François-René Chateaubriand.

Portrait of Bonaparte; being a view of his administration online

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beard standing on end with icicles, even
humbled themselves to caress the com-
mon soldier who had still a little food re-
maining, that they might obtain a meager


portion of it To such an extent did
they experience the torments of famine!
Whole squadrons, men and horses, were
frozen t6 death during the night ; and in
the morning, these phantoms were seen,
still standing upright in the midst of the

The Emperor of Russia, in the
spring, caused a search to be made for
the dead; they have counted more than
one hundred and sixty thousand dead
bodies : on a single funeral pile twenty-
four thousand were burned. The mili-
tary plague, which had disappeared
since the time that wars had been con-
ducted with a small number of men — this
plague has reappeared with the conscrip-
tion, with armies of a million of soldiers,
and with rivers of human blood. And
what was the part acted by the destroyer
ot our fathers, of our brothers, of our


sons, when the flower of Prance was

thus cut off? He fled! He came to

the Thuilleries to say, while rubbing his
hands by the fireside — It is more com-
fortable here than on the banks of the
Berezina ! Not a word of consolation to
the wives, the mothers in tears, with
whom he was surrounded ; not a regret,
not an emotion of tenderness, not one
feeling of remorse, not a single avowal of
his folly escaped his lips. His infamous
creatures said — l the most happy circum-
stance attending this retreat is, that the
emperor wanted for nothing; he had
continually plenty to eat and drink; he
was comfortably shut up in a good warm
carriage ; in fine, he has suffered no-
thing, and that is a great consolation.'
And he, in the midst of his court, ap-
peared as gay, as triumphant, as glorious,,
as ever. Clothed with a royal robe,


and wearing his hat in the style of
Henry IV. he displayed himself bril-
liantly upon a throne, and practised the
royal attitudes which Talma had taught
him. But all this pomp served only to
render him the more hideous; and afl
the diamonds of his crown could not
conceal the blood with which it was

Alas ! The horrors of the field of bat-
tle have approached our doors; they
are no more concealed in the deserts ;
they are raging at our own firesides,
even in that Paris which the Normans
besieged in vain, about a thousand years
ago, and which boasted that it had never
had a conqueror except that Clovis who
became its king. To deliver up a coun-
try to invasion, is it not the greatest and
most unpardonable crime? We have
seen perish under our own eyes the


residue of our children ; we have seen
flocks of conscripts, of veteran sol-
diers, pale and disfigured, supporting
themselves against the posts in the
streets, dying in all kinds of misery,
hardly able to support in one hand the
weapon with which they had defended
their country, and to ask alms with the
other hand ; we have seen the Seine
covered with barks, our roads encum-
bered with carriages, filled with the
wounded, who had not even the first
dressing on their wounds. One of these
cars, which might have been followed
by the track of blood, was broken to
pieces upon the bulwark ; out of it fell
conscripts, without arms, without legs,
pierced with balls or with the spear,
pouring forth agonizing cries, and be-
seeching those who passed by to put an
end to their lives and their miseries.


" These unfortunates, often taken from
their cottages, before they had arrived
at the age of manhood, dragged into the
field of battle with their country caps
and clothes ; placed, as food for pow-
der, in the most dangerous places to ex-
haust the fire of the enemy : these unfor-
tunates, I say, would begin to weep and
cry aloud, as they were falling, pierced
with bullets, Ah ! my mother ! my wio-
ther ! A heart-rending cry, which mani-
fested the tender age of the child, torn
away in the evening from domestic
peace ; of the child fallen, all at once,
from the arms of its mother into those of
its barbarous sovereign. And for whom,
so many massacres, so many griefs ? for
an abominable Tyrant — for a foreigner,
who would never have been so prodigal
of French blood, if he had had one drop
of it in his veins, • . ♦ . ♦


Bonaparte has shown himself too mean
under misfortune to permit us to be-
lieve that his prosperity was the work of
his own genius. He is only the child of
our power, though we believed him to
be the offspring of his own works. His
grandeur }ias only arisen from the im-
mense forces which we had placed in Lis
hands, at the time of his elevation.—
He inherited all the armies formed under
our most able generals. He found a nu-
merous population, aggrandized by con-
quests, exalted by triumphs, and by that
powerful impulse which revolutions al-
ways give. He had only to strike his
foot upon the fruitful soil of our country,
and it brought forth, lavishly to his hand,
treasures and soldiers.

