple of Ammon, he wished to leave Paris to travel to the Cataracts of the Nile. While he was thus to run a race with fame, events would, in his opinion, so proceed in France as to render his return necessary and opportune. His place would be ready for him, and he should not come to claim it a forgotten or unknown man.
Bonaparte's departure from Paris—His return—The Egyptian expedition projected—M. de Talleyrand—General Desaix—Expedition against Malta—Money taken at Berne—Bonaparte's ideas respecting the East—Monge—Non-influence of the Directory—Marriages of Marmont and La Valette—Bonaparte's plan of colonising Egypt—His camp library—Orthographical blunders—Stock of wines—Bonaparte's arrival at Toulon—Madame Bonaparte's fall from a balcony—Execution of an old man—Simon.
Bonaparte left Paris for the north on the 10th of February 1798—but he received no order, though I have seen it everywhere so stated, to go there—"for the purpose of preparing the operations connected with the intended invasion of England." He occupied himself with no such business, for which a few days certainly would not have been sufficient. His journey to the coast was nothing but a rapid excursion, and its sole object was to enable him to form an opinion on the main point of the question. Neither did he remain absent several weeks, for the journey occupied only one. There were four of us in his carriage—himself, Lannes, Sulkowsky, and I. Moustache was our courier. Bonaparte was not a little surprised on reading, in the 'Moniteur' of the 10th February, an article giving greater importance to his little excursion than it deserved.
"General Bonaparte," said the 'Moniteur', "has departed for Dunkirk with some naval and engineer officers. They have gone to visit the coasts and prepare the preliminary operations for the descent [upon England]. It may be stated that he will not return to Rastadt, and that the close of the session of the Congress there is approaching."
Now for the facts. Bonaparte visited Etaples, Ambleteuse, Boulogne, Calais, Dunkirk, Furnes, Niewport, Ostend, and the Isle of Walcheren. He collected at the different ports all the necessary information with that intelligence and tact for which he was so eminently distinguished. He questioned the sailors, smugglers, and fishermen, and listened attentively to the answers he received.
We returned to Paris by Antwerp, Brussels, Lille, and St. Quentin. The object of our journey was accomplished when we reached the first of these towns. "Well, General," said I, "what think you of our journey? Are you satisfied? For my part, I confess I entertain no great hopes from anything I have seen and heard." Bonaparte immediately answered, "It is too great a chance. I will not hazard it. I would not thus sport with the fate of my beloved France." On hearing this I already fancied myself in Cairo!
On his return to Paris Bonaparte lost no time in setting on foot the military and scientific preparations for the projected expedition to the banks of the Nile, respecting which such incorrect statements have appeared. It had long occupied his thoughts, as the following facts will prove.
In the month of August 1797 he wrote "that the time was not far distant when we should see that, to destroy the power of England effectually, it would be necessary to attack Egypt." In the same month he wrote to Talleyrand, who had just succeeded Charles de Lacroix as Minister of Foreign Affairs, "that it would be necessary to attack Egypt, which did not belong to the Grand Signior." Talleyrand replied, "that his ideas respecting Egypt were certainly grand, and that their utility could not fail to be fully appreciated." He concluded by saying he would write to him at length on the subject.
History will speak as favourably of M. de Talleyrand as his contemporaries have spoken ill of him. When a statesman, throughout a great, long, and difficult career, makes and preserves a number of faithful friends, and provokes but few enemies, it must be acknowledged that his character is honourable and his talent profound, and that his political conduct has been wise and moderate. It is impossible to know M. de Talleyrand without admiring him. All who have that advantage, no doubt, judge him as I do.
In the month of November of the same year Bonaparte sent Poussielgue, under the pretence of inspecting the ports of the Levant, to give the finishing stroke to the meditated expedition against Malta.
General Desaix, whom Bonaparte had made the confidant of all his plans at their interview in Italy after the preliminaries of Leoben, wrote to him from Affenbourg, on his return to Germany, that he regarded the fleet of Corfu with great interest. "If ever," said he, "it should be engaged in the grand enterprises of which I have heard you speak, do not, I beseech you, forget me." Bonaparte was far from forgetting him.
The Directory at first disapproved of the expedition against Malta, which Bonaparte had proposed long before the treaty of Campo-Formio was signed. The expedition was decided to be impossible, for Malta had observed strict neutrality, and had on several occasions even assisted our ships and seamen. Thus we had no pretext for going to war with her. It was said, too, that the legislative body would certainly not look with a favourable eye on such a measure. This opinion, which, however, did not last long, vexed Bonaparte. It was one of the disappointments which made him give a rough welcome to Bottot, Barras' agent, at the commencement of October 1797.
In the course of an animated conversation he said to Bottot, shrugging his shoulders, "Mon Dieu! Malta is for sale!" Sometime after he himself was told that "great importance was attached to the acquisition of Malta, and that he must not suffer it to escape." At the latter end of September 1797 Talleyrand, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, wrote to him that the Directory authorized him to give the necessary orders to Admiral Brueys for taking Malta. He sent Bonaparte some letters for the island, because Bonaparte had said it was necessary to prepare the public mind for the event.
Bonaparte exerted himself night and day in the execution of his projects. I never saw him so active. He made himself acquainted with the abilities of the respective generals, and the force of all the army corps. Orders and instructions succeeded each other with extraordinary rapidity. If he wanted an order of the Directory he ran to the Luxembourg to get it signed by one of the Directors. Merlin de Douai was generally the person who did him this service, for he was the most constant at his post. Lagarde, the Secretary-General, did not countersign any document relative to this expedition, Bonaparte not wishing him to be informed of the business. He transmitted to Toulon the money taken at Berne, which the Directory had placed at his disposal. It amounted to something above 3,000,000 francs. In those times of disorder and negligence the finances were very badly managed. The revenues were anticipated and squandered away, so that the treasury never possessed so large a sum as that just mentioned.
It was determined that Bonaparte should undertake an expedition of an unusual character to the East. I must confess that two things cheered me in this very painful interval; my friendship and admiration for the talents of the conqueror of Italy, and the pleasing hope of traversing those ancient regions, the historical and religious accounts of which had engaged the attention of my youth.
It was at Passeriano that, seeing the approaching termination of his labours in Europe, he first began to turn serious attention to the East. During his long strolls in the evening in the magnificent park there he delighted to converse about the celebrated events of that part of the world, and the many famous empires it once possessed. He used to say, "Europe is a mole-hill. There have never been great empires and revolutions except in the East, where there are 600,000,000 men." He considered that part of the world as the cradle of all religious, of all metaphysical extravagances. This subject was no less interesting than inexhaustible, and he daily introduced it when conversing with the generals with whom he was intimate, with Monge, and with me.
