François-René Chateaubriand.

Portrait of Bonaparte; being a view of his administration online

. (page 3 of 3)
Online LibraryFrançois-René ChateaubriandPortrait of Bonaparte; being a view of his administration → online text (page 3 of 3)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

to Philip of Valois, in exclusion of Ed-
ward III. King of England : they pre-
ferred to condemn themselves to two
centuries of war, rather than be govern-
ed by a foreigner. This noble resolu-
tion was the cause of the glory and
greatness of France : the or i flame was
rent in pieces on the plains of Crecy,
Poictiers and Agincourt, but its frag-
ments finally triumphed over the ban-
ners of Edward III. and of Henry V.
and the cry of Mounljoy Saint Dennis
strangled all our factions. The same
question of succession was played off on
the death of Henry III. The parliament
*»f that day issued the famous edict


which gave Henry IV. and Louis

XIV. to France. These were never-
theless not ignoble heads — those of Ed-
ward III., Henry V., the Duke of Guise,
and the Infant of Spain. Great God !
what, then, has become of the pride of
France ! She refused such great sove-
reigns in order to preserve the French
and royal race, and she made choice of
Bonaparte; nay, his detested birthday
(15th August) impiously appears in al!
our almanacs as the day of Saint Napo-
leon ! ! Will posterity believe what we
have seen — what we still see ? # * *

.34. d& •«• dfc -Tfr
^ w w tF *»F

Bonaparte has nothing French in his?
manners or character. His very features
show his origin. The language which
he learnt in his cradle is not ours, and
his accent, like his name, betrays his
country. His father and mother lived


the half of their lives subjects of the Re-
public of Genoa* He is more sincere
than his flatterers ; he would not acknow-
ledge himself a Frenchman : he hates
and despises us. He has been often
heard to say, it's just like you, ye French
###### #— In common conver-
sation he spoke of Italy as his country,
and of France as his conquest. If Bona-
parte is a Frenchman we must necessa-
rily admit that Toussaint Louverture
was as much, or more so than he;
for in truth he was born in an old French
colony, and under French laws; the
freedom which he received gave him the
rights of subject and citizen, and a fo-
reigner, brought up by the charity of our
kings, occupies the throne of our kings,
and incessantly pants to shed our blood !
We watched over his youth, and in gra-
titude he plunges us into an abyss of
wretchedness !


How delightful it will be to repose at
length, after so many troubles and suffer-
ings, under the paternal authority of our
legitimate sovereign !

We have a legitimate prince, born of
our blood, educated among us, whom we
know, who knows us, who has our man-
ners, tastes, habits, for whom we prayed
to God in our youth, whose name our
children know as well as that of their
nearest neighbours, and whose fore*
fathers lived and died with ours.

If the re-establishment of the house of
Bourbon is necessary to France, it is not
less so to all Europe.

To advert at first only to private rea-
sons, is there a man in the world who
would put any confidence in the word
of Bonaparte 1 Is it not one of the
first points of his policy as well the in-


clination of his heart, to make talent con-
sist in deceiving, to look upon good faith
as folly and the mark of a narrow mind,
and to laugh at the sanctity of oaths f
Has he kept a single one of the treaties
which he made with the different powers
of Europe 1 It was always by violating
some article of these treaties, and in full
peace, that he made Ms most brilliant

Other powers, so often deceived, could
they at once resume a security which
might ruin them ? What, can they so
soon have forgotten the pride of the ad-
venturer who treated them with so much
insolence, who boasted of having kings in
his antechamber, who sent to signify his
orders to sovereigns, established spies
even in their courts, and said openly that
before ten years his dynasty would be
the oldest in Europe ! Can kings treat


with a man who has heaped upon them
outrages which a simple individual could
not brook ? A lovely queen, who was
the admiration of Europe for her beauty,
her courage, and her virtues, was by him
precipitated into an untimely grave, by
the most cowardly, as well as low insults
and injuries. The sacredness of kings
as well as decency, restrains me from
repeating the calumnies, the rudeness,
and vulgar, coarse pleasantries which, in
turn, he has poured out against those
very kings and their ministers, who to-
day dictate laws to him in his palace*
If the rulers of other nations despise
these outrages personally, they cannot,
and they ought not to despise them for
the interest and majesty of thrones : they
owe it even to the happiness of their
people, to make themselves respected by
them, by breaking the sword of the usur-