Bonaparte is a false great man. That
magnanimity which characterizes heroes
and true kings is wanting in him. Hence


it appears, that in speaking of him, no
one quotes a single expression which an-
nounces Alexander and Caesar, Henry
IV. and Louis XIV. Nature formed
him destitute of the tender feelings. The
master traits in his character are invin-
cible obstinacy, and an iron will, but
only for injustice, for oppression, and
extravagant systems ; for he easily aban-
dons every plan which might be favoura-
ble to morality, order, or virtue. Imagi-
nation governs him ; reason has no con-
trol over him. His designs are not the
fruit of any thing profound or matured,
but the effect of a sudden movement,
and of sudden resolution. Fickle as
the men of his own country, he has
about him something of the buffoon and
something of the comedian. He is al-
ways the actor even of those passions
which he does not possess : he is ever


on a theatre. At Cairo he is a rene-
gado, who boasts that he has destroyed
the ^papacy ; at Paris he is the restorer
of the christian religion : one while he is
a believer in revelation ; at another he
is a philosopher. His scenes are pre-
pared in advance. A sovereign who
could take lessons from Talma, that he
might appear in a royal attitude, is con-
demned for posterity. Affecting uni-
versality of genius, he speaks of finances
and of shows, of war and of fashions ; re-
gulates the fate of kings, and that of the
man committed to a bridewell : issues
from the Kremlin a regulation for the
theatres ; and on the day of battle issues
orders to arrest some women at Pa-
ris. The child of our revolution, he has
a striking resemblance to his mother :
Intemperance of language, a taste for
low literature, and a passion for scrib-


hling in the newspapers. Under the
mask of Ca?sar and Alexander, we behold
a little man, and the offspring of a low-
born family. He has a sovereign con-
tempt for mankind, for he judges them
by himself. His maxim is, that men do
nothing but from interest, and that hones-
ty itself is merely calculation. Hence
the system of fusion, which is the basis
of his government ; employing equally
the rogue and the honest man, mingling,
designedly, vice and virtue, and always
taking care to place a man in opposition
to his principles. His great pleasure is
to dishonour virtue, to soil reputation.
He corrupts every thing he touches.
When he has humbled you thus, you
become his own man, according to his
expression ; you belong to him by the
light of civility.


Born but to destroy, Bonaparte hm
a horror for the happiness of mankind.
He said one day — 6 There are yet some
happy people in France ; they are fami-
lies who do not know me, who live in
the country, in a country seat, on an in*
come of 30 or 40,000 Iivres, but I know
well how to reach them.' He kept his
word. He saw one day some of our
children engaged in play ; he said to a
bishop who was present — ' Mr. Bishop ?
do you believe that these have any
souls ?' Every thing marked with su-
periority terrifies this tyrant ; all repu-
tation is an inconvenience to him. He
is jealous of talents, of wit, of virtue ;
he would not even love the eclat of a
great crime, unless the crime was his
own. In a word, Bonaparte was only the
man of prosperity. As soon as adver-
sity, which only makes virtue shine more


brilliantly, touched this false great man,
the prodigy vanished : in the monarch
we perceive nothing but the adventurer,
and in the hero nothing but the man
who had suddenly risen to glory.

When Bonaparte drove the Direc-
tory from power, he addressed them in
these words :—

" What have you done with that
France which I left so brilliant in your
hands ? I left you in peace — I find you
engaged in war ; I left you victories — I
find only defeats ; I left you the millions
of Italy — I find everywhere rapacious
laws, and misery. What have you done
with the hundred thousand Frenchmen,
whom I once knew, with all my compa-
nions in glory ? They are dead.

" This state of things can last no
longer. Before three years it would bring
us under a despotism ; but we want ?i


republic, founded on the basis of equali-
ty, morality, civil liberty^ and political
toleration," &c.