Monge entirely concurred in the General-in-Chief's opinions on this point; and his scientific ardour was increased by Bonaparte's enthusiasm. In short, all were unanimously of one opinion. The Directory had no share in renewing the project of this memorable expedition, the result of which did not correspond with the grand views in which it had been conceived. Neither had the Directory any positive control over Bonaparte's departure or return. It was merely the passive instrument of the General's wishes, which it converted into decrees, as the law required. He was no more ordered to undertake the conquest of Egypt than he was instructed as to the plan of its execution. Bonaparte organised the army of the East, raised money, and collected ships; and it was he who conceived the happy idea of joining to the expedition men distinguished in science and art, and whose labours have made known, in its present and past state, a country, the very name of which is never pronounced without exciting grand recollections.
Bonaparte's orders flew like lightning from Toulon to Civita Vecchia.
With admirable precision he appointed some forces to assemble before
Malta, and others before Alexandria. He dictated all these orders to me
in his Cabinet.
In the position in which France stood with respect to Europe, after the treaty of Campo-Formio, the Directory, far from pressing or even facilitating this expedition, ought to have opposed it. A victory on the Adige would have been far better for France than one on the Nile. From all I saw, I am of opinion that the wish to get rid of an ambitious and rising man, whose popularity excited envy, triumphed over the evident danger of removing, for an indefinite period, an excellent army, and the possible loss of the French fleet. As to Bonaparte, he was well assured that nothing remained for him but to choose between that hazardous enterprise and his certain ruin. Egypt was, he thought, the right place to maintain his reputation, and to add fresh glory to his name.
On the 12th of April 1798 he was appointed General-in-Chief of the army of the East.
It was about this time that Marmont was married to Mademoiselle
Perregaux; and Bonaparte's aide de camp, La Vallette, to Mademoiselle
—[Sir Walter Scott informs us that Josephine, when she became
Empress, brought about the marriage between her niece and La
Vallette. This is another fictitious incident of his historical
Shortly before our departure I asked Bonaparte how long he intended to remain in Egypt. He replied, "A few months, or six years: all depends on circumstances. I will colonise the country. I will bring them artists and artisans of every description; women, actors, etc. We are but nine- and-twenty now, and we shall then be five-and-thirty. That is not an old age. Those six years will enable me, if all goes well, to get to India. Give out that you are going to Brest. Say so even to your family." I obeyed, to prove my discretion and real attachment to him.
Bonaparte wished to form a camp library of cabinet editions, and he gave me a list of the books which I was to purchase. This list is in his own writing, and is as follows:
1. ARTS AND SCIENCE.—Fontenelle's Worlds, 1 vol. Letters to a German
Princess, 2 vols. Courses of the Normal School, 6 vols. The Artillery
Assistant, 1 vol. Treatise on Fortifications, 3 vols. Treatise on
Fireworks, 1 vol.
2. GEOGRAPHY AND TRAVELS.—Barclay's Geography, 12 vols. Cook's Voyages, 3 vols. La Harpe's Travels, 24 vols.
3. HISTORY.—Plutarch, 12 vols. Turenne, 2 vols. Conde, 4 vols.
Villars, 4 vols. Luxembourg, 2 vols. Duguesclin, 2 vols.
Saxe, 3 vols. Memoirs of the Marshals of France, 20 vols. President
Hainault, 4 vols. Chronology, 2 vols. Marlborough, 4 vols. Prince
Eugene, 6 vols. Philosophical History of India, 12 vols.
Germany, 2 vols. Charles XII., 1 vol. Essay on the Manners of
Nations, 6 vols. Peter the Great, 1 vol. Polybius, 6 vols.
Justin, 2 vols. Arrian, 3 vols. Tacitus, 2 vols. Titus Livy,
Thucydides, 2 vols. Vertot, 4 vols. Denina, 8 vols.
Frederick II, 8 vols.
4. POETRY.—Ossaian, 1 vol. Tasso, 6 vols. Ariosto, 6 vols.
Homer, 6 vols. Virgil, 4 vols. The Henriade, 1 vol.
Telemachus, 2 vols. Les Jardin, 1 vol. The Chefs-d'Oeuvre of the
French Theatre, 20 vols. Select Light Poetry, 10 vols. La Fontaine.
5. ROMANCE.—Voltaire, 4 vols. Heloise, 4 vols. Werther, 1 vol. Marmontel, 4 vols. English Novels, 40 vols. Le Sage, 10 vols. Prevost, 10 vols.
6. POLITICS AND MORALS.—The Old Testament. The New Testament. The Koran. The Vedan. Mythology. Montesquieu. The Esprit des Lois.
It will be observed that he classed the books of the religious creeds of nations under the head of "politics."
The autograph copy of the above list contains some of those orthographical blunders which Bonaparte so frequently committed. Whether these blunders are attributable to the limited course of instruction he received at Brienne, to his hasty writing, the rapid flow of his ideas, or the little importance he attached to that indispensable condition of polite education, I know not. Knowing so well as he did the authors and generals whose names appear in the above list, it is curious that he should have written Ducecling for Duguesclin, and Ocean for Ossian. The latter mistake would have puzzled me not a little had I not known his predilection for the Caledonian bard.
Before his departure Bonaparte laid in a considerable stock of Burgundy. It was supplied by a man named James, of Dijon. I may observe that on this occasion we had an opportunity of ascertaining that good Burgundy, well racked off, and in casks hermetically sealed, does not lose its quality on a sea voyage. Several cases of this Burgundy twice crossed the desert of the Isthmus of Suez on camels' backs. We brought some of it back with us to Frejus, and it was as good as when we departed. James went with us to Egypt.
During the remainder of our stay in Paris nothing occurred worthy of mention, with the exception of a conversation between Bonaparte and me some days before our departure for Toulon. He went with me to the Luxembourg to get signatures to the official papers connected with his expedition. He was very silent. As we passed through the Rue Sainte Anne I asked him, with no other object than merely to break a long pause, whether he was still determined to quit France. He replied, "Yes: I have tried everything. They do not want me (probably alluding to the office of Director). I ought to overthrow them, and make myself King; but it will not do yet. The nobles will never consent to it. I have tried my ground. The time is not yet come. I should be alone. But I will dazzle them again." I replied, "Well, we will go to Egypt;" and changed the conversation.
