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wars were attracted back by Bonaparte's politic clemency; and the
festival of July 9th at Milan, which graced the inauguration of the
new Government, presented a scene of civic joy to which that unhappy
province had long been a stranger. A vast space was thronged with an
enormous crowd which took up the words of the civic oath uttered by
the President. The Archbishop of Milan celebrated Mass and blessed the
banners of the National Guards; and the day closed with games, dances,
and invocations to the memory of the Italians who had fought and died
for their nascent liberties. Amidst all the vivas and the clash of
bells Bonaparte took care to sound a sterner note. On that very day
he ordered the suppression of a Milanese club which had indulged in
Jacobinical extravagances, and he called on the people "to show to the
world by their wisdom, energy, and by the good organization of their
army, that modern Italy has not degenerated and is still worthy of

The contagion of Milanese enthusiasm spread rapidly. Some of the
Venetian towns on the mainland now petitioned for union with the
Cisalpine Republic; and the deputies of the Cispadane, who were
present at the festival, urgently begged that their little State might
enjoy the same privilege. Hitherto Bonaparte had refused these
requests, lest he should hamper the negotiations with Austria, which
were still tardily proceeding; but within a month their wish was
gratified, and the Cispadane State was united to the larger and more
vigorous republic north of the River Po, along with the important
districts of Como, Bergamo, Brescia, Crema, and Peschiera.
Disturbances in the Swiss district of the Valteline soon enabled
Bonaparte to intervene on behalf of the oppressed peasants, and to
merge this territory also in the Cisalpine Republic, which
consequently stretched from the high Alps southward to Rimini, and
from the Ticino on the west to the Mincio on the east.[81]

Already, during his sojourn at the Castle of Montebello, Bonaparte
figured as the all-powerful proconsul of the French Republic. Indeed,
all his surroundings - his retinue of complaisant generals, and the
numerous envoys and agents who thronged his ante-chambers to beg an
audience - befitted a Sulla or a Wallenstein, rather than a general of
the regicide Republic. Three hundred Polish soldiers guarded the
approaches to the castle; and semi-regal state was also observed in
its spacious corridors and saloons. There were to be seen Italian
nobles, literati, and artists, counting it the highest honour to visit
the liberator of their land; and to them Bonaparte behaved with that
mixture of affability and inner reserve, of seductive charm
alternating with incisive cross-examination which proclaimed at once
the versatility of his gifts, the keenness of his intellect, and his
determination to gain social, as well as military and political,
supremacy. And yet the occasional abruptness of his movements, and the
strident tones of command lurking beneath his silkiest speech, now and
again reminded beholders that he was of the camp rather than of the
court. To his generals he was distant; for any fault even his
favourite officers felt the full force of his anger; and aides-de-camp
were not often invited to dine at his table. Indeed, he frequently
dined before his retinue, almost in the custom of the old Kings of

With him was his mother, also his brothers, Joseph and Louis, whom he
was rapidly advancing to fortune. There, too, were his sisters; Elise,
proud and self-contained, who at this period married a noble but
somewhat boorish Corsican, Bacciocchi; and Pauline, a charming girl of
sixteen, whose hand the all-powerful brother offered to Marmont, to be
by him unaccountably refused, owing, it would seem, to a prior
attachment. This lively and luxurious young creature was not long to
remain unwedded. The adjutant-general, Leclerc, became her suitor;
and, despite his obscure birth and meagre talents, speedily gained her
as his bride. Bonaparte granted her 40,000 francs as her dowry;
and - significant fact - the nuptials were privately blessed by a priest
in the chapel of the Palace of Montebello.

There, too, at Montebello was Josephine.

