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in the written conditions, the contracting parties did not
therefore regard them as less obligatory ; habit, tliat sec-
ond nature, had at last come to acknowledge them as
legal ; the most sensitive consciences satisfied themselves
by not fixing their amount.

A horse-dealer, whose offer Carnot had approved, was
going, according to custom, to bring him a considerable
sura, under the name of pins ; it was, I believe, 50,000
francs. The Minister, at first, does not understand. At
the Committee of Public Safety, where he had served his
apprenticeship, the purveyors took good care not to speak
of pins. All is explained at last, and Carnot, far from
being angry, receives with a laugh the notes that are pre-
sented to him ; he receives them with one hand, and gives
them back with the other, as a first instalment of the
price of the horses that the dealer had agreed to furnish
for our cavalry, and demands an immediate receipt.

In the most violent paroxysms of their fury, the fac-
tions had the prudence not to attack Carnot as a private


man ; never did their unhallowed breath try to tarnish
the virtues of the son, of the husband, or of the father ;
as to disinterestedness especially, both friends and ene-
mies were always agreed. I might therefore on this
point remain content with the two instances I have given.
There is another, however, which it is desirable to rescue
from oblivion ; the memory of Carnot does not require it,
but I have a slight hope that, by being reminded of it,
some ministers may feel arrested in their prodigalities,
and certain parties from indulging their avarice !

After the 18th Brumaire, the projected operations for
the army of reserve imperiously required that Moreau
should without delay send one of his divisions to the
army of Italy. The direct intervention of the Minister
of War did not appear too much to carry so important a
negotiation to a successful conclusion. In execution of
an order of the Consuls, of the 15tli Floreal, year VIII.,
Carnot, accompanied by six officers of the staff, two cou-
riers, and one servant, went to Germany. On the route
be inspected the troops echelonnees between Dijon and
Geneva ; he then traversed the cantonments of the Rhine,
visited the fortresses, arranged with the Commander-in-
Chief the plan for the next campaign, and returned to
Paris. The Treasury had given him 24,000 francs. On
his return, he restored 10,680 francs. He was so fearful
that the expenditure of 13,320 francs, (or £550,) for ten
persons making a long journey should appear too much,
that he sent in a detailed report, excusing himself as if
he had been prodigal. The following was his letter to
the Consuls : " You will have the goodness to remark
that you have desired me to give some eclat to my mis-
sion ; that in the principal places I was obliged, accord-
ing to your orders, to assume a certain appearance ; in


short, that it was requisite, from the character of gener-
osity with which you ai'e animated, that I should allow
some gratification to my companions in travel and in
fati"-ue ! " Be pleased to remember. Gentlemen, that the
journey, the eclat, the gratifications amounted altogether
to 13,320 francs ; do not forget that it was one of the
ministers, inspecting armies who was going to decide on
the fate of his country, who spoke thus, and you will
agree with me, I think, that if the world is improving, it
is not in economy.

The Treasury did not know under what form to record
the 10,G80 francs returned by Carnot ; but it was not the
first essay on the part of our colleague : by searching
back to the epochs when he inspected the Republican
armies, as representative of the people, the Clerks of
Finance found in their registers the forms they sought,
and these occurred as often as Carnot had executed simi-
lar missions.

The name of Carnot would still present itself to my
mind if, after so many instances furnished by history in
all countries, it were yet required to prove that an ardent
mind can be allied to cold and reserved manners. Un-
doubtedly, no one ever had a right to say of him, as
D'Alembert said of one of the old secretaries of our
Academy : He is a volcano covered with snow ; but I
may be allowed to show at least, that our colleague's con-
ceptions often had a certain something in them that went
direct to the heart, touching, moving, electrifying ; some-
thing, in short, stamped with an indefinable seal, never
borne by the works of heartless men, of men whose facul-
ties have no concentration of mind. Two more citations,
and my thesis will be proved.

