Marie-Anne Adélaïde Lenormand.

The historical and secret memoirs of the Empress Josephine (Marie Rose Tascher de La Pagerie) (Volume 2) online

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Online LibraryMarie-Anne Adélaïde LenormandThe historical and secret memoirs of the Empress Josephine (Marie Rose Tascher de La Pagerie) (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 33)
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" Of that time do I now behold the half-dubious path of events
marked out by the Fates ; for when thy years shall have accomplished
eight times seven departures and returns of the sun, and those two
numbers, each whereof, but for a different reason, is held to be a full
number, shall, by a natural concurrence, fulfil the great destinies re-
served to thee by the Fates — then shall the state cast its fortunes
wholly upon thee and thy name ; then shall the senate, then shall all
good citizens, then shall our allies, and all the people of Latium, turn
their eyes to thee. Upon thee alone shall then depend the safety of
the state. In short, thou alone, clothed with the power of dictator,
shall be the support of the republic, if thou shalt but escape the im-
pious hands of thy relations." — Scipio's Dream.'

A SINGULAR succession of events was now preparing
the way for Bonaparte to seize the crown of his exiled
masters. Like Archimedes, he only wanted a fulcrum and
a powerful lever to raise the globe. He found both, the
one in the adulation of the tribunate, the other in the
enthusiastic devotion of the army. With such supports

I The following is the original passage : — " Sed ejus temporis anci-
pitem video quasi fatorum viam ; nam cum aetas tua septenos octies
solis anfractus reditusque converterit, duoque hi numeri, quorum uter-
que plenus, alter altera de causa, habetur, circuitu naturali, summam



he had it in his power to shake all the monarchies of
Europe, as a skilful mechanic, by means of his ropes and
pulleys, raises and lets down the greatest weights. It
was easy to see that the docility of the one and the love
of glory of the other would enable him to do whatever
he pleased. They were, indeed, useful instruments in his
hands. They were ready to be put in play whenever he
should loosen the springs which moved them. In vain
would they have attempted to resist the motion commu-
nicated to them ; they had to obey it, and it was useless
for them to think of avoiding the onward movement.

That Vv'hich consolidates a military state is obedience.
'Tis that which makes all the members of the body politic
co-operate to preserve a single head ; 'tis that which anni-
hilates individual interests and establishes on their ruins
one common cause. It closes every eye while it puts every
arm in motion. It serves the twofold purpose of a bandage
to hide the precipice, and a curb to restrain Reason when
she would talk of self-preservation.

Probably Bonaparte did not foresee the enormous power

tibi fatalem confecerint, in te unum, atque in tuum nomen, se tota
converterit civitas ; te senatus, te omnes boni, te socii, te Latini in-
tuebuntur : tu eris unus in quo nitatur civitatis salus ; ac ne multa,
dictator rempublicam constituas oportet, si impias propinquorum manus
effugies." — Opera Omnia Cic, Vol. XII., p. 199.

This curious passage must not, however, be regarded as a prophecy.
The Roman orator merely puts it into the mouth of Scipio Africanus,
whom he introduces in a dream to Publius Cornelius Scipio, just before
the latter destroyed Carthage, and while he was heading the expedition
against that injured and ill-fated country. The old Africanus, in the
same interview, gives utterance to a sentiment which, though, perhaps,
less orthodox than patriotic, seems worthy of being quoted as appli-
cable both to Napoleon and the false friends who deserted him in his
hour of need : — " Omnibus, qui patriam conservarint, adjuverint, aux-
erint, certum esse in ccelo ac definitum locum, ubi beati aevo sempiterno
fruantur," &c. — Translator,