This day, man of disaster, we will
take you at your own words. Tell us
what have you done with this France so
brilliant ? Where are our treasures — the
millions of Italy — of the whole of Eu-
rope ? What have you done, not with
the hundred thousand, but with the five
millions of Frenchmen whom we all
knew, our relatives, our friends, our
brothers ? This state of things can last
no longer; it has plunged us into a fright-
ful despotism. You wanted a republic,
and you reduced us to slavery. We
wanted a monarchy, established on the
foundations of equality of rights, of mo-
rality, of civil liberty, of political and
religious toleration. — Have you given us
such a monarchy? What have you


done for us ? What do we owe to your
reign ? Who is it that tortured Pichegru,
banished Moreau, loaded with chains
the sovereign Pontiff, stole the Princes
of Spain, commenced an impious
war ? It is you. Who is it that has
lost our colonies, annihilated our com-
merce, corrupted our manners, robbed
the fathers of their children, desolated
families, ravaged the world, burned more
than a thousand leagues of country, in-
spired the whole world with horror at the
name of Frenchmen ? — It is you. Who
is it that has exposed France to pesti-
lence, invasion, dismemberment, con-
quest ? — It is still you : Behold that
which you were not capable to demand
of the Directory, but which we this day
demand of you. How much more crimi-
nal are you than those men whom you
found unworthy to govern us ? A legiti-


mate and hereditary king, who should
have loaded his people with but the least
part of the evils which you have done,
would have put his throne in jeopardy ;
and you, usurper and foreigner should not
you be accursed in our eyes, on account
of the calamities with which you have
overwhelmed us ? Should you stili reign
in the midst of our tombs ! We will enter
again into our rights through misfortune ;
we will no more worship a Moloch ; you
shall no more devour our children ; we
will have no more of your conscription,
of your police, of your reproaches, of
your midnight executions, of your tyran-
ny. It is not only us, it is the human
race which accuses you. It demands of
us vengeance in the name of religion, of
morality, and of liberty. Where have
you not spread desolation? In what cor-
ner of the world lives there an obscure


family which has escaped your ravages I
The Spaniard in his mountains, the Uly-
rian in his valleys, the Italian in his de-
lightful climate, the German, the Rus-
sian, the Prussian from his cities in
ashes, demand of you their children
whom you have murdered, their tents,
their cottages, their country seats, and
their temples, which you have given to
the flames. The voice of the world de-
clares you the greatest criminal which
has ever appeared on the earth. Quit
at last your iron sceptre ; descend from
that pile of ruins on which you have
erected your throne. We will drive
you away as you drove away the Di-
rectory. Go ! and, for your only punish-
ment, be the witness of the joy which
your fall gives to France, and contem-
plate, while you pour out tears of rage,
the spectacle of public felicity !


Conquerors had not yet been suffi-
ciently hated. Heaven has permitted
the too long successes of Bonaparte to
inspire us with an everlasting horror of
them. It has designed that this con-
queror should have nothing in com-
mon with those who have dazzled, while
they terrified the world. It gave him
military talent, but without the eclat of
personal bravery ; an activity wonder-
ful, but without an object ; a will uncon-
querable, but without discretion. All his
disasters, all the disgraces which he has
experienced, sprung from the same
causes which produced his triumphs.
Neither the most unheard-of favours of
fortune, nor the most terrible lessons of
adversity; neither the confidence of a
nation which, tormented with a fright-
ful anarchy, hoped to find repose in
him, nor the counsels of illustrious men,


who wished to point to him the path of
true glory; nor yet the devotion of
valorous warriors— nothing was able to
soften the character of the Corsican sol-
dier, to rectify his false spirit, to elevate
his corrupted soul. If we are astonished
at his obstinacy in destroying the lives
of men, we are not the less confounded
at his obstinate love of life.

He has shown us what self love is,
when found in an inhuman heart. Never
was he able to naturalize himself among
Frenchmen. Was he a Frenchman — he
who, placed upon a throne which the
goodness, the grace, and the gallantry of
our kings had embellished, was ever in-
sulting women, and rallying them with
rudeness, upon the decline of their
beauty ? Was he a Frenchman — he who
has never given any thing but with the
intention of abasing the receiver? He


who in a cowardly manner abused hk
power, to address, in the midst of his
court, ignominious abuse to a worthy-
administrator, to an upright judge, or to
a brave soldier 1 But why ask this ? He
insults, even in his camp, our warriors,
admired by all Europe. What a torrent
of invective in his bulletins 1 When he
has committed a military fault, he choo-
ses, hap-hazard, the name of some gene-
ral to reproach him with it. He invents
stories which are believed by no one :
For instance — it is the rashness of a cor-
poral, who, by blowing up a bridge, has
caused to France the greatest reverses
she has experienced \

He always places his best generals
at the most exposed posts. Twenty
times he has caused his choice troops,
and even the mass of his army, to march
by impracticable roads ; in th§ severest


seasons, and with an unpitying rapidity.
At such times, two or three generals re-
mained, charged with the defence of im-
portant posts, against forces horribly dis-
proportioned. He conceals, to dissem-
ble a check, their acts of the most he-
roic bravery, and it is often from the
enemy that we gain the first information
of them.