per, and dishonouring forever that abomi-
liable right of the strongest, on which Bo-
naparte founded his pride and his empire.
It deeply concerns the tranquillity and
welfare of the people ; it concerns the
security of crowns, the lives and families
of sovereigns, that a man, sprung out of
the inferior ranks of society, should not
with impunity seat himself on the throne
of his master, take place among legiti-
mate sovereigns, treat them as brothers,
and find in the revolutions which raised
him, sufficient strength to balance the
rights of the legitimacy of his race. If
this example is once given to the world,
no monarch can reckon on his crown.
Let them be very careful ; all the mon-
archies of Europe are very nearly daugh-
ters of the same manners and the same
times ; all kings are, in reality, a species
of brothers, united by the Christian re-


iigion, and the antiquity of dear and nch
ble recollections. This beautiful an$
great system once broken, new races,
seated on the thrones, will make other
manners reign — other principles — other
ideas. It is done then for ancient Eu-
rope ; and in the course of some years,
a general revolution will have changed
the succession of all its sovereigns. Rings
then must take the defence of the house
of Bourbon, as they would that of their
own family. What is true in this as re-
gards royalty is equally so considered
as it respects natural relations. There
is not a king in Europe who has not
Bourbon blood in his veins, and who
does not see in them illustrious and un-
fortunate relations. The people have
been but too much taught that thrones
may be convulsed. It rests with kings
now to show them, that if thrones can


be shaken, they cannot be destroyed;
that for the happiness of the world,
crowns do not depend on the successes
of crime and the sports of fortune.

Paris, like Athens, has seen foreign-
ers enter her walls, who h 've respected
her in remembrance of her glory and her
great men. Eighty thousand conquering
soldiers have slept by the side of our
citizens without troubling their slumbers,
without committing the smallest violence,
without even singing a song of triumph.
These are liberators, and not conquer-
ors. Immortal honour to the sovereigns
who have given to the world a similar
example of moderation in the midst of
victory! What injuries they had to
avenge! But they did not confound
Frenchmen with the tyrant who oppres-
ses them. So have they already reaped
the fruits of their magnanimity. They


have been received by the inhabitants
of Paris as if they had been our true
monarchs — as French Princes — as, Bour-
bons. We shall soon behold the de-
scendants of Henry the Fourth ; Alex-
ander has promised them to us ; he re-
collects that the marriage contract of the
Duke and Duchess of Angouleme are de-
posited in the archives of Russia. He
has faithfully preserved the last public
act of our lawful government; he has
brought it back to the treasury of our
charters, where we will preserve in our
turn the recital of his entry into PARIS 9
as one of the greatest and most glorious
monuments of history.

At the same time let us not separate
from the two sovereigns who are now
among us that other sovereign who makes
to the cause of kings and to the repose
of tlie people the greatest of sacrifices;

72 '

may be find as a monarch and a father
the recompense of his virtues in the com-
passion, the gratitude, and the admiration
of the French.

Frenchmen ! friends, companions in

misfortune, let us forget our quarrels, our

hatreds, our errors, to save the country ;

let us embrace each other on the ruins

ef our dear native land ; and that, calling

to our succour the heir of Henry IV.,

and of Louis XIV., he should come to

dry up the tears of his children, restore

happiness to his family, and charitably

throw over our wounds the mantle of

Saint Louis, half torn to pieces by our

own hands. Let us deeply ponder over

all the evils which we feel, the loss of

our property, of our armies, the horrors

of invasion, the butchery of our children,

the trouble and the decomposition of all

France, the loss of our liberties, and


seriously re fleet that all this is the work
of one single man, and that we owe all
the opposite blessings to an omnipotent,
overruling Providence, through whose
wisdom and goodness, after a long night
of darkness and death, light and mercy
have come among us from all parts of
Europe with healing in their wings J
Let us, then, cause to be heard on all
sides the only shout which can save us,
that sacred, soul-transporting Paean which
our fathers made to resound in misfor-
tune as in victory, and which shall be
for us the signal of Peace and Happi-
ness: Long, Long Live the King!






1 Expende Jnnibalem . — qvot libras in duce swnmo

1 Jnvenies ?" Juvknal, Sat, X.





'Tis bonb — but .yesterday a King!

And arm'd with kings to strive —
And now thou art a nameless thing

So abject — yet alive !
Is this the man of thousand thrones,
Who strew' d our earth with hostile bone^

And can he thus survive ?
Since he, miscall'd the Morning Star,
Nor man, nor fiend, hath falFn so far*



Ill-minded man! why scourge thy kin^
Who bow'd so low the knee ?

By gazing on thyself grown blind,
Thou taught' st the rest to see.