Certainly the Bonapartes were not happy in their loves: the one dark
side to the young conqueror's life, all through this brilliant
campaign, was the cruelty of his bride. From her side he had in March,
1796, torn himself away, distracted between his almost insane love for
her and his determination to crush the chief enemy of France: to her
he had written long and tender letters even amidst the superhuman
activities of his campaign. Ten long despatches a day had not
prevented him covering as many sheets of paper with protestations of
devotion to her and with entreaties that she would likewise pour out
her heart to him. Then came complaints, some tenderly pleading, others
passionately bitter, of her cruelly rare and meagre replies. The sad
truth, that Josephine cares much for his fame and little for him
himself, that she delays coming to Italy, these and other afflicting
details rend his heart. At last she comes to Milan, after a
passionate outburst of weeping - at leaving her beloved Paris. In Italy
she shows herself scarcely more than affectionate to her doting
spouse. Marlborough's letters to his peevish duchess during the
Blenheim campaign are not more crowded with maudlin curiosities than
those of the fierce scourge of the Austrians to his heartless fair. He
writes to her agonizingly, begging her to be less lovely, less
gracious, less good - apparently in order that he may love her less
madly: but she is never to be jealous, and, above all, never to weep:
for her tears burn his blood: and he concludes by sending millions of
kisses, and also to her dog! And this mad effusion came from the man
whom the outside world took to be of steel-like coldness: yet his
nature had this fevered, passionate side, just as the moon, where she
faces the outer void, is compact of ice, but turns a front of molten
granite to her blinding, all-compelling luminary.

Undoubtedly this blazing passion helped to spur on the lover to that
terrific energy which makes the Italian campaign unique even amidst
the Napoleonic wars. Beaulieu, Würmser, and Alvintzy were not rivals
in war; they were tiresome hindrances to his unsated love. On the eve
of one of his greatest triumphs he penned to her the following

"I am far from you, I seem to be surrounded by the blackest night:
I need the lurid light of the thunder-bolts which we are about to
hurl on our enemies to dispel the darkness into which your absence
has plunged me. Josephine, you wept when we parted: you wept! At
that thought all my being trembles. But be consoled! Würmser shall
pay dearly for the tears which I have seen you shed."

What infatuation! to appease a woman's fancied grief, he will pile
high the plains of Mincio with corpses, recking not of the thousand
homes where bitter tears will flow. It is the apotheosis of
sentimental egotism and social callousness. And yet this brain, with
its moral vision hopelessly blurred, judged unerringly in its own
peculiar plane. What power it must have possessed, that, unexhausted
by the flames of love, it grasped infallibly the myriad problems of
war, scanning them the more clearly, perchance, in the white heat of
its own passion.

At last there came the time of fruition at Montebello: of fruition,
but not of ease or full contentment; for not only did an average of
eight despatches a day claim several hours, during which he jealously
guarded his solitude; but Josephine's behaviour served to damp his
ardour. As, during the time of absence, she had slighted his urgent
entreaties for a daily letter, so too, during the sojourn at
Montebello, she revealed the shallowness and frivolity of her being.
Fêtes, balls, and receptions, provided they were enlivened by a light
crackle of compliments from an admiring circle, pleased her more than
the devotion of a genius. She had admitted, before marriage, that her
"Creole _nonchalance_" shrank wearily away from his keen and ardent
nature; and now, when torn away from the _salons_ of Paris, she seems
to have taken refuge in entertainments and lap-dogs.[82] Doubtless
even at this period Josephine evinced something of that warm feeling
which deepened with ripening years and lit up her later sorrows with a
mild radiance; but her recent association with Madame Tallien and that
giddy _cohue_ had accentuated her habits of feline complaisance to all
and sundry. Her facile fondnesses certainly welled forth far too
widely to carve out a single channel of love and mingle with the deep
torrent of Bonaparte's early passion. In time, therefore, his
affections strayed into many other courses; and it would seen that
even in the later part of this Italian epoch his conduct was
irregular. For this Josephine had herself mainly to thank. At last she
awakened to the real value and greatness of the love which her neglect
had served to dull and tarnish, but then it was too late for complete
reunion of souls: the Corsican eagle had by that time soared far
beyond reach of her highest flutterings.[83]

At Montebello, as also at Passeriano, whither the Austrian
negotiations were soon transferred, Bonaparte, though strictly
maintaining the ceremonies of his proconsular court, yet showed the
warmth of his social instincts. After the receptions of the day and
the semi-public dinner, he loved to unbend in the evening. Sometimes,
when Josephine formed a party of ladies for _vingt-et-un_, he would
withdraw to a corner and indulge in the game of _goose_; and
bystanders noted with amusement that his love of success led him to
play tricks and cheat in order not to "fall into the pit." At other
times, if the conversation languished, he proposed that each person
should tell a story; and when no Boccaccio-like facility inspired the
company, he sometimes launched out into one of those eerie and
thrilling recitals, such as he must often have heard from the
_improvisatori_ of his native island. Bourrienne states that
Bonaparte's realism required darkness and daggers for the full display
of his gifts, and that the climax of his dramatic monologue was not
seldom enhanced by the screams of the ladies, a consummation which
gratified rather than perturbed the accomplished actor.