which the title of Emperor would give him. Everything
leads me to believe that he was made giddy by the im-
mensity of that power. He was about to found an empire,
and to give to it his laws. It was not enough, however,
for him to be both prince and legislator ; his subjects must
be accustomed to submission. Those who had nothing to
expect from Court favours soon learned to mourn over that
shadow of liberty which they had enjoyed since 1789.
They secretly leaned in favour of every attempt to restore
that liberty, and the republican spirit of many among them
kept alive the hope of one day reconquering it. Still, the
interior of France was shielded from the scenes of blood
which might have been provoked by the audacity of some
and the weakness of others, had the reins of government
been in different hands. Bonaparte contented himself with
sending a few intriguers into exile — a punishment to which
even the cabals they belonged to could not reasonably
object. He was not actuated by the wanton and cruel
motive of fighting battles merely to try the strength of his
throne. He could at any moment send his orders through
Europe, and cause them to be repeated by millions of
mouths, and defended by millions of arms ; and it was not
necessary for him to prove to the world his perfect ability
to maintain his domination over the ruins of a republic
whose conflagration began at the first moment of its exist-
ence, which was the murder of the King, and whose
ruinous walls, still smoking with the blood of the august
victim, were ever ready to tumble down and crush their
founders ; a just though tardy chastisement from a pro-
tecting Providence, who opened men's eyes to make them
the witnesses of their own punishment.

Bonaparte received continually the highest marks of
confidence and goodwill from the two councils. For the

I — 2


rest, he remembered that, although he had not been pro-
claimed First Consul by their unanimous vote (a fact that
gave him little concern), he had received that honour from
the people, a circumstance that flattered him greatly. He
said, correctly, that men of true courage seek for no other
recompense than the glory of serving their country, " Men
will for ever talk of me," said he; " posterity will remem-
ber me."—" Yes," said I, " you would be immortal if you
had less ambition." — " Hear me, Josephine," he replied. " I
would willingly place the brother of Louis XVI. on the
throne, because that is just, and ought to be ; yet I should
always tremble before him, for, whenever he saw me, he
would be forced to say to himself, ' He who had it in his
power to place the crown upon my brow is also able to
remove it.' Do you think a sovereign could be very fond
of so dangerous a man ? In me the people hate what they
would not hate in a legitimate monarch ; in their eyes I am
nothing but a soldier. Do you think I could always stem
this torrent of hatred, and, from the height of honours,
descend into obscurity — be nothing, less than nothing, after
having been everything — languish on in the repose of a
quiet but unknown existence ? However delightful such a
life may be, it could never blot from my memory the bril-
liant scenes I have enacted — scenes which would be for
ever recurring to my imagination. No, such a life would
make me miserable. I have been long reconciled with the
republicans, and your husband, madam, will soon be seated
upon the most splendid throne in the world."

Carnot was one of those men whose opinions do not
change with circumstances. An enthusiastic supporter of
the new republic, he used all his efforts in opposition to
the Imperial Government. But, like so many others, he
was constrained to bow down before the idol he had sought


to overthrow. My husband never pardoned him for giving
utterance to sentiments so contrary to his interests.'

Meanwhile the Criminal Court was proceeding with
the trial of the conspirators against the life of the First
Consul. General Moreau, having been committed to
prison in the Conciergerie, and hoping for no favour after
so bold a step had been taken against him, now busied
himself in preparing his defence. His confinement was
not so strict but that he was permitted to see his wife,
and to communicate freely with his counsel. Yet, too
proud, as he himself said, of the testimony of his own
conscience, he walked with head erect, and more resembled
a general enjoying a triumph than a prisoner accused of
high treason.'-^

1 While I would render the fullest justice to the profound know-
ledge and acquirements of Carnot, I am constrained to say that I never
heard his name announced without a shudder. I had not forgotten
the part he acted in the death of my first husband. His memory
was ever dear to me, and when I saw one of the men approach me
who had confirmed the order for his arrest, my heart felt wounded,
my eyes were bathed in tears ; it recalled the memory of those mourn-
ful times. And yet, in his presence, I affected a sort of serenity, though
I found it impossible to feign goodwill towards him. The terrible
words, "Committee of Public Safety," still ring in my ears; and I
used to feel really fatigued at the close of those interviews which
were so painful to all who wished to forget that dreary and melan-
choly portion of the past — a period painful indeed to a majority of
the French people, who had been forced to endure the horrors of
the Revolution. — Note by Josephine.