—[Lucien and the Bonapartists of course deny that Napoleon wished to become Director, or to seize on power at this time; see Lucien, tome 1. p. 154. Thiers (vol. v. p. 257) takes the same view. Lanfrey (tome i. p. 363) believes Napoleon was at last compelled by the Directory to start and he credits the story told by Desaix to Mathieu Dumas, or rather to the wife of that officer, that there was a plot to upset the Directory, but that when all was ready Napoleon judged that the time was not ripe. Lanfrey, however, rather enlarges what Dumas says; see Dumas, tome iii. p. 167. See also the very remarkable conversation of Napoleon with Miot de Melito just before leaving Italy for Rastadt: "I cannot obey any longer. I have tasted the pleasures of command, and I cannot renounce it. My decision is taken. If I cannot be master, I shall quit France (Miot, tome i. p. 184).]—
The squabble with Bernadotte at Vienna delayed our departure for a fortnight, and might have had the most disastrous influence on the fate of the squadron, as Nelson would most assuredly have waited between Malta and Sicily if he had arrived there before us.'
—[Sir Walter Scott, without any authority, states that, at the moment of his departure, Bonaparte seemed disposed to abandon the command of an expedition so doubtful and hazardous, and that for this purpose he endeavoured to take advantage of what had occurred at Vienna. This must be ranked in the class of inventions, together with Barras' mysterious visit to communicate the change of destination, and also the ostracism and honourable exile which the Directory wished to impose on Bonaparte.—Bourrienne.]—
It is untrue that he ever entertained the idea of abandoning the expedition in consequence of Bernadotte's affair. The following letter to Brueys, dated the 28th of April 1798, proves the contrary:
Some disturbances which have arisen at Vienna render my presence in Paris necessary for a few days. This will not change any of the arrangements for the expedition. I have sent orders by this courier for the troops at Marseilles to embark and proceed to Toulon. On the evening of the 30th I will send you a courier with orders for you to embark and proceed with the squadron and convoy to Genoa, where I will join you.
The delay which this fresh event has occasioned will, I imagine, have enabled you to complete every preparation.
We left Paris on the 3d of May 1798. Ten days before Bonaparte's departure for Egypt a prisoner (Sir Sidney Smith) escaped from the Temple who was destined to contribute materially to his reverses. An escape so unimportant in itself afterwards caused the failure of the most gigantic projects and daring conceptions. This escape was pregnant with future events; a false order of the Minister of Police prevented the revolution of the East!
We were at Toulon on the 8th. Bonaparte knew by the movements of the English that not a moment was to be lost; but adverse winds detained us ten days, which he occupied in attending to the most minute details connected with the fleet.
Bonaparte, whose attention was constantly occupied with his army, made a speech to the soldiers, which I wrote to his dictation, and which appeared in the public papers at the time. This address was followed by cries of "The Immortal Republic for ever!" and the singing of national hymns.
Those who knew Madame Bonaparte are aware that few women were more amiable and fascinating. Bonaparte was passionately fond of her, and to enjoy the pleasure of her society as long as possible he brought her with him to Toulon. Nothing could be more affecting than their parting. On leaving Toulon Josephine went to the waters of Plombieres. I recollect that during her stay at Plombieres she incurred great danger from a serious accident. Whilst she was one day sitting at the balcony of the hotel, with her suite, the balcony suddenly gave way, and all the persons in it fell into the street. Madame Bonaparte was much hurt, but no serious consequences ensued.
Bonaparte had scarcely arrived at Toulon when he heard that the law for the death of emigrants was enforced with frightful rigour; and that but recently an old man, upwards of eighty, had been shot. Indignant at this barbarity, he dictated to me, in a tone of anger, the following letter:
27th Floreal, year VI. (16th May 1798).
I have learned, citizens, with deep regret, that an old man, between seventy and eighty years of age, and some unfortunate women, in a state of pregnancy, or surrounded with children of tender age, have been shot on the charge of emigration.
Have the soldiers of liberty become executioners? Can the mercy which they have exercised even in the fury of battle be extinct in their hearts?
The law of the 19th Fructidor was a measure of public safety. Its object was to reach conspirators, not women and aged men.
I therefore exhort you, citizens, whenever the law brings to your
tribunals women or old men, to declare that in the field of battle
you have respected the women and old men of your enemies.
The officer who signs a sentence against a person incapable of
bearing arms is a coward.
This letter saved the life of an unfortunate man who came under the description of persons to whom Bonaparte referred. The tone of this note shows what an idea he already entertained of his power. He took upon him, doubtless from the noblest motives, to step out of his way to interpret and interdict the execution of a law, atrocious, it is true, but which even in those times of weakness, disorder, and anarchy was still a law. In this instance, at least, the power of his name was nobly employed. The letter gave great satisfaction to the army destined for the expedition.
A man named Simon, who had followed his master in emigration, and dreaded the application of the law, heard that I wanted a servant. He came to me and acknowledged his situation. He suited me, and I hired him. He then told me he feared he should be arrested whilst going to the port to embark. Bonaparte, to whom I mentioned the circumstance, and who had just given a striking proof of his aversion to these acts of barbarity, said to me in a tone of kindness, "Give him my portfolio to carry, and let him remain with you." The words "Bonaparte, General-in-Chief of the Army of the East," were inscribed in large gold letters on the green morocco. Whether it was the portfolio or his connection with us that prevented Simon from being arrested I know not; but he passed on without interruption. I reprimanded him for having smiled derisively at the ill humour of the persons appointed to arrest him. He served me faithfully, and was even sometimes useful to Bonaparte.
Departure of the squadron—Arrival at Malta—Dolomieu—General Barguay d'Hilliers—Attack on the western part of the island— Caffarelli's remark—Deliverance of the Turkish prisoners—Nelson's pursuit of the French fleet—Conversations on board—How Bonaparte passed his time—Questions to the Captains—Propositions discussed —Morning music—Proclamation—Admiral Brueys—The English fleet avoided—Dangerous landing—Bonaparte and his fortune—Alexandria taken—Kleber wounded—Bonaparte's entrance into Alexandria.
The squadron sailed on the 19th of May. The Orient, which, owing to her heavy lading, drew too much water, touched the ground; but she was got off without much difficulty.
We arrived off Malta on the 10th of June. We had lost two days in waiting for some convoys which joined us at Malta.
