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

Joseph Bonaparte online

. (page 18 of 19)
Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottJoseph Bonaparte → online text (page 18 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


reports in the journals, which are always in-
exact.

" I should be very happy, sire, to go to
London to clasp that royal hand which has so
often clasped the hand of my father. M.Presle
will inform your Majesty of the obstacles which
at the present moment prevent me from real-
izing a wish so dear. I have very many things
to say to you. It is impossible that the future
should be wanting to your family, great as has
been the loss of the past year. You bear the
grandest of historic names. In truth, we are
moving rather toward a republic than toward
a monarchy. But, to a sage like you, the ex-



1833.] LAST DAYS AND DEATH. 369

Letter from the Duchess of Abrantea.

terior form of government is of but little im-
portance. You have proved, sire, that you
know how to be worthily the citizen of a re-
public. Adieu, sire ; the day in which I shall
be permitted to press your hand in mine will
be one of the most glorious of my life. While
waiting for this your letters render me proud
and happy."

The celebrated Duchess of Abrantes, wife
of Marshal Junot, sent her Memoirs to King
Joseph by the hands of M. Presle. The fol-
lowing extracts from the letter of the duchess
to M. Presle shows the enthusiastic attachment
which Joseph won from his friends. The let-
ter is dated Paris, 1833 .

" Will you be so good, sir, as to have the
kindness to take charge of the book which I
send with this, and also of the letter. which I
address to his Majesty, King Joseph? I. ear-
nestly desire that both should be transmitted
to him as promptly as possible. I very much
wish, sir, I could have the pleasure of seeing
you. My attachment for King Joseph is so
profound and so true, of such long-standing, so
established upon bases which can never crum-
ble, that I would give days of my life to talk
a moment with persons loving him as I do, and

624



370 JOSEPH BONAPARTE. [183&

Letter from the Duchess of Abrantes.



speaking to me as I speak of him and think of
him. As for me, to see him for one moment
would be now the fulfillment of the most ar-
dent of my wishes.

" With these feelings, you will perceive, sir,
how happy I shall be to have him soon re-
ceive this letter, which I entrust to you. It
contains my wishes for the new year. And I
can truly say that there is not another heart
in France more sincerely devoted to his happi-
ness his true happiness and his glory. Ah I
sir, I assure him that in France there is one
being who is warmly attached, sincerely de-
voted to him, as are all hers. My children
have been cradled in the name of Napoleon,
and that without concealment. The misfor-
tune of their father has been an additional tie
to attach them to the memory of the Emperor^
and to all those who bear his revered name.
The bust of the Emperor is in my alcove, by
the side of the font in which I place my lus-
tral water. There I every morning and even-
ing repeat my prayers. Why should I not
say this? I do it because rny love for my
country constrains me to fall upon my knees
before that name which constituted its glory
and its happiness for fifteen years."



1833.] LAST DAYS AND DEATH. 371

Restoration of Napoleon's Statue to the Column of Austerlitz.

On the 28th of July, 1833, the Louis Phi-
lippe Government, in reluctant concession to
the almost universal voice of the French people,,
restored the statue of Napoleon to the Column
of Austerlitz, in the Place Vendome. It i&
scarcely too much to say that as that statue
rose to its proud eminence, the whole French
nation raised a shout of joy. A Parisian jour-
nal, The Tribune, intending perhaps to reflect
upon the Government, expressed surprise in not
seeing a single member of the Bonaparte family
shaking the dust of exile from his feet, and
coming, in the broad light of July, claiming a
"just reparation." Joseph wrote to the editor
from London a letter containing the following
sentiments :

" I have read in your journal of July 29th
the article in which you give an account of the
solemnity which took place on the 28th at the
foot of the Column of Austerlitz, upon the in-
auguration of the statue of the Emperor Na-
poleon. You attribute the absence of his broth-
ers to very strange sentiments. Are you ig-
norant, then, that an iniquitous law, dictated
by the enemies of France to the elder branch
of the Bourbons, excluded these brothers, out
of hatred to the name of Napoleon ? Would



372 JOSEPH BONAPARTE. [1833.

Restoration of Napoleon's Statue to the Column of Austerlitz.

you wish that, in defiance of a law which the
National Majesty has not yet repealed, we
should bear the brands of discord into our
country at the moment when it re-erects the
statue of our brother ? Every thing far the na-
tion, was the motto of our brother. It shall be
ours also.