2 Moreau had certainly performed distinguished military services
for the republic. The following battles attested his bravery : —

Battle of Rastadt, July 5th, 1796, against Latour.

Battle of Ettingen, July gth. 1796, against the Archduke Charles.

Battle of Biberach, Oct. 2nd, 1796, against the Archduke Charles.

Battle of Hohenlinden, Dec. 3rd, 1800, against the Archduke John,
in which General Richepanse was slain.

But all his military services for France were, surely, no excuse
for his counselling with the known royalists and traitors, Pichegru


Pichegru had also been arrested. It was known that,
for some time, this general had been living in Paris, and
the hatred of his enemies was not slow in taking satis-
faction upon him. The unfortunate man was committed
to the Temple. Sustained by a sense of his innocence,
he supported this calamity with courage, less afifected by
his own humiliation than by the danger which menaced
his country. He sent me a letter, confidentially, and I
took good care not to let Bonaparte see it. I saw no
means of saving him, and was afraid lest my own zeal
in his behalf might prove fatal to him, in which case I
should have had to reproach myself with accelerating
his ruin. I thought it my duty to advise him to address
himself directly to Fouche, promising to unite my influence
with that of the minister, to obtain leave for him to
reside in America. But his evil star, that had led him
to bestow his confidence on a man whom he had the
misfortune to regard as his friend, induced him to neglect
the salutary hints which were conveyed to him by my
orders ; and I soon saw that the illustrious Pichegru had
but a short time to live (i).

While cowardly courtiers were employing all their
arts to effect their criminal objects, Bonaparte, influenced
by their advice, urged on with more earnestness than
ever the trial which was to destroy the most faithful of
Frenchmen. The consul could not pardon Moreau's
apparent modesty. " He is," said he, " an ambitious
man ; he would, if he could, place himself at the head

and Georges, and much less for his wearing Russian epaulets at the
battle of Dresden (where he was mortally wounded), a fact which
sufficiently confirms the previous charge of treasonable intentions,
for which he was banished by the First Consul. Traitors deserve
no mercy. The safety of a state necessarily depends upon the
fidelity of its subjects. — Translator.


of a party, and put down my authority ; I intend to
overthrow him. This I cannot fail to do by extending
my conquests still further. I am always afraid of finding
in my way a warrior as enterprising as myself."

I tried to correct his opinions as to the intentions of
the general, who, by his implacable enemies, had been
represented to him as burning with a thirst for power
and aspiring to the throne of France. But when I inti-
mated to him that Moreau would not be convicted, he
became enraged. " The proofs," said he, " are as clear
as day. I well know what my duty imposes upon me,
as the magistrate charged to watch over the safety of
the state." He then, after some moments of reflection,
consented that the judges should give him their private
opinions as to the punishment to be inflicted upon the

France is well acquainted with the letter which the
illustrious prisoner sent to Bonaparte before his sentence
was pronounced. He preserved his dignity throughout,
and gave the new Emperor to understand that it had
once depended upon him whether he should obtain the
supreme power. Napoleon could not dissemble his rage.
"As long as Moreau lives," said he, " he will be my most
formidable rival. Two suns cannot shine together upon
the same horizon. One of them must be eclipsed, and
mine must triumph over his." Fouche, who was present at
this conversation, ventured some observations, to which I
joined my own, telling my husband that he ought not to
descend so low as to attempt to gain the opinion of the
judges against Moreau, and give his agents such orders.
" Fear," said he, with energy ; " fear, madam, that I may
increase their severity ! Keep silence, at least, and do not
provoke me ; your audacity has already destroyed every


disposition on my part to overlook his faults ! " — " I do not
ask any indulgence for him — I will not ask any for his
judges, if you will only do justice," said I, with a feeling of
profound indignation.

