John S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) Abbott.

History of Joseph Bonaparte, king of Naples and of Italy online

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Entered, according to Act of CoDgress, in the year 1S69, by

IlAErER & Brotuers,

In tlic Clerk's Onice of the District Court of the United States fur
the Southern District of New York.




The writer trusts that he may be pardoned
for relating the following characteristic anec-
dote of President Lincoln, as it so fully illus-
trates the object in view in writing these his-
tories. In a conversation which the writer had
with the President just before his death, Mr.
Lincoln said :

" I want to thank you and your brother for
Abbotts' series of Histories. I have not edu-
cation enough to appreciate the profound works
of voluminous historians, and if I had, I have

no time to read them. But your series of Ilis-
^ torics gives me, in brief compass, just that

J knowledge of past men and events which I

need. I have read them with the greatest in-
terest. To them I am indebted for about all
'^ the historical knowledge I have."
6 It is for just this purpose that these Ilisto-

rics are written. Busy men, in tliis busy life,

■^ have now no time to wade through ponderous

folios. And yet every one wishes to know the



general character and acliievements of the il-
lustrious personages of past ages,

A few years ago there was published in
Paris a life of King Joseph, in ten royal oc-
tavo volumes of nearly five hundred pages
each. It was entitled " Memoires et Correspond-
ance, Politique et Militaire, du Roi Joseph^ Puhlih,
Annates et Mis en Ordre par A. du Casse, Aide-
de-camp de S. A. I. Le Prince Jerome Napole-
on.'''' These volumes contained nearly all the
correspondence which passed between Joseph
and his brother Napoleon from their childhood
until after the battle of Waterloo. Every his-
torical statement is substantiated by unequivo-
cal documentary evidence.

From this voluminous work, aided by other
historical accounts of particular events, the au-
thor of this sketch has gathered all that would
be of particular interest to the general reader
at the present time. As all the facts contained
in this narrative are substantiated by ample
documentary proof, the writer can not doubt
that this volume presents an accurate account
of the momentous scenes which it describes,
and that it gives the reader a correct idea of
the social and political relations existing be-
tween those extraordinary men, Joseph and
Napoleon Bonaparte. It is not necessary that


the historian should pronounce judgment upon
every transaction. ]5ut he is bound to state
every event exactly as it occurred.

No one can read this account of the strug-
gle in Europe /n/aro?' of popular rigJtts against
the old dynasties of feudal oppression, without
more highly appreciating the admirable insti-
tutions of our own glorious Republic. Neither
can any intelligent and candid man carefully
peruse this narrative, and not admit that Jo-
seph Bonaparte was earnestly seeking the wel-
fare of the 2^eople ; that, surrounded by dynas-
ties strong in standing armies, in pride of nobil-
ity, and which were venerable through a life of
centuries, he was endeavoring to promote, un-
der monarchical forms, which the posture of af-
fairs seemed to render necessary, the abolition
of aristocratic usurpafioji, and the establishment
of equal rights for all men. Believing this, the
writer sympathizes with him in all his strug-
gles, and reveres his memory. The universal
brotherhood of man, the fundamental principles
of Christianity, should also be the fundamental
principles in the State. Having spared no pains
to be accurate, the writer will be grateful to any
critic who w'ill point out any incorrectness of
statement or false coloring of facts, that he may
make the correction in subsequent editions.


This volume will soon be followed by an-
other, " The History of Queen Hortense," the
daughter of Josephine, the wife of King Louis,
the mother of Napoleon III.

John S. C. Abbott.

Fair Haven, Conn., )
May, 18G9. )


Chapter Pago





















ISH SENATE - - 198







Scenes in Early Life.

Corsica. Parentage.

THE island of Corsica, in the Mediterranean
Sea, sixty miles from the coast of Tuscany,
is about half as large as the State of Massachu-
setts. In the year 1767 this island was one of
the provinces of Italy. There was then resid-
ing, in the small town of Corte, in Corsica, a
young lawyer nineteen years of age. He was
the descendant ofan illustrious race, which could
be traced back, through a succession of distin-
guished men, far into the dark ages. Charles
Bonaparte, the young man of whom we speak,
was tall, handsome, and possessed strong native
powers of mind, which he had highly cultivated.
In the same place there was a young lady, Le-
titia llaniolini, remarkable for her beauty and
her accomplishments. She also was of an an-
cient family. ^Yhcn but sixteen years of age

14 Joseph Bonaparte. [1768.

Birth of Joseph Bonaparte Joumej to France.