What a savage character in his pre-
tended greatness ! What a contrast with
the noble and touching picture which is
offered to our eyes by the two sove-
reigns who became, in one day, the allies
of the French people. Bonaparte wished
to occupy all the palaces in Europe.
These monarchs do not even enter into
the palace of the absent King of France :
a private apartment suffices them. Since
the house of Lorraine has given the ex-
ample of this moderation, which so well


adorns the throne, the alliance of people
and of kings is become more intimate.
We know, now, why these sovereigns
are beloved: we wait with impatience
to see this Emperor of Austria, who has
so well concurred in their generous
views, and to soften for him, if possible,
the pain which our deliverance cost his
heart. Why should we not speak be-
fore these monarchs, the friends of our
king, that language of tove of which the
tyrant has made us almost lose the re-
collection and the habit. This is the
day of reunion to the great European
family ! By what benefits has not the
inexhaustible magnanimity of the Em-
peror Alexander signalized this day!
Two hundred thousand of our country-
men are to be restored to our embraces !
Did ever sovereign make to a king, his
friend, a present of such magnificence?


The same contract which is about to
restore us to repose, is to bring back to
us that liberty whose bounds we so im-
prudently transcended, and of which the
most deceitful tyrant has not left a ves-
tige in our institutions. Let us have
no guarantees with him who sported
with all treaties and with all promises.
The spirit of concord has dictated the
guarantees which will unite in one senti-
ment all the extinguished parties of our
country ; and we shall again see public
liberty flourish under the sacred shade
of monarchical power.


The recollections of old France, reli-
gion, ancient customs, family morals, the
habits of our infancy, the cradle, the
tomb — all attach us to the sacred word
of King : it terrifies no one ; on the con-
trary, it inspires confidence. f King, ma-
gistrate, father — these ideas are insepara-
ble with every true Frenchman. There
will not be repose, nor honour, nor hap-
piness nor stability, in our laws, for-
tunes, opinions, until the Bourbons are
re-established on the throne. Surely
antiquity, more grateful than we, would
not have failed to call divine a race,
which, beginning by a brave and pru-
dent king, and finishing by a martyr, has


reckoned in the space of nine centuries
forty-three rnonarchs, among whom we
do not find but one single tyrant : Singu-
lar example in the history of the world,
and eternal subject of pride for our coun-
try ! Probity and honour were seated
on the throne of France, as were force
and policy on many of the other thrones.
The noble and mild blood of the Capets
ceased to produce heroes only to make
kings who were honest men. Some were
called wise, good, just, well-beloved;
others, surnamed great, august, fathers
of learning and of the country. Some
few among them had passions which
they expiated by misfortunes ; but none
frightened the world by those vices
which load the memory of the Caesars,
and which Bonaparte has reproduced.
The Bourbons, last branch of this sa-

cred tree, have seen, by an extraordina*
ry fatality, their first king fall under
the poniard of fanaticism, and their last
under the axe of Atheism — Demo-
cracy. Since the time of Robert
VI. son of St. Louis, from whom he
descended, there was only wanting for
them, during so many ages, that glory
of adversity which they have at length
so magnificently obtained. What have
we to reproach them with ? The name
of Henry the Fourth yet makes every
French heart bound with joy, while it
suffuses our eyes with tears ; we owe to
Louis the 14th the best part of our gkn
ry. Have we not surnamed Louis the
16th the most honest man of his king-

This family weeps in exile, not their
misfortunes, but ours. That young prin-
cess whom we have persecuted, whom

we rendered an orphan, weeps every-
day in foreign palaces, over the heart-
rending state of the prisons of France.
She might have received the hand of a
powerful prince, but she preferred to
unite her fate to that of her cousin, poor,
exiled, proscribed, because he was a
Frenchman, and that she would not
separate herself from the misfortunes of
her family. All the world admires her
virtues; the nations of Europe follow
her when she appears in their public
walks — loading her with benedictions;
and we — we could forget her! When
she left her country, where she had been
so unhappy, she looked back and shed
tears. Constant objects of her prayers
and love, we hardly know that she exists.
" / feel> y she sometimes said, "that!
shall never have children but in France"
Affecting words, which alone ought to


make us fall at her feet, and tear from us
sobs of repentance.