Latour of Auvergne, born of the Turenne family, did


not even express regret at losing bis advantageous posi-
tion througli the breaking out of the Revolution ; but when
the enemy menaced our frontiers, it was to the frontiers
that he was seen to march. Modesty made him decline
all promotion ; the old captain obstinately remains a cap-
tain. In order not to deprive the country of the eminent
services that Monsieur Latour d'Auvergne could render
it, Carnot authorizes the representatives of the people to
group together all the companies of Grenadiers of the
army of the Western Pj'renees, and form a separate
corps of them ; never to place a senior oflRcer over them,
and to remove witli equal care all the captains that were
senior to Latour d'Auvergne ; by this arrangement the
diffident officer finds himself daily in charge of an impor-
tant command. The name of infernal column given by
the Spaniards to this body of troops soon sanctions in a
splendid way all that there was of anomalous, of unusual,
and strange in the contrivance suggested by Carnot, and
carried into effisct by the representatives.

Latour d'Auvergne, whom you now know, Gentlemen,
as a military man, for the third time quitted his retreat
and his beloved learned studies, and asked to serve under
Moreau, when Carnot became Minister of War after the
18th Brumaire. Already at that epoch the First Consul
would not certainly have approved an arrangement simi-
lar to the one that the Conventional representatives
adopted in the Pyrenees. Carnot, however, sulFered in
seeing that the chief of the infernal column, he who
counted so many dashing services, that the estimable
author of the Gaulish Origins — must w^e add, that a
correspondent of the Institute, should arrive on the banks
of the Rhine as an obscure officer. The title of First
Grenadier of France strikes his imagination ; Latour


d'Auvergne is invested witli it by an official act ; and
from that moment, without quitting his Grenadier epau-
lettes, he became, in the eyes of the soldiers, the equal
if not the superior of all the dignitaries in the army.

The First Grenadier of France was killed by a lance
the 27th of June, 1800, at the battle of Neubourg. The
army, the whole of France, wept bitterly over this loss.
As for Carnot, his deep grief inspired him with an idea
that the ancients, otherwise so idolatrous of military
glory, might envy us. By an order emanating from
Carnot, when the 4Gth demi-brigade was mustered, the
name of Latour d'Auvergne was always called out as
the first on tlie roll. The grenadier placed at the head
of the first rank then advanced two steps, and answered
in a tone to be heard all along the line — Died on the field
of honour.

The brief, expressive, solemn homage that a regiment
thus daily paid to him who had rendered himself illustri-
ous in its ranks by courage, knowledge, and patriotism,
must, I think, continue that excitement which produces
heroes. I assert, at all events, that the noble words of
Carnot, repeated in the chamber, in the guard-room, un-
der the tent, in the bivouac, had thoroughly preserved the
remembrance of Latour d'Auvergne in the memory of
our soldiers. " Where are those long files of grenadiers
going ? " exclaimed the aide-de-camp of Marshal Oudinot,
when, in the beginning of Vendemaire, year XIV. (Octo-
ber, 1805), the avant garde of the great army passed
through Neubourg. " Why are they swerving from the
route laid down for them ? " Their silent and grave
march awakened curiosity ; they are followed, they are
observed. The grenadiers were going, Gentlemen, near
Oberhausen, thoughtfully to pass their sabres over the


rough block of stone that covered the body of the first
Grenadier of France.

I return thanks, Gentlemen, to M. de Savary, the ven-
erable old man, who, a witness of the touching scene near
Oberhausen, has allowed me to draw it from oblivion, and
thus to unite in one mutual sentiment, the admirable
army of Austerlitz with the admirable armies of the Re-
public. I am happy also, that names which are dear to
you, that the names of two of our old colleagues, that the
names of Latour d'Auvergne and of Carnot, happen to
occupy so noble a place in this patriotic reminiscence !

Great employments, like great heights, usually occasion
a vertigo in the heads of those Avho reach them suddenly.
This man thinks that by pageantry and prodigality he
ought to make people forget the years he has passed in
mediocrity and constraint. That man becomes disdainful
and insolent, harsh and churlish, and thus revenges him-
self on the unfortunate i^eople who have now to solicit
him, for the disdain, the arrogance, the brutality that he
had to undergo Avhen he had to solicit them. A crowd of
names of individuals suggest themselves to fill up this
sketch, in case any one should dispute its fidelity. Do
not suppose, however, that by passing over some mush-
rooms so lightly, I intend to constitute myself the advo-
cate of privilege ; I wish to prove, on the contrary, by
the example of Carnot, that minds of a certain tempera-
ment can resist contagion.