Letitia was married to Charles Bonaparte, then
but nineteen years old.

About a year after their marriage, od the 7th
of January, 1768, they welcomed their first-born
child, Joseph ]S"apoleon Bonaparte. In nine-
teen months after the birth of Joseph, his world-
renowned brother Napoleon was born. But in
the mean time the island had been transferred
to France. Thus while Joseph was by birth
an Italian, his brother ISTapoleon was a French-

Charles Bonaparte occupied high positions
of trust and honor in the government of Corsica,
and his family took rank with the most distin-
guished families in Italy and in France. Joseph
passed the first twelve years of his life upon his
native island. He was ever a boy of studious
habits, and of singular amiability of character.
When he was twelve years of age his father
took him, with Xapoleon and their elder sister
Eliza, to France for their education. Leopold,
the grand duke of Tuscany, gave Charles Bona-
parte letters of introduction to Maria Antoi-
nette, his sister, who was then the beautiful and
admired Queen of France.

Leaving Joseph at the college of Autun, in
Burgundy, the father continued his journey to

1780.] Scenes in Early Life. 15

Fraternal Attachment. Character of Joseph.

Paris, with Kapoleon and Eliza. Eliza was
placed in the celebrated boarding-school of St.
Cyr, in the metropolis, and IS'apoleon was taken
to the military school at Brieune, a few miles
out from the city. The father was received as
a guest in the gorgeous palace of Versailles.
Joseph and Napoleon were very strongly at-
tached to each other, and this attachment con-
tinued unabated through life. When the two
lads parted at Autun both were much afiected.
Joseph, subsequently speaking of it, says :

" I shall never forget the moment of our sep-
aration. My eyes were flooded with tears. Xa-
poleon shed but one tear, which he in vain en-
deavored to conceal. The abbe Simon, who
witnessed our adieus, said to me, after Napo-
leon's departure, ' He shed only one tear ; but
that one testified to as deep grief in parting from
you as all of yours.' "

The two brothers kept up a very constant
correspondence, informing each other minutely
of their studies, and of the books in which they
were interested. Joseph became one of the
most distinguished scholars in the college of
Autun, excelling in all the branches of polite
literature. He was a very handsome young
man, of polished manners, and of unblemished

16 Joseph Bonaparte. [1782.

Prince of Conde. Anecdote.

purity of life. His natural kindness of heart,
combined with these attractions, rendered him
a universal favorite.

Autun was in the province of Burgundy, of
which the Prince of Cond6, grandfather of the
celebrated Duke d'Enghien, was governor. The
prince attended an exhibition at the college, to
assist in the distribution of the prizes. Joseph
acquitted himself with so much honor as to at-
tract the attention of the prince, and he inquired
of him what profession he intended to pursue.
Joseph, in tlie following words, describes this
eventful incident:

" The solemn day arrived. I performed my
l)art to admiration, and when we afterward went
to receive the crown, which the prince himself
placed on our heads, I was the one whom he
seemed most to have noticed. The Bishop of
Autun's friendship for our family, and no doubt
also the curiosity whicli a little barbarian, re-
cently introduced into the centre of civilization
inspired, contributed to attract the prince's at-
tention. He caressed me, complimented me on
my progress, and made particular inquiries as
to the intentions of my family with respect to
me. The Bishop of Autun said that I was
destined for the Church, and that he had a liv-

1782.] Scenes in Early Life. 17

Anecdote. Letter to Napoleon.

ing in reserve, which he would bestow upon me
as soon as the time came.

" ' And you, my lad,' said the prince, ' have
you your own projects, and have you made up
your mind as to what you wish ?'

" ' I wish,' said I, ' to serve the king.' Then
seeing him disposed to listen favorably to mc,
I took courage to tell him that it was not at all
my wish, though it was that of my family, that
I should enter the Church, but that my dearest
wish was to enter the army.