The intrigues throughout Europe had not succeeded in causing the ports of that island to be opened to us immediately on our arrival. Bonaparte expressed much displeasure against the persons sent from Europe to arrange measures for that purpose. One of them, however, M. Dolomieu, had cause to repent his mission, which occasioned him to be badly treated by the Sicilians. M. Poussielgue had done all he could in the way of seduction, but he had not completely succeeded. There was some misunderstanding, and, in consequence, some shots were interchanged. Bonaparte was very much pleased with General Baraguay d'Hilliers' services in Italy. He could not but praise his military and political conduct at Venice when, scarcely a year before, he had taken possession of that city by his orders. General Baraguay d'Hilliers joined us with his division,—which had embarked in the convoy that sailed from Genoa. The General-in-Chief ordered him to land and attack the western part of the island. He executed this order with equal prudence and ability, and highly to the satisfaction of the General-in-Chief. As every person in the secret knew that all this was a mere form, these hostile demonstrations produced no unpleasant consequences. We wished to save the honour of the knights—that was all; for no one who has seen Malta can imagine that an island surrounded with such formidable and perfect fortifications would have surrendered in two days to a fleet which was pursued by an enemy. The impregnable fortress of Malta is so secure against a 'coup de main' that General Caffarelli, after examining its fortifications, said to the General-in-Chief, in my presence, "Upon my word, General, it is luck: there is some one in the town to open the gates for us."
By comparing the observation of General Caffarelli with what has been
previously stated respecting the project of the expedition to Egypt and
Malta, an idea may be formed of the value of Bonaparte's assertion at St.
"The capture of Malta was not owing to private intrigues, but to the sagacity of the Commander-in-chief. I took Malta when I was in Mantua!"
It is not the less true, however, that I wrote, by his dictation, a mass of instructions for private intrigues. Napoleon also said to another noble companion of his exile at St Helena, "Malta certainly possessed vast physical means of resistance; but no moral means. The knights did nothing dishonourable; nobody is obliged to do impossibilities. No; but they were sold; the capture of Malta was assured before we left Toulon."
The General-in-Chief proceeded to that part of the port where the Turks made prisoners by the knights were kept.
The disgusting galleys were emptied of their occupants. The same principles which, a few days after, formed the basis of Bonaparte's proclamation to the Egyptians, guided him in this act of reason and humanity.
He walked several times in the gardens of the grandmaster. They were in beautiful order, and filled with magnificent orange-trees. We regaled ourselves with their fruit, which the great heat rendered most delicious.
On the 19th of June, after having settled the government and defence of the island, the General left Malta, which he little dreamed he had taken for the English, who have very badly requited the obligation. Many of the knights followed Bonaparte and took civil and military appointments.
During the night of the 22d of June the English squadron was almost close upon us. It passed at about six leagues from the French fleet. Nelson, who learned the capture of Malta at Messina on the day we left the island, sailed direct for Alexandria, without proceeding into the north. He considered that city to be the place of our destination. By taking the shortest course, with every sail set, and unembarrassed by any convoy, he arrived before Alexandria on the 28th of June, three days before the French fleet, which, nevertheless, had sailed before him from the shores of Malta. The French squadron took the direction of Candia, which we perceived on the 25th of June, and afterwards stood to the south, favoured by the Etesian winds, which regularly prevail at that season. The French fleet did not reach Alexandria till the 30th of June.
When on board the 'Orient' he took pleasure in conversing frequently with Monge and Berthollet. The subjects on which they usually talked were chemistry, mathematics, and religion. General Caffarelli, whose conversation, supplied by knowledge, was at once energetic, witty, and lively, was one of those with whom he most willingly discoursed. Whatever friendship he might entertain for Berthollet, it was easy to perceive that he preferred Monge, and that he was led to that preference because Monge, endowed with an ardent imagination, without exactly possessing religious principles, had a kind of predisposition for religious ideas which harmonised with the notions of Bonaparte. On this subject Berthollet sometimes rallied his inseparable friend Monge. Besides, Berthollet was, with his cold imagination, constantly devoted to analysis and abstractions, inclined towards materialism, an opinion with which the General was always much dissatisfied.
Bonaparte sometimes conversed with Admiral Brueys. His object was always to gain information respecting the different manoeuvres, and nothing astonished the Admiral more than the sagacity of his questions. I recollect that one day, Bonaparte having asked Brueys in what manner the hammocks were disposed of when clearing for action, he declared, after he had received an answer, that if the case should occur he would order every one to throw his baggage overboard.
He passed a great part of his time in his cabin, lying on a bed, which, swinging on a kind of castors, alleviated the severity of the sea- sickness from which he frequently suffered much when the ship rolled.
I was almost always with him in his cabin, where I read to him some of the favourite works which he had selected for his camp library. He also frequently conversed, for hours together, with the captains of the vessels which he hailed. He never failed to ask whence they came? what was their destination? what ships they had met? what course they had sailed? His curiosity being thus satisfied, he allowed them to continue their voyage, after making them promise to say nothing of having seen the French squadron.
Whilst we were at sea he seldom rose before ten o'clock in the morning. The 'Orient' had the appearance of a populous town, from which women had been excluded; and this floating city was inhabited by 2000 individuals, amongst whom were a great number of distinguished men. Bonaparte every day invited several persons to dine with him, besides Brueys, Berthier, the colonels, and his ordinary household, who were always present at the table of the General-in-Chief. When the weather was fine he went up to the quarter-deck, which, from its extent, formed a grand promenade.
I recollect once that when walking the quarter-deck with him whilst we were in Sicilian waters I thought I could see the summits of the Alps beautifully lighted by the rays of the setting sun. Bonaparte laughed much, and joked me about it. He called Admiral Brueys, who took his telescope and soon confirmed my conjecture. The Alps!
At the mention of that word by the Admiral I think I can see Bonaparte still. He stood for a long time motionless; then, suddenly bursting from his trance, exclaimed, "No! I cannot behold the land of Italy without emotion! There is the East: and there I go; a perilous enterprise invites me. Those mountains command the plains where I so often had the good fortune to lead the French to victory. With them we will conquer again."