Six months after the coup d'etat, on the 18th Fructi-
dor, Carnot is otficially accused to the Council of the
Five Hundred of having had frequent and intimate com-
munications with Pichegru, at a time when that general,
a member of the Legislative Body, soiled his brilliant
military reputation by his intrigues. Carnot denies such


communications. He proves, besides, that he could not
have had "secret interviews at his house. He added :
"I feel that people will say if it was not at your house it
was elsewhere. "Well, I declare, that during all the dura-
tion of my directorial functions, I have not gone out twelve
times "without being accompanied by my wife, my sisters,
or my children ! "

It is possible, Gentlemen, that in France, that else-
where, men in power may have had this simplicity of
habits, not to say integrity ; but I will acknowledge it,
the rumour has not reached me.

I have been speaking to you of the Man ; now I will
treat of the Minister.

At the battle of Messenheim (1800), near Inspruck,
Championnet I'cmarks the temerity, the intrepidity of
Colonel Bisson, and demands for him, with the applause
of all the army, the epaulettes of a General of Brigade.
Weeks elapse, and the commission does not arrive. Bis-
son grows impatient, goes to Paris, obtains an interview
with the Minister, and in his anger, apostrophizes him in
a rough manner. " Young man," Carnot calmly replied
to him, " it is possible that I may have committed an
error; but your improper manners, really, might disin-
cline me to repair it. Go, I will attentively examine
your services." "My services! Ah! I know too well
that you despise them, you, who from the shelter of your
cabinet coolly send us the order to die. Protected from
danger, and from the rigour of the seasons, you have
already forgotten, and you will continue to forget, that

our blood flows, and that we lie on the hard ."

" Colonel, this is too much ! For your own interests,
our interview must not continue in this tone. Retire !
Your address, if you please ? Go! you will shortly hear
from me."


These last words, pronounced in a solemn tone, un-
sealed Colonel Bisson's eyes. He runs to a devoted
friend. General Bessieres, to seek consolation. His
friend, on the contrary, gives him to understand that a
court-martial will be the inevitable consequence of his
folly. In the mean time Bisson hides himself. A faith-
ful servant goes every hour to the hotel, to learn about
the dreaded order for his appearance. The ministerial
paquet at last arrives ; Bisson, all emotion, tears open
the envelop. The paquet. Gentlemen, contains the
brevet of General of Brigade, and letters of service !

It is scarcely necessary to add, that the new general
flies to Carnot immediately to offer him the homage of
his admiration, and of his gratitude, and of his deep
repentance. All this proved superfluous, for General
Bisson found his orders at the door of the Minister's
office. That ardent soul which, notwithstanding all its
sincerity of conduct, felt the act somewhat onerous,
proved how well he had appreciated the delicate severity
of Carnot, and how worthy he was of it, by that very
evening publishing the details, which assuredly Plutarch
himself would not have disdained.

Of all the qualities that great men can adorn them-
selves with, diffidence seems the least obligatory ; there-
fore the more credit is given to them for it ; and there-
fore also it leaves the most durable recollections. Who,
for example, does not know by heart that letter which
Turenne wrote to his wife, a hundred and seventy-nine
years ago, on the day -of the celebrated battle of the

" The enemy came to us ; they have been beaten ;
God be praised. I have worked a little in the course
of the day ; I wish you good night, and will go to lie


Equally with this illustrious general of Louis XIV.
did Carnot omit his own participation, both in his private
communications and when he wrote to the Convention.
I have related to you the part he acted at the battle of
Wattignies ; well, read the bulletin which that decisive
and memorable event inspired him to write, and you will
in vain seek a few words to recall the representative of
the people ; unless, indeed, we are determined to see
them in this passage : " The Republicans charged for-
ward with the bayonet, and remained victorious."