" The Bishop of Autun would have oljccted
to my project, but the prince, who was colonel-
general of the French infantry, saw with pleas-
ure these warlike dispositions on my part, and
encouraged me to ask for what I wanted. I
then declared my desire to enter the artillery,
and it was determined that I should. Imagine
my joy. I was proud of the prince's caresses,
and rejoiced more in his encouragement than I
have since in the two crowns whicli I have

" I immediately wrote a long letter to m}'
brother Napoleon, imparting my happiness to
bim, and relating in detail all that had passed ;
concluding by begging him, out of friendship
for me, to give up the navy and devote himself

18 Joseph Bonaparte. [1784.

Return to Corsica. Death of his Father.

to the artillery, that we might be in the same
regiment, and pursue our career side by side.
Napoleon immediately acceded to my propo-
sal, abandoned from that moment all his naval
projects, and replied that his mind was made up
to dedicate himself, with me, to the artillery —
with what success the world has since learned.
Thus it was to this visit of the Prince of Conde
that ISTapoleon owed his resolution of entering
on a career which paved the way to all his

In 1784, Joseph, then sixteen years of age,
returned to Corsica. Daring his absence he
had entirely forgotten the Italian, his native
language, and could neither speak it nor under-
stand it. After a few months at home, during
which time he very diligently prosecuted his
studies, his father, whose health was declining,
found it necessary to visit Paris to seek medi-
cal advice. He took his son Joseph with him.
Arriving at Montpellier, after a tempestuous
voynge, he became so ill as to be unable to pro-
ceed any farther. After a painful sickness of
three months, he died of a cancer in the stom-
ach, on the 2-lth of February, 1785. The dying
father, who had perceived indications of the ex-
alted powers and the lofty character of his son

1785.] Scenes in Early Life. 19

Her Cliaractor.

Napoleon, in the delirium of bis last hours re-
peatedly cried out,

" Napoleon ! Napoleon ! come and rescue
me from this dragon of death by whom I am

Upon his dying bed the father felt great so-
licitude for his wife, who was to be left, at the
early age of thirty-five, a widow with eight
children, six of whom were under thirteen years
of age. Joseph willingly yielded to his father's
earnest entreaties to relinquish the profession
of arms and return to Corsica, that he might
solace his bereaved mother and aid her in her
arduous cares. Napoleon says of this noble
mother :

"She had the head of a man on the shoul-
ders of a woman. Left without a guide or pro-
tector, she was obliged to assume the manage-
ment of affairs, but the burden did not over-
come her. She administered everj^ thing with
a degree of sagacity not to be expected from her
age or sex. Iler tenderness was joined with
severity. She punished, rewarded all alike.
The good, the bad, nothing escaped her. Ah,
what a woman ! where shall we look for her
equal ? She watched over us with a solicitude
unexampled. Every low sentiment, every un-

20 Joseph Bonaparte. [1785.

Madame Peimon.

generous affection was discouraged and dis-
carded. She suffered nothing but that which
was ffrand and elevated to take root in our
youthful understandings. She abhorred false-
hood, and would not tolerate the slightest act
of disobedience. None of our faults were over-
looked. Losses, privations, fatigue had no ef-
fect upon her. She endured all, braved all.
She had the energy of a man combined with
the gentleness and delicacy of a woman."

Madame Permon, mother of the Duchess of
Abrantes, a Corsican lady ol fortune who re-
sided at Montpellier, immediately after the
death of Charles Bonaparte, took Joseph, the
orphan boy, into her house. Madame Permon
and Letitia Eaniolini had been companions
and^ intimate friends in their youthful days.
" She was to me," says Joseph, " an angel of
consolation ; and she lavished upon me all the
attentions I could have received from the most
tender and affectionate of mothers."

Joseph soon returned to Corsica. Napoleon
had just before been promoted to the military
school in Paris, in which city Eliza still con-
tinued at school. Lucien, the next younger
brother, had also now been taken to the Con-
tinent, where he was pursuing his educa-

1786.J Scenes in Early Life. 21

Habit8 of Napoleon. Studies of the Brother.-.

tion. The four remaining children were very

" My mother," says Joseph, " moderated the
expression of her grief that she might not ex-
cite mine. Heroic and admirable woman ! the
model of mothers ; how much thy children are
indebted to thee for the example which thou
hast given them !"