One of Bonaparte's greatest pleasures during the voyage was, after dinner, to fix upon three or four persons to support a proposition and as many to oppose it. He had an object in view by this. These discussions afforded him an opportunity of studying the minds of those whom he had an interest in knowing well, in order that he might afterwards confide to each the functions for which he possessed the greatest aptitude. It will not appear singular to those who have been intimate with Bonaparte, that in these intellectual contests he gave the preference to those who had supported an absurd proposition with ability over those who had maintained the cause of reason; and it was not superiority of mind which determined his judgment, for he really preferred the man who argued well in favour of an absurdity to the man who argued equally well in support of a reasonable proposition. He always gave out the subjects which were to be discussed; and they most frequently turned upon questions of religion, the different kinds of government, and the art of war. One day he asked whether the planets were inhabited; on another, what was the age of the world; then he proposed to consider the probability of the destruction of our globe, either by water or fire; at another time, the truth or fallacy of presentiments, and the interpretation of dreams. I remember the circumstance which gave rise to the last proposition was an allusion to Joseph, of whom he happened to speak, as he did of almost everything connected with the country to which we were bound, and which that able administrator had governed. No country came under Bonaparte's observation without recalling historical recollections to his mind. On passing the island of Candia his imagination was excited, and he spoke with enthusiasm of ancient Crete and the Colossus, whose fabulous renown has surpassed all human glories. He spoke much of the fall of the empire of the East, which bore so little resemblance to what history has preserved of those fine countries, so often moistened with the blood of man. The ingenious fables of mythology likewise occurred to his mind, and imparted to his language something of a poetical, and, I may say, of an inspired character. The sight of the kingdom of Minos led him to reason on the laws best calculated for the government of nations; and the birthplace of Jupiter suggested to him the necessity of a religion for the mass of mankind. This animated conversation lasted until the favourable north winds, which drove the clouds into the valley of the Nile, caused us to lose sight of the island of Candia.
The musicians on board the Orient sometimes played serenades; but only between decks, for Bonaparte was not yet sufficiently fond of music to wish to hear it in his cabin. It may be said that his taste for this art increased in the direct ratio of his power; and so it was with his taste for hunting, of which he gave no indication until after his elevation to the empire; as though he had wished to prove that he possessed within himself not only the genius of sovereignty for commanding men, but also the instinct for those aristocratical pleasures, the enjoyment of which is considered by mankind to be amongst the attributes of kings.
It is scarcely possible that some accidents should not occur during a long voyage in a crowded vessel—that some persons should not fall overboard. Accidents of this kind frequently happened on board the 'Orient'. On those occasions nothing was more remarkable than the great humanity of the man who has since been so prodigal of the blood of his fellow-creatures on the field of battle, and who was about to shed rivers of it even in Egypt, whither we were bound. When a man fell into the sea the General-in-Chief was in a state of agitation till he was saved. He instantly had the ship hove-to, and exhibited the greatest uneasiness until the unfortunate individual was recovered. He ordered me to reward those who ventured their lives in this service. Amongst these was a sailor who had incurred punishment for some fault. He not only exempted him from the punishment, but also gave him some money. I recollect that one dark night we heard a noise like that occasioned by a man falling into the sea. Bonaparte instantly caused the ship to be hove-to until the supposed victim was rescued from certain death. The men hastened from all sides, and at length they picked up-what?—the quarter of a bullock, which had fallen from the hook to which it was hung. What was Bonaparte's conduct? He ordered me to reward the sailors who had exerted themselves in this occasion even more generously than usual, saying, "It might have been a sailor, and these brave fellows have shown as much activity and courage as if it had."
After the lapse of thirty years all these things are as fresh in my recollection as if they were passing at the present moment. In this manner Bonaparte employed his time on board the Orient during the voyage, and it was also at this time that he dictated to me the following proclamation:
HEADQUARTERS ON BOARD THE "ORIENT,"
The 4th Messidor, Year VI.
SOLDIERS—You are about to undertake a conquest the effects of which on civilisation and commerce are incalculable. The blow you are about to give to England will be the best aimed, and the most sensibly felt, she can receive until the time arrive when you can give her her death-blow.
We must make some fatiguing marches; we must fight several battles; we shall succeed in all we undertake. The destinies are with us. The Mameluke Beys who favour exclusively English commerce, whose extortions oppress our merchants, and who tyrannise over the unfortunate inhabitants of the Nile, a few days after our arrival will no longer exist.
The people amongst whom we are going to live are Mahometans. The first article of their faith is this: "There is no God but God, and Mahomet is his prophet." Do not contradict them. Behave to them as you have behaved to the Jews—to the Italians. Pay respect to their muftis, and their Imaums, as you did to the rabbis and the bishops. Extend to the ceremonies prescribed by the Koran and to the mosques the same toleration which you showed to the synagogues, to the religion of Moses and of Jesus Christ.
The Roman legions protected all religions. You will find here customs different from those of Europe. You must accommodate yourselves to them. The people amongst whom we are to mix differ from us in the treatment of women; but in all countries he who violates is a monster. Pillage enriches only a small number of men; it dishonours us; it destroys our resources; it converts into enemies the people whom it is our interest to have for friends.
The first town we shall come to was built by Alexander. At every
step we shall meet with grand recollections, worthy of exciting the
emulation of Frenchmen.
During the voyage, and particularly between Malta and Alexandria, I often conversed with the brave and unfortunate Admiral Brueys. The intelligence we heard from time to time augmented his uneasiness. I had the good fortune to obtain the confidence of this worthy man. He complained bitterly of the imperfect manner in which the fleet had been prepared for sea; of the encumbered state of the ships of the line and frigates, and especially of the 'Orient'; of the great number of transports; of the bad Outfit of all the ships and the weakness of their crews. He assured me that it required no little courage to undertake the command of a fleet so badly equipped; and he often declared, that in the event of our falling in with the enemy, he could not answer for the consequences. The encumbered state of the vessels, the immense quantity of civic and military baggage which each person had brought, and would wish to save, would render proper manoeuvres impracticable. In case of an attack, added Brueys, even by an inferior squadron, the confusion and disorder amongst so great a number of persons would produce an inevitable catastrophe. Finally, if the English had appeared with ten vessels only, the Admiral could not have guaranteed a fortunate result. He considered victory to be a thing that was impossible, and even with a victory, what would have become of the expedition? "God send," he said, with a sigh, "that we may pass the English without meeting them!" He appeared to foresee what did afterwards happen to him, not in the open sea, but in a situation which he considered much more favourable to his defence.
On the morning of the 1st of July the expedition arrived off the coast of Africa, and the column of Septimus-Severus pointed out to us the city of Alexandria. Our situation and frame of mind hardly permitted us to reflect that in the distant point we beheld the city of the Ptolemies and Caesars, with its double port, its pharos, and the gigantic monuments of its ancient grandeur. Our imaginations did not rise to this pitch.