But all of you, who knew Carnot, will agree with me,
that unless he was pressingly and directly solicited, he
would never entertain you with the European events
which he had so often directed. Justly jealous of the
esteem of France, the old Director, during his exile,
answered the diatribes of his accusers in writing. His
style on these occasions was lively, poignant, and cut
deep ; it was evident at each line that it proceeded from
an ulcerated heart. Yet the most legitimate irritation
never led him beyond the circle that his enemies had
traced out. His defence in some parts might resemble
an attack ; but at bottom, on close examination, it was
still a defence. Carnot rejected far from him, the idea
of raising a pedestal to himself with the immortal trophies
that he had reaped during his Conventional and Directo-
rial career. Modesty, Gentlemen, is a good alloy when
it triumphs thus over anger.

In regard to science, the illustrious academician was
not less reserved. One would have said, indeed, that he
regulated his conduct according to that reflection of the
oldest and most ingenious of your interpi-eters : " When
a learned man speaks to instruct other men, and exactly
in that line of instruction that they wish to acquire, he


does them a favour ; but if he speaks only to show oiF
his own learning, they do him a favour in listening."

Modesty, moreover, is not a quality deserving of re-
spect and esteem, except in isolated individuals. Bodies
of men, and especially academies, would be guilty of a
fault, and would be wanting in a principal duty, if they
neglected to adorn themselves in the eyes of the public
with the legitimate claims they have earned to the
esteem, gratitude, and admiration of the world. The
more justly celebrated they are, the stronger is the
desire to belong to such institutions, and the more the
laborious efforts made to attain this aim turn to the
advantage of science, and to the glory of the human
mind. This thought has encouraged me. Gentlemen, to
unroll to your eyes, in all its details and in its true colours,
the very eventful, varied, and stormy life of Carnot.
For nearly two centuries the Academy of Sciences con-
scientiously has preserved the memory of the geometers,
the physicists, the astronomers, the naturalists, who
have rendered it illustrious. The name of the great
citizen who by his genius preserved France from foreign
dominion, has appeared to me to deserve being inscribed
with some solemnity in this glorious Pantheon.


8th of JANUARY, 1855.



Stephen Louis Malus, whose name will be per-
petuated by an immortal discovery as long as the phys-
ical sciences shall be honoured among men, was born
at Pari:;, on the 23d of July, 1775, his parents being
Anne-Louis Malus of Mitry, treasurer of France, and
Louisa Charlotte Desbres.

His first studies were principally literary ; he acquired
a very sound knowledge of the authors who form the
glory of Greek and Latin literature. Up to his latest
years he continued to be able to recite, without hesita-
tion, long passages of the Iliad, of Anacreon, Horace,
and Virgil. Like almost all scholars gifted with some
facility of composition, he rashly devoted his youthful
talents to productions of a kind really above his powers,
and the difficulty of which one of our great poets so
energetically characterizes when he calls them, "oeuvres
du demon." But he carried out his endeavours to an

118 MALUS.

extent beyond what is usual. I liave discovered among
the papers of Malus, tvA'o cantos of an epic poem entitled
Themelie, or the Foundation of France, and two com-
plete tragedies ; one on the capture of Utica, and the
death of Cato ; the other recounting the dreadful catas-
trophes of the family of the Atrides, and entitled Electra.
The fact that some beautiful verses and some interesting
situations occur, Mould not hinder me from avowing that
the youthful autlior had not as yet discovered his true
vocation, were it not tliat the immense inequality which
we observe between the Hostile Brothers and the Andro-
mache, though both worthy of Racine, shows with what
caution we ought to abstain from premature judgment.

Malus pushed forward with equal and distinguished
success the study of letters, and of algebra and geometry.
He went through the examination for the School of En-
gineers at Mezieres, in 1793, and was classed the same
year as sub-lieutenant in the promotion in which General
Bertrand held the first place. But the serious disorders
of which the school of Mezieres was the theatre, having
caused its suppression, Malus could not profit by his bre-
vet of admission. He enrolled himself as a volunteer in
the 15th battalion of Pai'is, and proceeded to Dunkirk,
where he took part in the manual labour of the wheel-
barrow, as a common workman in the construction of the
field fortifications with which that place was being sur-
rounded. M. Lepere, engineer of roads and bridges, who
was directing a part of these constructions, having re-
marked certain peculiar and unexpected arrangements in
the manner in which the soldiers executed the excava-
tions and raised the mounds, was desirous to learn the
origin of these practices ; they pointed out to him the
man who had indicated these as the means best suited to


attain the desired end with the least possible fatigue. A
few moments' conversation showed the engineer that he
had found in the humble labourer of the 15th Battalion
of Paris a superior man ; and he accoi'dingly sent him to
the "Ecole Polytechnique," which had just been founded.