This important matter continued to be discussed for
some days before the Criminal Court, and the public had
full time to form their conclusions before the argument
ended. But few persons, and only those who were particu-
larly designated, were permitted to enter the Tuileries.
Bonaparte was afraid the conspirators would obtain some
advantage, either by means of their intrigues, or by furnish-
ing hints to the counsel engaged in the defence. Never did
accused persons present more grounds to interest others in
their favour. The courage of Georges Cadoudal, the grief
of the two Polignacs, who, though born on the steps of the
throne (as their counsel eloquently said), found themselves,
by means of a terrible Revolution, seated in the criminal's
box ; Moreau, renowned for his victories — Moreau, who,
had he not been paralysed by a want of means, might,
perhaps, have surpassed the conqueror of Italy. All this,
said the people who attended the trial — all this disproves
the charge ; the very appearance, the known virtues, the
greatness, the honour of the accused, preclude the idea that
they can be guilty of the crimes laid to their charge.

Alas ! they had not uttered one word in their own
defence before the spectators had made up their minds that
they were innocent-^the public, I mean, who seldom err in
their judgment, if unseduced by others. Not one of the
accusations was sustained by clear proof. The counsel for
the prisoners shed a flood of light upon a part of the case ;
but the counsel for the Government, in closing the case to
the jury, replied, " You have been listening, gentlemen, to
a tissue of gross lies, which I will not take the trouble to


unravel ; let it suffice to know that nothing is more false
than what these conspirators have set up in their own
defence, and in defence of their accomplices. I demand
that the question be put to the vote."

The vote was taken, and, as was to be expected from
the prejudice existing against Moreau, whom to defend
was to condemn, a majority of those cowardly creatures
sentenced him to death. ^ " When ambition engenders
crime," said they, "we must not wink at, but punish it."
The minority were in favour of imprisonment, some for a
longer and some for a shorter time.

But the First Consul did not approve of the sentence of
death, and when I heard of this, I felt a sincere satisfaction,
not only on account of Moreau, but on account of my
husband and his safety. I had heard that the greater
part of the spectators of that trial wore arms upon their
persons, and that, had any signal been given, they were
ready to leap over the feeble barriers which separated them
from the general, and form around him a rampart of their

Who knows but those same arms might be directed
against the life of his persecutor, and be instrumental in
producing the most terrible catastrophes ! I felt it my duty
to warn Bonaparte of the possibility of such an outbreak ;
he pretended to believe nothing about it until Murat pre-
sented to him a report upon the state of public opinion, by
which he was induced to save the life of his great rival in
glory. A most touching scene took place in the Criminal

I Moreau's trial made a great noise. Pichegru's death gave rise
to a thousand conjectures. Some said, " The satellites of Bonaparte
have strangled him." "No," replied others, "he has committed
suicide." Whatever may have been the fact, the public settled down
in the conviction that this atrocious act was to be attributed to Bona-
parte's advisers.


Court. Scarcely was the terrible sentence pronounced,
when the two young Polignacs threw themselves into each
other's arms. " Save my brother ! save my brother ! " ex-
claimed the younger, in the most heartrending accents ;
" he has a wife to support ; as for myself, I have felt
nothing but the thorns of life, and I shall meet death
without fear and without reproach ! "

The famous Georges Cadoudal, with extraordinary
self-possession, dared to assert, in the face of this terrible
Areopagus, that, " he who becomes a conspirator, ought to know
how to die and hold his tongue.'''' Speaking of the First
Consul, he said : " Thou deceivest thyself, Bonaparte, if,
in the excess of thy hatred, thou thinkest that, in dooming
me to death, thou hast triumphed over me ; on the con-
trary, I triumph over thee by dying with firmness. I give
up to thy steel a head which life would, to a convicted
man, only expose to vulgar insults — a head which, when
lifeless, will, upon the scaffold where thy cruelty exposes
it, be thine accuser rather than the evidence of thy suc-
cessful vengeance. After having lived so long for the glory
of my country, it only remains for me to die for her

Charles d'Hozier thus apostrophised his judges : " You
condemn me to-day : your turn will, perhaps, come to-
morrow. But there is an avenging God, who will know
how to punish you." All the accused displayed an im-
posing dignity, the badge of innocence.