A survey of Bonaparte's multifarious activity in Italy enables the
reader to realize something of the wonder and awe excited by his
achievements. Like an Athena he leaped forth from the Revolution,
fully armed for every kind of contest. His mental superiority
impressed diplomats as his strategy baffled the Imperialist generals;
and now he was to give further proofs of his astuteness by
intervening in the internal affairs of France.

In order to understand Bonaparte's share in the _coup d'état_ of
Fructidor, we must briefly review the course of political events at
Paris. At the time of the installation of the Directory the hope was
widely cherished that the Revolution was now entirely a thing of the
past. But the unrest of the time was seen in the renewal of the
royalist revolts in the west, and in the communistic plot of Babeuf
for the overthrow of the whole existing system of private property.
The aims of these desperadoes were revealed by an accomplice; the
ringleaders were arrested, and after a long trial Babeuf was
guillotined and his confederates were transported (May, 1797). The
disclosure of these ultra-revolutionary aims shocked not only the
bourgeois, but even the peasants who were settled on the confiscated
lands of the nobles and clergy. The very class which had given to the
events of 1789 their irresistible momentum was now inclined to rest
and be thankful; and in this swift revulsion of popular feeling the
royalists began to gain ground. The elections for the renewal of a
third part of the Councils resulted in large gains for them, and they
could therefore somewhat influence the composition of the Directory by
electing Barthélemy, a constitutional royalist. Still, he could not
overbear the other four regicide Directors, even though one of these,
Carnot, also favoured moderate opinions more and more. A crisis
therefore rapidly developed between the still Jacobinical Directory
and the two legislative Councils, in each of which the royalists, or
moderates, had the upper hand. The aim of this majority was to
strengthen the royalist elements in France by the repeal of many
revolutionary laws. Their man of action was Pichegru, the conqueror of
Holland, who, abjuring Jacobinism, now schemed with a club of
royalists, which met at Clichy, on the outskirts of Paris. That their
intrigues aimed at the restoration of the Bourbons had recently been
proved. The French agents in Venice seized the Comte d'Entraigues, the
confidante of the _soi-disant_ Louis XVIII.; and his papers, when
opened by Bonaparte, Clarke, and Berthier at Montebello, proved that
there was a conspiracy in France for the recall of the Bourbons. With
characteristic skill, Bonaparte held back these papers from the
Directory until he had mastered the difficulties of the situation. As
for the count, he released him; and in return for this signal act of
clemency, then very unusual towards an _émigré_, he soon became the
object of his misrepresentation and slander.

The political crisis became acute in July, when the majority
of the Councils sought to force on the Directory Ministers who
would favour moderate or royalist aims. Three Directors, Barras, La
Réveillière-Lépeaux, and Rewbell, refused to listen to these behests,
and insisted on the appointment of Jacobinical Ministers even in the
teeth of a majority of the Councils. This defiance of the deputies of
France was received with execration by most civilians, but with
jubilant acclaim by the armies; for the soldiery, far removed from the
partisan strifes of the capital, still retained their strongly
republican opinions. The news that their conduct towards Venice was
being sharply criticised by the moderates in Paris aroused their
strongest feelings, military pride and democratic ardour.

Nevertheless, Bonaparte's conduct was eminently cautious and reserved.
In the month of May he sent to Paris his most trusted aide-de-camp,
Lavalette, instructing him to sound all parties, to hold aloof from
all engagements, and to report to him dispassionately on the state of
public opinion.[84] Lavalette judged the position of the Directory, or
rather of the Triumvirate which swayed it, to be so precarious that he
cautioned his chief against any definite espousal of its cause; and in
June-July, 1797, Bonaparte almost ceased to correspond with the
Directors except on Italian affairs, probably because he looked
forward to their overthrow as an important step towards his own
supremacy. There was, however, the possibility of a royalist reaction
sweeping all before it in France and ranging the armies against the
civil power. He therefore waited and watched, fully aware of the
enhanced importance which an uncertain situation gives to the outsider
who refuses to show his hand.