Admiral Brueys had sent on before the frigate Juno to fetch M. Magallon, the French Consul. It was near four o'clock when he arrived, and the sea was very rough. He informed the General-in-Chief that Nelson had been off Alexandria on the 28th—that he immediately dispatched a brig to obtain intelligence from the English agent. On the return of the brig Nelson instantly stood away with his squadron towards the north-east. But for a delay which our convoy from Civita Vecchia occasioned, we should have been on this coast at the same time as Nelson.
It appeared that Nelson supposed us to be already at Alexandria when he arrived there. He had reason to suppose so, seeing that we left Malta on the 19th of June, whilst he did not sail from Messina till the 21st. Not finding us where he expected, and being persuaded we ought to have arrived there had Alexandria been the place of our destination; he sailed for Alexandretta in Syria, whither he imagined we had gone to effect a landing. This error saved the expedition a second time.
Bonaparte, on hearing the details which the French Consul communicated, resolved to disembark immediately. Admiral Brueys represented the difficulties and dangers of a disembarkation—the violence of the surge, the distance from the coast,—a coast, too, lined with reefs of rocks, the approaching night, and our perfect ignorance of the points suitable for landing. The Admiral, therefore, urged the necessity of waiting till next morning; that is to say, to delay the landing twelve hours. He observed that Nelson could not return from Syria for several days. Bonaparte listened to these representations with impatience and ill- humour. He replied peremptorily, "Admiral, we have no time to lose. Fortune gives me but three days; if I do not profit by them we are lost." He relied much on fortune; this chimerical idea constantly influenced his resolutions.
Bonaparte having the command of the naval as well as the military force, the Admiral was obliged to yield to his wishes.
I attest these facts, which passed in my presence, and no part of which could escape my observation. It is quite false that it was owing to the appearance of a sail which, it is pretended, was descried, but of which, for my part, I saw nothing, that Bonaparte exclaimed, "Fortune, have you abandoned me? I ask only five days!" No such thing occurred.
It was one o'clock in the morning of the 2d of July when we landed on the soil of Egypt, at Marabou, three leagues to the west of Alexandria. We had to regret the loss of some lives; but we had every reason to expect that our losses would have been greater.
At three o'clock the same morning the General-in-Chief marched on
Alexandria with the divisions of Kleber, Bon, and Menou. The Bedouin
Arabs, who kept hovering about our right flank and our rear, picked up
Having arrived within gunshot of Alexandria, we scaled the ramparts, and
French valour soon triumphed over all obstacles.
The first blood I saw shed in war was General Kleber's. He was struck in the head by a ball, not in storming the walls, but whilst heading the attack. He came to Pompey's Pillar, where many members of the staff were assembled, and where the General-in-Chief was watching the attack. I then spoke to Kleber for the first time, and from that day our friendship commenced. I had the good fortune to contribute somewhat towards the assistance of which he stood in need, and which, as we were situated, could not be procured very easily.
It has been endeavoured to represent the capture of Alexandria, which surrendered after a few hours, as a brilliant exploit. The General-in- Chief himself wrote that the city had been taken after a few discharges of cannon; the walls, badly fortified, were soon scaled. Alexandria was not delivered up to pillage, as has been asserted, and often repeated. This would have been a most impolitic mode of commencing the conquest of Egypt, which had no strong places requiring to be intimidated by a great example.
Bonaparte, with some others, entered the city by a narrow street which scarcely allowed two persons to walk abreast; I was with him. We were stopped by some musket-shots fired from a low window by a man and a woman. They repeated their fire several times. The guides who preceded their General kept up a heavy fire on the window. The man and woman fell dead, and we passed on in safety, for the place had surrendered.
Bonaparte employed the six days during which he remained in Alexandria in establishing order in the city and province, with that activity and superior talent which I could never sufficiently admire, and in directing the march of the army across the province of Bohahire'h. He sent Desaix with 4500 infantry and 60 cavalry to Beda, on the road to Damanhour. This general was the first to experience the privations and sufferings which the whole army had soon to endure. His great mind, his attachment to Bonaparte, seemed for a moment about to yield to the obstacles which presented themselves. On the 15th of July he wrote from Bohahire'h as follows: "I beseech you do not let us stop longer in this position. My men are discouraged and murmur. Make us advance or fall back without delay. The villages consist merely of huts, absolutely without resources."
In these immense plains, scorched by the vertical rays of a burning sun, water, everywhere else so common, becomes an object of contest. The wells and springs, those secret treasures of the desert, are carefully concealed from the travellers; and frequently, after our most oppressive marches, nothing could be found to allay the urgent cravings of thirst but a little brackish water of the most disgusting description.
—[Some idea of the misery endured by the French troops on this occasion may be gathered from the following description is Napoleon's Memoirs, dictated at St. Helena:
"As the Hebrews wandering in the wilderness complained, and angrily asked Moses for the onions and flesh-pots of Egypt, the French soldiers constantly regretted the luxuries of Italy. In vain were they assured that the country was the most fertile in the world, that it was even superior to Lombard; how were they to be persuaded of this when they could get neither bread nor wine? We encamped on immense quantities of wheat, but there was neither mill nor oven in the country. The biscuit brought from Alexandria had long been exhausted; the soldiers were even reduced to bruise the wheat between two stones and to make cake which they baked under the ashes. Many parched the wheat in a pan, after which they boiled it. This was the best way to use the grain; but, after all, it was not bread. The apprehensions of the soldiers increased daily, and rose to such a pitch that a great number of them said there was no great city of Cairo; and that the place bearing that name was, like Damanhour, a vast assemblage of mere huts, destitute of everything that could render life comfortable or agreeable. To such a melancholy state of mind had they brought themselves that two dragoons threw themselves, completely clothed, into the Nile, where they were drowned. It is nevertheless true that, though there was neither bread nor wine, the resources which were procured with wheat, lentils, meat, and sometimes pigeons, furnished the army with food of some kind. But the evil was, in the ferment of the mind. The officers complained more loudly than the soldiers, because the comparison was proportionately more disadvantageous to them. In Egypt they found neither the quarters, the good table, nor the luxury of Italy. The General-in-Chief, wishing to set an example, tried to bivouac in the midst of the army, and in the least commodious spots. No one had either tent or provisions; the dinner of Napoleon and his staff consisted of a dish of lentils. The soldiers passed the evenings in political conversations, arguments, and complaints. 'For what purpose are we come here?' said some of them, 'the Directory has transported us.' 'Caffarelli,' said others, 'is the agent that has been made use of to deceive the General-in- Chief.' Many of them, having observed that wherever there were vestiges of antiquity they were carefully searched, vented their spite in invective against the savants, or scientific men, who, they said, had started the idea of the expedition to order to make these searches. Jests were showered upon them, even in their presence. The men called an ass a savant; and said of Caffarelli Dufalga, alluding to his wooden leg, 'He laughs at all these troubles; he has one foot to France.'"