Bonaparte did not take pride in the judgments which
were pronounced. " I should," said he, " have pardoned
certain of them for form's sake, and scarcely any of them
deserved so severe a sentence." He could have wished,
also, that Georges Cadoudal had so far humbled himself
as to ask for a commutation of the capital sentence pro-


nounced against him, to that of imprisonment for hfe ;
but the Vendean chief preserved all his hardihood and
ail his pride. He even tore to pieces a memorial which
was addressed and presented to him, in which his friends
tried to persuade him that he would obtain pardon, pro-
vided he would ask it (2). It was not thus, however,
with others of the condemned. The Duchess of Polignac
used all her efforts to save her unhappy husband. She
was presented to me ; she spoke well, and expressed her-
self with that warmth of feeling which electrifies those to
whom it is addressed. It doubtless cost much of her pride
to be reduced to this kind of humiliation.

I wept with her and concerted the means of introducing
her to Bonaparte, who, during those mournful trials, had
remained altogether unapproachable. I presented myself
first ; he put me off, without showing any symptoms of
pity. I returned to that afflicted woman. *' I hope every-
thing from your goodness, madam," said she. — " Alas ! "
I replied, with eyes filled with tears, " my feeble influence
over the Emperor leaves me scarcely a ray of hope ; never-
theless, I wall again try to change his mind — follow me."
At the moment we were stationing ourselves in such a
manner as to meet him as he passed, we heard the people's
shouts, proclaiming the sentence of death against those
unfortunate persons. " In a short time," exclaimed I,
without noticing Madame Polignac, whom I had upon my
arm, " in a short time the most of them will cease to live ! "
My husband was passing out of his cabinet to give some
order. His severe, dark physiognomy expressed the dis-
pleasure he felt at seeing us. Madame de Polignac
scarcely breathed. She instantly threw herself at the
feet of the new Caesar. While all France was burning
incense to Bonaparte, why should she, a woman over-


whelmed by the deepest distress, a wife and a mother,
with every possible reason to deprecate the blow that
was about to fall upon her — why should she rebel against
the universal enthusiasm which he inspired ? Her soul was
full of feeling and confidence ; she was sick, afflicted with
physical suffering, mental anguish and deep despair ; she
was alone, feeble, dying — passing into oblivion. Alas !
with a wife so afflicted, how could Polignac be guilty ?
" Save him ! save him ! Sire," she exclaimed in a voice
of agony ; " establish your power upon the basis of cle-
mency ! " — " Begin," said I, by way of aiding her suit,
" begin to be generous. One word from you, Bonaparte,
will restore to this weeping wife the being she most loves
upon earth ; the most lovely prerogative of a sovereign is
the power to pardon. Use it — use that sublime faculty to
perpetuate your glory, and let the first days of your reign
be distinguished by deeds of charity and kindness." I
knew well the effect which these energetic words would
have upon him, and was not deceived in my expectation.
He promised to save Polignac. " I can pardon your hus-
band, madam," said he to the duchess. " He has offended
no one but me. A few acts of clemency at the commence-
ment of my reign cannot hurt me." He seemed for a
moment melted to pity ; but fearing we might think he
was about to extend the like indulgence to others of the
condemned, he quitted us, casting at me a glance which
seemed to say, " I hope you, at least, are satisfied ; but
spare me henceforth such applications." His air became
more tranquil, and he strove to hide the tumultuous
thoughts which agitated him.

I could not but testify to Madame Polignac the hap-
piness it gave me to have been selected as the advocate
of her cause, and assured her that certain powerful per-


sonages had united their efforts to afford her, in the midst
of her ills, all the succour, or, at least, every consolation in
their power ; and that the preference which she had seen
fit to give me in the matter was justified by the zeal and
sincerity which I had consecrated to her service.

At that time how many circumstances were there to
awaken my surprise and my sensibility ! I felt unwilling

Online LibraryMarie-Anne Adélaïde LenormandThe historical and secret memoirs of the Empress Josephine (Marie Rose Tascher de La Pagerie) (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 33)