Duller eyes than his had discerned that the constitutional conflict
between the Directory and the Councils could not be peaceably
adjusted. The framers of the constitution had designed the slowly
changing Directory as a check on the Councils, which were renewed to
the extent of one-third every year; but, while seeking to put a
regicide drag on the parliamentary coach, they had omitted to provide
against a complete overturn. The Councils could not legally override
the Directory; neither could the Directory veto the decrees of the
Councils, nor, by dissolving them, compel an appeal to the country.
This defect in the constitution had been clearly pointed out by
Necker, and it now drew from Barras the lament:

"Ah, if the constitution of the Year III., which offers so many
sage precautions, had not neglected one of the most important; if
it had foreseen that the two great powers of the State, engaged in
heated debates, must end with open conflicts, when there is no high
court of appeal to arrange them; if it had sufficiently armed the
Directory with the right of dissolving the Chamber!"[85]

As it was, the knot had to be severed by the sword: not, as yet, by
Bonaparte's trenchant blade: he carefully drew back; but where as yet
he feared to tread, Hoche rushed in. This ardently republican general
was inspired by a self-denying patriotism, that flinched not before
odious duties. While Bonaparte was culling laurels in Northern Italy,
Hoche was undertaking the most necessary task of quelling the Vendéan
risings, and later on braved the fogs and storms of the Atlantic in
the hope of rousing all Ireland in revolt. His expedition to Bantry
Bay in December, 1796, having miscarried, he was sent into the
Rhineland. The conclusion of peace by Bonaparte at Leoben again dashed
his hopes, and he therefore received with joy the orders of the
Directory that he should march a large part of his army to Brest for a
second expedition to Ireland. The Directory, however, intended to use
those troops nearer home, and appointed him Minister of War (July
16th). The choice was a good one; Hoche was active, able, and popular
with the soldiery; but he had not yet reached the thirtieth year of
his age, the limit required by the constitution. On this technical
defect the majority of the Councils at once fastened; and their
complaints were redoubled when a large detachment of his troops came
within the distance of the capital forbidden to the army. The
moderates could therefore accuse the triumvirs and Hoche of conspiracy
against the laws; he speedily resigned the Ministry (July 22nd), and
withdrew his troops into Champagne, and finally to the Rhineland.

Now was the opportunity for Bonaparte to take up the _rôle_ of
Cromwell which Hoche had so awkwardly played. And how skilfully the
conqueror of Italy plays it - through subordinates. He was too well
versed in statecraft to let his sword flash before the public gaze. By
this time he had decided to act, and doubtless the fervid Jacobinism
of the soldiery was the chief cause determining his action. At the
national celebration on July 14th he allowed it to have free vent, and
thereupon wrote to the Directory, bitterly reproaching them for their
weakness in face of the royalist plot: "I see that the Clichy Club
means to march over my corpse to the destruction of the Republic." He
ended the diatribe by his usual device, when he desired to remind the
Government of his necessity to them, of offering his resignation, in
case they refused to take vigorous measures against the malcontents.
Yet even now his action was secret and indirect. On July 27th he sent
to the Directors a brief note stating that Augereau had requested
leave to go to Paris, "where his affairs call him"; and that he sent
by this general the originals of the addresses of the army, avowing
its devotion to the constitution. No one would suspect from this that
Augereau was in Bonaparte's confidence and came to carry out the
_coup d'état_. The secret was well preserved. Lavalette was
Bonaparte's official representative; and his neutrality was now
maintained in accordance with a note received from his chief:
"Augereau is coming to Paris: do not put yourself in his power: he has
sown disorder in the army: he is a factious man."