With might unquestion'd — power to save,

Thine only gift hath been the grave
To those that worshipp'd thee ;

Nor till thy fall could mortals guess

Ambition's less than littleness !


Thanks for that lesson — it will teach

To after warriors more
Than high philosophy can preach,

And vainly preach' d before.
That spell upon the minds of men
Breaks, never to unite again,

That led them to adore
Those Pagod things of sabre-sway,
With fronts of brass, and feet of clay.



The triumph, and the vanity,
The rapture of the strife ;(a)

The earthquake voice of victory,
To thee the breath of life ;

The sword, the sceptre, and that sway

Which man seem'd made but to obey,
Wherewith renown was life —

All quell'd — Dark spirit ! what must be

The madness of thy memory !


The desolator desolate !

The victor overthrown !
The arbiter of others' fate

A suppliant for his own !
Is it some yet imperial hope
That with such. change can calmly cope ?

Or dread of death alone ?
To die a prince — or live a slave —
Thy choice is most ignobly brave !



He who of old would rend the oak
Dreamed not of the rebound ;

Chained by the trunk he vainly broke
Alone — how look'd he round !

Thou in the sternness of thy strength

An equal deed hast done at length,
And darker fate hast found :

He fell, the forest-prowlers' prey ;

But thou must eat thy heart away !


The Roman, when his burning heart
Was slaked with blood of Rome,
Threw down the dagger — dared depart

In savage grandeur home. —
He dared depart, in utter scorn
Of men that such a yoke had borne.

Yet left him such a doom !
His only glory was that hour
Of self-upheld abandon'd pow r er.



The Spaniard, when the lust of sway
Had lost its quickening spell, -

Cast crowns for rosaries away,
An empire for a cell.

A strict accountant of his beads,

A subtle disputant in creeds,
His dotage trifled well :

Yet better had he neither known

A bigot's shrine nor despot's throne.


But thou — from thy reluctant hand

The thunderbolt is rung —
Too late thou hear'st the high command

To which thy weakness clung :
All Evil Spirit as thou art,
It is enough to grieve the heart

To see thine own unstrung ;
To think that God's fair world hath been
The footstool of a thing so mean.



And earth hath spilt her blood for him

Who thus can hoard his own !
And monarchs bow'd the trembling limb,

And thank'd him for a throne !
Fair Freedom ! we may hold thee dear,
When thus thy mightiest foes their fear

In humblest guise have shown.
O ! ne'er may tyrant leave behind
A brighter name to lure mankind.


Thine evil deeds are writ in gore,

Nor written thus in vain —
Thy triumphs tell of fame no more,

Or deepen every stain. —
If thou hadst died as honour dies,
Some new Napoleon might arise,

To shame the world again.
But who would soar the solar height
To set in such a starless night ?



Weighed in the balance, hero dust

Is vile as vulgar clay ;
Thy scales, mortality ! are just

To all that pass away ;
But yet methought the living great
Some higher sparks should animate,

To dazzle and dismay ;
Nor deem'd Contempt could thus make mirth
Of these, the conquerors of the earth,


And she, proud Austria's mournful flower,

Thy still imperial bride ;
How bears her breast the torturing hour ?

Still clings she to thy side ?
Must she too bend, must she too share
Thy late repentance, long despair,

Thou throneless homicide ?
If still she loves thee, hoard that gem,
'Tis worth thv vanish'd diadem !



Then haste thee to thy sullen isk;.

And gaze upon the sea ;
That element may meet thy smile :

It ne'er was rul'd by thee !
Or trace with thine all idle hand,
In loitering mood upon the sand,

That earth is now as free !
That Corinth's pedagogue hath how
Transferred his by- word to thy brow-


Thou Timour! in his captive's cage

What thoughts will there be thine*
While brooding in thy prison'd rage ?

But one — " The world was mine. ,?
Unless, like he of Babylon,
All sense is with thy sceptre gone,

Life will not long confine
That spirit poured so widely forth —
So long obeyed — so little worth '



Or like the thief, of fire from heaven
Wilt thou withstand the shock,
And share with him, the unforgiven,

His vulture and his rock ?
Foredoomed by God, by man accurst,
And that last act, though not thy worst s

The very fiend's arch mock ;(&)
He in his fall preserved his pride,
And if a mortal, had as proudly died !

57 ^


iAS/n _6^^


- ,0— •>-■ vr-N




nnr^P 1 -



^^a -/?*^#y?Ofl?




:^ n AAA

'' :' ' 'A

NftAAAAW'- m»K

l A»«



{ %mmfo





1 3

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