The mirage—Skirmishes with the Arabs—Mistake of General Desaix's division—Wretchedness of a rich sheik—Combat beneath the General's window—The flotilla on the Nile—Its distress and danger—The battle of Chebreisse—Defeat of the Mamelukes—Bonaparte's reception of me—Letter to Louis Bonaparte—Success of the French army— Triumphal entrance into Cairo—Civil and military organisation of Cairo—Bonaparte's letter to his brother Joseph—Plan of colonisation.
On the 7th of July General Bonaparte left Alexandria for Damanhour. In the vast plains of Bohahire'h the mirage every moment presented to the eye wide sheets of water, while, as we advanced, we found nothing but barren ground full of deep cracks. Villages, which at a distance appear to be surrounded with water, are, on a nearer approach, discovered to be situated on heights, mostly artificial, by which they are raised above the inundations of the Nile. This illusion continually recurs; and it is the more treacherous, inasmuch as it presents to the eye the perfect representation of water, at the time when the want of that article is most felt. This mirage is so considerable in the plain of Pelusium that shortly after sunrise no object is recognisable. The same phenomenon has been observed in other countries. Quintus Curtius says that in the deserts of Sogdiana, a fog rising from the earth obscures the light, and the surrounding country seems like a vast sea. The cause of this singular illusion is now fully explained; and, from the observations of the learned Monge, it appears that the mirage will be found in almost every country situated between the tropics where the local circumstances are similar.
The Arabs harassed the army without intermission. The few wells met with in the desert were either filled up or the water was rendered unfit for use. The intolerable thirst with which the troops were tormented, even on this first march, was but ill allayed by brackish and unwholesome water. The army crossed the desert with the rapidity of lightning, scarcely tasting a drop of water. The sufferings of the troops were frequently expressed by discouraging murmurs.
On the first night a mistake occurred which might have proved fatal. We were advancing in the dark, under feeble escort, almost sleeping on our horses, when suddenly we were assailed by two successive discharges of musketry. We aroused ourselves and reconnoitred, and to our great satisfaction discovered that the only mischief was a slight wound received by one of our guides. Our assailants were the division of General Desaix, who, forming the advanced guard of the army, mistook us for a party of the enemy, and fired upon us. It was speedily ascertained that the little advanced guard of the headquarters had not heard the "Qui vive?" of Desaix's advanced posts.
On reaching Damanhour our headquarters were established at the residence of a sheik. The house had been new whitened, and looked well enough outside, but the interior was inconceivably wretched. Every domestic utensil was broken, and the only seats were a few dirty tattered mats. Bonaparte knew that the sheik was rich, and having somewhat won his confidence, he asked him, through the medium of the interpreter, why, being in easy circumstances, he thus deprived himself of all comfort. "Some years ago," replied the sheik, "I repaired and furnished my house. When this became known at Cairo a demand was made upon me for money, because it was said my expenses proved me to be rich. I refused to pay the money, and in consequence I was ill-treated, and at length forced to pay it. From that time I have allowed myself only the bare necessaries of life, and I shall buy no furniture for my house." The old man was lame in consequence of the treatment he had suffered. Woe to him who in this country is suspected of having a competency—a hundred spies are always ready to denounce him. The appearance of poverty is the only security against the rapine of power and the cupidity of barbarism.
A little troop of Arabs on horseback assailed our headquarters. Bonaparte, who was at the window of the sheik's house, indignant at this insolence, turned to one of his aides de camp, who happened to be on duty, and said, "Croisier, take a few guides and drive those fellows away!" In an instant Croisier was in the plain with fifteen guides. A little skirmish ensued, and we looked on from the window. In the movement and in the attack of Croisier and his party there was a sort of hesitation which the General-in-Chief could not comprehend. "Forward, I say! Charge!" he exclaimed from the window, as if he could have been heard. Our horsemen seemed to fall back as the Arabs returned to the attack; and after a little contest, maintained with tolerable spirit, the Arabs retired without loss, and without being molested in their retreat. Bonaparte could no longer repress his rage; and when Croisier returned he experienced such a harsh reception that the poor fellow withdrew deeply mortified and distressed. Bonaparte desired me to follow him and say something to console him: but all was in vain. "I cannot survive this," he said. "I will sacrifice my life on the first occasion that offers itself. I will not live dishonoured." The word coward had escaped the General's lips. Poor Croisier died at Saint Jean d'Acre.
On the 10th of July our headquarters were established at Rahmahanie'h, where they remained during the 11th and 12th. At this place commences the canal which was cut by Alexander to convey water to his new city; and to facilitate commercial intercourse between Europe and the East.
The flotilla, commanded by the brave chief of division Perree, had just arrived from Rosette. Perree was on board the xebec 'Cerf'.
—[Bonaparte had great confidence in him. He had commanded, under
the General's orders, the naval forces in the Adriatic in 1797.—
Bonaparte placed on board the Cerf and the other vessels of the flotilla those individuals who, not being military, could not be serviceable in engagements, and whose horses served to mount a few of the troops.
On the night of the 14th of July the General-in-Chief directed his march towards the south, along the left bank of the Nile. The flotilla sailed up the river parallel with the left wing of the army. But the force of the wind, which at this season blows regularly from the Mediterranean into the valley of the Nile, carried the flotilla far in advance of the army, and frustrated the plan of their mutually defending and supporting each other. The flotilla thus unprotected fell in with seven Turkish gunboats coming from Cairo, and was exposed simultaneously to their fire and to that of the Mamelukes, fellahs, and Arabs who lined both banks of the river. They had small guns mounted on camels.
Perree cast anchor, and an engagement commenced at nine o'clock on the 14th of July, and continued till half past twelve.
At the same time the General-in-Chief met and attacked a corps of about 4000 Mamelukes. His object, as he afterwards said, was to turn the corps by the left of the village of Chebreisse, and to drive it upon the Nile.