Joseph remained at home about a year, de-
voting himself to the care of the family, when
Napoleon obtained leave of absence, and, to the
great joy of his mother, returned to Corsica.
He brought with him two trunks, a small one
containing his clothing, and a large one filled
with his books. Seven years had now passed
since the two affectionate brothers had met.
Napoleon had entirely forgotten the Italian
language ; but, much chagrined by the loss, he
immediately devoted himself with great energy
to its recovery. " His habits," says Joseph,
" were those of a young man retiring and stu-
dious." For nearly a year the two brothers
prosecuted their studies vigorously together,
while consoling, with their filial love, their re-
vered mother. After some months Napoleon
left home again, to rejoin his regiment at Va-
lence. Durintr this brief residence on his na-

22 Joseph Bonaparte. [1787.

Mirabeau. Joseph studies Law.

tivc island, with his accustomed habits of in-
dustry, he employed the hours of vacation in
writing a history of the revolutions in Corsica.
At Marseilles he showed the manuscript to the
abbe Raynal. The abbe was so much pleased
with it that he sent it to Mirabeau. This dis-
tinguished man remarked that the essay indi-
cated a genius of the first order.

Joseph decided, being the eldest brother, to
remain at home with his mother, to study law,
and commence its practice in Ajaccio, where
his mother then resided. He accordingly went
to Pisa to attend lectures in the law school
connected with the celebrated university in
that place. Ilis rank and character secured
for him a distinguished reception, and he was
presented by the French minister to the grand
duke. Here Joseph became deeply interested
in the lectures of Lampredi, who boldly advoca-
ted the doctrine, then rarely heard in Europe,
of the sovereignty -'of the i^eoj^le. There were
many illustrious patriots at Pisa, and many
ardent young men, whose minds were imbued
with new ideas of political liberty. Freely and
earnestly they discussed the themes ot aristo-
cratic usurpation, and of the equal rights of all
men. Joseph, with enthusiasm, embraced the

1788.] Scenes in Early Life.

Uommences Practice. Treatise of Napolvou.

cause of popular freedom, and became the un-
relenting foe of that feudal despotism wbicb
then domineered over all Europe, His asso-
ciates were the most illustrious and cultivated
men of the liberal party. At that early period
Joseph publislied a pamphlet advocating the
rights of the people.

Having finished his studies and taken his
degree, Joseph returned to Corsica, lie was
admitted to the bar in 1788, being then twenty
years of age, and commenced the practice of
law in Ajaccio. Upon this his return to Cor-
sica he met his brother Napoleon again, who,
a few daj's before, had landed upon the island.
Napoleon was then intensely occupied in writ-
ing a treatise upon the question, " What aro
the opinions and the feelings with which it is
necessary to inspire men for the promotion of
their happiness ?"

" This was the subject of our conversations,"
says Joseph, "in our daily walks, which were,
prolonged upon the banks of the sea; in saun-
tering along the shores of a gulf which was as
beautiful as that of Naples, in a country fra-
grant with the exhalations of myrtles and or-
anges. We sometimes did not return home
until night had closed over us. There will be

24 Joseph Bonaparte. [1788.

Testimony of Joseph. Ambition of Napoleon.

found, in what remains of this essay, the opin-
ions and the cliaracteristic traits of Napoleon,
who united in his character qualities which
seemed to be contradictory — the calm of rea-
son, illumined with the flashes of an Oriental
imagination ; kindliness of soul, exquisite sensi-
bility ; precious qualities which he subsequent-
ly deemed it his duty to conceal, under an ar-
tificial character which he studied to assume
when he attained power, saying that men must
be governed b}^ one who is fair and just as
law, and not by a prince whose amiability might
be regarded as weakness, when that amiabili-
ty is not controlled by the most inflexible jus-

"He had continually in view," continues
Joseph, " the judgment of posterity. Ilis heart
throbbed at the idea of a grand and noble ac-
tion which posterity could appreciate.