The brother of our king, Louis the
18th, who is to be the first to reign over
xis, is a prince known by his learning,
inaccessible to prejudices — a stranger to
vengeance. Of all sovereigns who might
govern France at present, it is he, per-
haps, who best suits our actual position,
or the spirit of the age ; as of all the men
whom we could choose Bonaparte is the

least calculated to be a king. The

institutions of nations are the work of
time and experience: to reign we must,
above all things, have reason and uni-
formity. A prince who has only two
or three common ideas in his head, but
useful ones, would be a more suitable
sovereign for a nation than an extraordi-
nary adventurer, incessantly engender-
ing new plans, imagining new laws, not

believing he reigns but when he labours
to disturb his people, and changing — de-
stroying in the evening what he created
in the morning. Louis the 18th has not
only those fixed ideas, that moderation,
that good sense, so necessary in a mo-
narch, but he is also a prince the friend
of letters, learned and eloquent like many
of our kings, possessed of a mind regu-
lated and enlightened — of a character
firm and philosophical.

Let us choose between Bonaparte,
who returns bringing to us the Bloody
Code of the Conscription, and Louis the
1 8th, who advances to heal our wounds
— the will of Louis the 16th in his hand.
He will repeat at his coronation these
words, written by his virtuous brother:

" I pardon with my whole heart those
who are my enemies, without my having


given them the least reason to be so*
and I pray God to pardon them."

Monsieur the Count d' Artois, so frank,
so loyal, so truly French, distinguishes
himself to-day by his piety, his mildness,
and his goodness, as much as he was re-
marked in early youth by his air of
grandeur and his royal graces. Bona-
parte was beaten down by the hand of
God, but not corrected by adversity;
in proportion as he retreated into the
country which now escapes from his ty-
ranny, he dragged after him unhappy
victims loaded with irons ; it is in the
last prisons of France that he exercises
the last acts of his power. Monsieur the
Count d' Artois arrives alone, without
soldiers, without support, unknown to
the French to whom he shows himself.
Hardly had he pronounced his name,

before the people fall at his feet; they



kiss the skirts of his garment ; they hug
his knees, they cry out to him ; shed-
ding floods of tears, " We bring iou


To quit France in that manner, to enter
it in this. Recognise, my countrymen, on
one side the usurper, on the other the le-
gitimate prince. M. the Duke of Angou-
Ieme has appeared in another of our pro-
vinces; Bordeaux, the second city of
the kingdom, threw itself into his arms,
and the country of Henry IV. ac-
knowledges with transports of joy the
heir of the virtues of the people of Beam.
Our armies have not seen a braver
knight than M. the Duke of Berri. M.
the Duke of Orleans proves by his no-
ble fidelity to the blood of his king, that
his name is one of the foremost of
France. I have already spoken of the
three generations of French heroes, M.

the Prince of €onde, M. the Duke of
Bourbon ; I leave to Bonaparte to name

the third (Enghein ! ! !)

By what shameful caprice did we give
to the sen of a tipstaff of Ajaccio, the
heritage of Robert the Strong? This
Sobert the Strong descended apparently
from the second race, and the iast allied
itself with the first. He was Count of
Paris. Hugh Capet brought to the
French, as a Frenchman, Paris, his pa-
ternal inheritance, also immense proper-
ty and domains. France, so small under
the first Capets, enriched and enlarged
herself under their descendants. To re-
place this ancient face we went to look
for a king, as was said by a senator,
among a people whom the Romans would
not have for slaves. It was in favour of
an obscure Italian, whose fortune we
made by plundering all Frenchmen, that


we overthrew the Salique law, palla-
dium of our empire. How much did
our fathers differ from us in sentiments
and in maxims ! At the death of Philip
the Handsome, they adjudged the crown


Online LibraryFrançois-René ChateaubriandPortrait of Bonaparte; being a view of his administration → online text (page 2 of 3)