About eleven in the morning Perree told me that the Turks were doing us more harm than we were doing them; that our ammunition would soon be exhausted; that the army was far inland, and that if it did not make a move to the left there would be no hope for us. Several vessels had already been boarded and taken by the Turks, who massacred the crews before our eyes, and with barbarous ferocity showed us the heads of the slaughtered men.
Perree, at considerable risk, despatched several persons to inform the General-in-Chief of the desperate situation of the flotilla. The cannonade which Bonaparte had heard since the morning, and the explosion of a Turkish gunboat, which was blown up by the artillery of the xebec, led him to fear that our situation was really perilous. He therefore made a movement to the left, in the direction of the Nile and Chebreisse, beat the Mamelukes, and forced them to retire on Cairo. At sight of the French troops the commander of the Turkish flotilla weighed anchor and sailed up the Nile. The two banks of the river were evacuated, and the flotilla escaped the destruction which a short time before had appeared inevitable. Some writers have alleged that the Turkish flotilla was destroyed in this engagement. The truth is, the Turks did us considerable injury, while on their part they suffered but little. We had twenty men killed and several wounded. Upwards of 1500 cannon-shots were fired during the action.
General Berthier, in his narrative of the Egyptian expedition, enumerates the individuals who, though not in the military service, assisted Perree in this unequal and dangerous engagement. He mentions Monge, Berthollet, Andreossy, the paymaster, Junot, and Bourrienne, secretary to the General-in-Chief. It has also been stated that Sucy, the commissary- general, was seriously wounded while bravely defending a gunboat laden with provisions; but this is incorrect.
We had no communication with the army until the 23d of July. On the 22d we came in sight of the Pyramids, and were informed that we were only about ten leagues from Gizeh, where they are situated. The cannonade which we heard, and which augmented in proportion as the north wind diminished, announced a serious engagement; and that same day we saw the banks of the Nile strewed with heaps of bodies, which the waves were every moment washing into the sea. This horrible spectacle, the silence of the surrounding villages, which had hitherto been armed against us, and the cessation of the firing from the banks of the river, led us to infer, with tolerable certainty, that a battle fatal to the Mamelukes had been fought. The misery we suffered on our passage from Rahmahanie'h to Gizeh is indescribable. We lived for eleven days on melons and water, besides being momentarily exposed to the musketry of the Arabs and the fellahs. We luckily escaped with but a few killed and wounded. The rising of the Nile was only beginning. The shallowness of the river near Cairo obliged us to leave the xebec and get on board a djerm. We reached Gizeh at three in the afternoon of the 23d of July.
When I saluted the General, whom I had not seen for twelve days, he thus addressed me: "So you are here, are you? Do you know that you have all of you been the cause of my not following up the battle of Chebreisse? It was to save you, Monge, Berthollet, and the others on board the flotilla that I hurried the movement of my left upon the Nile before my right had turned Chebreisse. But for that, not a single Mameluke would have escaped."
"I thank you for my own part," replied I; "but in conscience could you have abandoned us, after taking away our horses, and making us go on board the xebec, whether we would or not?" He laughed, and then told me how sorry he was for the wound of Sucy, and the death of many useful men, whose places could not possibly be filled up.
He made me write a letter to his brother Louis, informing him that he had gained a complete victory over the Mamelukes at Embabeh, opposite Boulac, and that the enemy's loss was 2000 men killed and wounded, 40 guns, and a great number of horses.
The occupation of Cairo was the immediate consequence of the victory of
Embabeh. Bonaparte established his headquarters in the home of Elfy
Bey, in the great square of Ezbekye'h.
The march of the French army to Cairo was attended by an uninterrupted succession of combats and victories. We had won the battles of Rahmahanie'h, Chebreisse, and the Pyramids. The Mamelukes were defeated, and their chief, Mourad Bey, was obliged to fly into Upper Egypt. Bonaparte found no obstacle to oppose his entrance into the capital of Egypt, after a campaign of only twenty days.
No conqueror, perhaps, ever enjoyed a victory so much as Bonaparte, and yet no one was ever less inclined to abuse his triumphs.
We entered Cairo on the 24th of July, and the General-in-Chief immediately directed his attention to the civil and military organization of the country. Only those who saw him in the vigour of his youth can form an idea of his extraordinary intelligence and activity. Nothing escaped his observation. Egypt had long been the object of his study; and in a few weeks he was as well acquainted with the country as if he had lived in it ten years. He issued orders for observing the strictest discipline, and these orders were punctually obeyed.
The mosques, the civil and religious institutions, the harems, the women, the customs of the country-all were scrupulously respected. A few days after they entered Cairo the French were freely admitted into the shops, and were seen sociably smoking their pipes with the inhabitants, assisting them in their occupations, and playing with their children.
The day after his arrival in Cairo Bonaparte addressed to his brother Joseph the following letter, which was intercepted and printed. Its authenticity has been doubted, but I saw Napoleon write it, and he read it to me before he sent it off.
CAIRO, 7th. Thermidor (25th July 1798)
You will see in the public papers the bulletins of the battles and conquest of Egypt, which were sufficiently contested to add another wreath to the laurels of this army. Egypt is richer than any country in the world in coin, rice, vegetables, and cattle. But the people are in a state of utter barbarism. We cannot procure money, even to pay the troops. I maybe in France in two months.
Engage a country-house, to be ready for me on my arrival, either near Paris or in Burgundy, where I mean to pass the winter.
—[Bonaparte's autograph note, after enumerating the troops and warlike stores he wished to be sent, concluded with the following list:
1st, a company of actors; 2d, a company of dancers; 3d, some dealers in marionettes, at least three or four; 4th, a hundred French women; 5th, the wives of all the men employed in the corps; 6th, twenty surgeons, thirty apothecaries, and ten Physicians; 7th, some founders; 8th, some distillers and dealers in liquor; 9th fifty gardeners with their families, and the seeds of every kind of vegetable; 10th, each party to bring with them: 200,000 pints of brandy; 11th, 30,000 ells of blue and scarlet cloth; 12th, a supply of soap and oil.—Bourrienne.]—
This announcement of his departure to his brother is corroborated by a note which he despatched some days after, enumerating the supplies and individuals which he wished to have sent to Egypt. His note proves, more convincingly than any arguments, that Bonaparte earnestly wished to preserve his conquest, and to make it a French colony. It must be borne in mind that the note here alluded to, as well as the letter above quoted, was written long before the destruction of the fleet.