" ' I would wish to be myself my posterity,'
he said to me one day, ' that I may myself
enjoy the sentiments which a great poet, like
Corneille, would represent me as feeling and
uttering. The sentiment of duty, the esteem
of a small number of friends, who know us as
we know ourselves, are not sufficient to in-
spire noble and conscientious actions. With

1789.] Scenes in :

Early Life. 25

Foresiglit of Nupnleoii.

t'oustitueut AHHeinWy.

such motives one can make sages, but not he-
roes. If the movement now commenced con-
tinue in France, she will draw upon herself
the entire of Europe. She can only be de-
fended by men passionate for glory, who will
be willing to die to-day, that they may live
eternally. It is for an end remote, indetermi-
nate, of which no definite account is taken, that
the inspired minority triumphs over the inert
masses. Those are the motives which have
guided the legislators, who have influenced the
destinies of the world.' "

It is remarkable that at so early a period
Napoleon so clearly foresaw that the opinions
of political equality, then struggling for exist-
ence in Paris, and of which he subsequently
became so illustrious an advocate, would, if
successful, combine all the despots of Europe
in a warfare against regenerated France. Jo-
seph and Napoleon both warmly espoused the
cause of popular liberty, which was even then
upheaving the throne of the Bourbons.

At this time, June, 1789, the Constituent
Assembly commenced its world-renowned ses-
sion in Paris. As soon as the liberal constitu-
tion, which it adopted, was issued, Joseph, who
was then president of the district in Ajaccio,

26 Joseph Bonaparte. [1789.

Gratitude of Napoleon. Anecdote.

published an elementary treatise upon tlie con-
stitution both in French and Italian, for the
benefit of the inhabitants of his native island.
This work conferred upon him much honor,
and greatly increased his influence.

The mayor of the city, Jean Jerome Levie,
was a very noble man, and a particular friend
of the Bonapartes. Very liberally he contrib-
uted of his large fortune to aid the jjoor. " Na-
poleon," says Joseph, " honored him at Saint
Ilelena in his last hour, and left him a hundred
thousand francs. This proves the truth of
what I have often said of the kindness and
tenderness of Napoleon's heart. It was this
which led him in his last moments to remem-
ber the abbe Eecco, Professor of the Eoyal Col-
lege of Ajaccio, who in our early childhood,
before our departure for the Continent, kindly
admitted us to his class, and devoted to us his
attention. I recall the incident when the pupils
were arranged facing each other upon the op-
posite sides of the hall under an immense ban-
ner, one portion of which represented the flag
of Eome, and the other that of Carthage. As
the elder of the two children, the professor
placed me by his side under the Roman flag.

" Napoleon, annoyed at finding himself be-


1790.] Scenes in Early Life. 29

Tour in Corsica. ^ Characteriaticg.

ncath the flag of Carthage, which was not the
conquering banner, could have no rest until he
obtained a change of place with me, which I
readily granted, and for which he was very
grateful. And still, in his triumph, he was
disquieted with the idea of having been unjust
to his brother, and it required all the authority
of our mother to tranquilize him. This abb^
Recco was also remembered in his will."

On 01)6 occasion Napoleon accompanied Jo-
seph on horseback to a remote part of the isl-
and, to attend a Convention, where Joseph was
to address the assembly.

" Napoleon was continually occupied," says
Joseph, " in collecting heroic incidents of the
ancient warriors of the country. I read to him
my speech, to which he added several names
of the ancient patriots. During the journey,
which we made quite slowly, without a change
of horses, his mind was incessantly employed
in studying the positions which the troops of
different nations had occupied, during the many
years in- which they had combatted against the
inhabitants of the island. INfy thoughts ran in
another direction. The singular beauty of the
scenery interested me much more."

Louis Napoleon, in an article which he wrote

80 Joseph Bonaparte. [1791.

Testimony of Louis Napoleon. * Death of Mirabeau.

while a prisoner at Ham, upon his uncle, King
Joseph, just after his death, says :

" Joseph was born to embellish the arts of
peace, while the spirit of his brother found it-
self at ease only amid events which war intro-
duces. From their earliest years this difference
of capacity and of inclination was clearly mani-
fested. Associated in the college at Autun
with his brother, Joseph aided Napoleon in his
Latin and Greek compositions, while Napole-
on aided Joseph in all the problems of physics
and mathematics. The one made verses, while
the other studied Alexander and Cassar.'"

During the meeting of the Convention at
Bastia, above alluded to, the tidings came of

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Joseph Bonaparte, king of Naples and of Italy → online text (page 1 of 19)