Mains then was one of the first pupils of this celebrated
institution. He soon gained the good will of Monge, who
became his friend ; indeed nothing less than such a warm
friendship was necessary to preserve him from the mis-
fortunes he would have incurred from his taking a part
in the many political movements by which the capital
was then agitated.

On quitting the school, Malus went to Metz, where he
was received as a pupil sub-lieutenant of engineers the
20th February, 1796. He was named captain on the
19th June following; and was sent the next year to the
army of the Sambre and Meuse, where he took an active
and distinguished part in the actions in which that valiant
army was engaged.

There has been recently found among the family pa-
pers, a small bound book, in which Malus, when captain
of eno-ineers, and employed in the army of th6 East,
traced day by day an abridged narrative of all the events
of which he had been an eyewitness, or in which he had
taken a direct part. These memoranda, which I have
read with the greatest interest, and in which our fellow
labourer figures chiefly as a military man, seem to me to
deserve a detailed analysis. I have resolved to layit
before you, were it only to prove once more, that pro-
found knowledge and a scientific genius did not weaken
either the zeal, the constancy, the courage, or the spirit
of enterprise, which ought to distinguish an officer of the
highest military qualities.

120 MALUS.

After having read the following details, few would
venture to estimate their own services above those which
Malus, the man of science, rendered in his sphere.


The events of the war led the Captain of Engineers,
Malus, to the right bank of the Rhine. He remained
eleven months in garrison in the learned city of Giessen :
he was even on the point of contracting a marriage with
the eldest daughter of the Chancellor of the university,
Professor Koch, when the order came for him to proceed
to Toulon, where he was to serve under Caffarelli in the
left wing of the array, collected for an expedition of which
scarcely any one knew the destination.

The 27th of Floreal,* we find him at Toulon, em-
barked on board L'Aquilon, a vessel of seventy-four
guns, commanded by Thevenard, and making part of
the advance guard of the squadi-on. The 22d Prairial t
he took part in the attack, by assault, of the fortress of
Malta, the defenders of which, he says, surrendered after
having made much noise and done little mischief.

After a short sojourn in Malta, INIalus, at the desire of
General Desaix, commandant of the division which had
arrived at Civita Vecchia, went on board the Courageux,
in which that general was embarked. He remarks, " I
had in all respects to congratulate myself on this change."
The fleet quitted Malta the 3d of Messidor,J and we find
Malus on the 13th of that month § sailing all night in an
undecked sloop in search of the General-in-Chief, to re-
ceive his orders as to the point at which the division of
Desaix was to disembark.

* May 16. f 10th June, 1798. f June 21. ^ July 1.


On the 17th* Malus was attached to the advanced
guard of the invading army. The 21st.t in the evenino-,
he encamped on the road from Ramanieli. At that time
the corps of engineers had neither ''material" nor troops.
An officer of this service, isolated in the army, was often
deprived of the commonest necessaries. We find an in-
stance in the following description, which I quote from
the memoranda : " Wanting a picquet to which to attach
my horse, I tied him to my leg ; I slept, and dreamt
peaceably of the pleasures of Europe." On the 25th,t
he took part in the glorious battle of Chebreys ao-ainst
the Mamelukes. The 2d Thermidor,§ at the battle of
the Pyramids, he was in one of the battalions formed in
squares on the right wing beside General Desaix.

On the 4th,|| in the morning. Captain Malus went with
a detachment of carbineers into the island of Raouda
reconnoitring the right bank of the Nile to Mekias and
sent over to the left bank the boats which were necessary
to enable the army to cross the river. The same even-
ing he accompanied General Dupuis, who was charo-ed
with regulating the conditions of the ca])itulation of Cairo.
On the loth Thermidor,^ he set out with the advanced
guard of the array, which marched against Ibrahim Bey
encamped at Belbeys, and took a very active part in the
important combats which signalized this expedition ; in

Online LibraryF. (François) AragoBiographies of distinguished scientific men (Volume 2) → online text (page 9 of 38)