But, while Lavalette was left to trim his sails as best he might,
Augereau was certain to act with energy. Bonaparte knew well that his
Jacobinical lieutenant, famed as the first swordsman of the day, and
the leader of the fighting division of the army, would do his work
thoroughly, always vaunting his own prowess and decrying that of his
commander. It was so. Augereau rushed to Paris, breathing threats of
slaughter against the royalists. Checked for a time by the calculating
_finesse_ of the triumvirs, he prepared to end matters by a single
blow; and, when the time had come, he occupied the strategic points of
the capital, drew a cordon of troops round the Tuileries, where the
Councils sat, invaded the chambers of deputies and consigned to the
Temple the royalists and moderates there present, with their leader,
Pichegru. Barthélemy was also seized; but Carnot, warned by a friend,
fled during the early hours of this eventful day - September 4th (or 18
Fructidor). The mutilated Councils forthwith annulled the late
elections in forty-nine Departments, and passed severe laws against
orthodox priests and the unpardoned _émigrés_ who had ventured to
return to France. The Directory was also intrusted with complete power
to suppress newspapers, to close political clubs, and to declare any
commune in a state of siege. Its functions were now wellnigh as
extensive and absolute as those of the Committee of Public Safety, its
powers being limited only by the incompetence of the individual
Directors and by their paralyzing consciousness that they ruled only
by favour of the army. They had taken the sword to solve a political
problem: two years later they were to fall by that sword.[86]

Augereau fully expected that he would be one of the two Directors who
were elected in place of Carnot and Barthélemy; but the Councils had
no higher opinion of his civic capacity than Bonaparte had formed;
and, to his great disgust, Merlin of Douai and François of Neufchâtel
were chosen. The last scenes of the _coup d'état_ centred around the
transportation of the condemned deputies. One of the early memories of
the future Duc de Broglie recalled the sight of the "_députés
fructidorisés_ travelling in closed carriages, railed up like cages,"
to the seaport whence they were to sail to the lingering agonies of a
tropical prison in French Guiana.

It was a painful spectacle: "the indignation was great, but the
consternation was greater still. Everybody foresaw the renewal of the
Reign of Terror and resignedly prepared for it."

Such were the feelings, even of those who, like Madame de Staël and
her friend Benjamin Constant, had declared before the _coup d'état_
that it was necessary to the salvation of the Republic. That
accomplished woman was endowed with nearly every attribute of genius
except political foresight and self-restraint. No sooner had the blow
been dealt than she fell to deploring its results, which any
fourth-rate intelligence might have foreseen. "Liberty was the only
power really conquered" - such was her later judgment on Fructidor. Now
that Liberty fled affrighted, the errant enthusiasms of the gifted
authoress clung for a brief space to Bonaparte. Her eulogies on his
exploits, says Lavalette, who listened to her through a dinner in
Talleyrand's rooms, possessed all the mad disorder and exaggeration of
inspiration; and, after the repast was over, the votaress refused to
pass out before an aide-de-camp of Bonaparte! The incident is
characteristic both of Madame de Staël's moods and of the whims of the
populace. Amidst the disenchantments of that time, when the pursuit of
liberty seemed but an idle quest, when royalists were the champions of
parliamentary rule and republicans relied on military force, all eyes
turned wearily away from the civic broils at Paris to the visions of
splendour revealed by the conqueror of Italy. Few persons knew how
largely their new favourite was responsible for the events of
Fructidor; all of them had by heart the names of his victories; and
his popularity flamed to the skies when he recrossed the Alps,
bringing with him a lucrative peace with Austria.

The negotiations with that Power had dragged on slowly through the
whole summer and far into the autumn, mainly owing to the hopes of the
Emperor Francis that the disorder in France would filch from her the
meed of victory. Doubtless that would have been the case, had not
Bonaparte, while striking down the royalists at Paris through his
lieutenant, remained at the head of his victorious legions in Venetia
ready again to invade Austria, if occasion should arise.

In some respects, the _coup d'état_ of Fructidor helped on the
progress of the negotiations. That event postponed, if it did not
render impossible, the advent of civil war in France; and, like
Pride's Purge in our civil strifes, it installed in power a Government
which represented the feelings of the army and of its chief. Moreover,
it rid him of the presence of Clarke, his former colleague in the
negotiations, whose relations with Carnot aroused the suspicions of
Barras and led to his recall. Bonaparte was now the sole

Online LibraryJohn Holland RoseThe Life of Napoleon I (Complete) → online text (page 13 of 94)