" Instead of speaking, as a hostile journal
would have done, in casting the blame upon
patriots proscribed, who wander over the world
the victims of the enemies of their country,
would it not have exhibited more of courage
and of justice on your part, sir, to recall to the
electors of France that Napoleon has a mother
who languishes upon a foreign soil, without it
being possible for her children to speak to her
a last adieu ? She shares with three genera-
tions of her kindred, including sixty French,
the rigors of an exile of twenty years. They
are guilty of no other crime than that of being
the relatives of a man whose statue is re-erect-
ed by national decree.

" The name of Napoleon will never be the
banner of civil discord. Twice he withdrew
from France, that he might not be the pretext
for the infliction of calamities upon his coun-
try. Such are the doctrines which Napoleon



1834.] LAST DAYS AND DEATH. 373



The Law of Proscription.



has bequeathed to his family. It is because
the French people know well that his pretend-
ed despotism was but a dictatorship, rendered
necessary by the wars which his enemies waged
against him, that his memory remains popular
Is it just, is it honorable that his family should
still be condemned to endure the anguish of
exile, and to hear even his ancient enemies re-
proach the French with the injustice of their
proscription ?"

This law of proscription, dictated by the
Allies on the 12th of January, 1816, and re-af-
firmed by the Government of Louis Philippe,
was as follows :

" The ascendants and descendants of Napo-
leon Bonaparte, his uncles and his aunts, his
nephews and his nieces, his brothers, their
wives and theirdescendants, his sisters and their
husbands, are excluded from the realm forever."

The penalty for violating this decree of ban-
ishment was death. Madame Letitia had been
informed in Rome that the Louis Philippe
Government contemplated abolishing the de-
cree of exile, so far as she alone was concerned.
In response she wrote, April, 1834, to a distin-
guished gentleman in Paris, M. Sapey, as fol
lows:



374 JOSEPH BONAPARTE. [1834.



Letter from Madame Letitia.



"MONSIEUR, Those who recognize the ab-
surdity of maintaining the law of exile against
my family, and who wish nevertheless to pro-
pose an exception, do not know either my
principles or my character. I was left a widow
at thirty-three years of age, and my eight chil-
dren were my only consolation. Corsica was
menaced with separation from France. The
loss of my property and the abandonment of
my fireside did not terrify me. I followed my
children to the Continent. In 1814 I followed
Napoleon to the island of Elba. In 1816,
notwithstanding my age, I should have follow-
ed him to Saint Helena had it not been pro-
hibited. I resigned myself to live a prisoner
of state at Rome ; yes, a prisoner of state. I
know not whether that was through an ampli-
fication of the law which exiled me with my
family from France, or by a protocol of the
allied powers.

" I then saw persecution reach such a pitch
as to compel the members of my family, who
had devoted themselves to live with me at
Rome, to abandon the city. I then decided to
withdraw from the world, and to seek no other
happiness than that of the future life ; since I
saw myself separated from those for whom I



1835.] LAST DAYS AND DEATH. 375



Letter from Joseph to Louis.



clung to life, and in whom reposed all ray
souvenirs and all my happiness, if there were
any more happiness remaining for me in this
world. How could I hope to find any equiva-
lent in France, which was not already poison-
ed by the injustice of men in power who could
not pardon my family the glory which it has
acquired ?

"Leave me, then, in my honorable suffer-
ings, that I may bear to the tomb the integrity
of my character. I will never separate my lot
from that of my children. It is the only con-
solation which remains to me. Eeceive, never-
theless, monsieur, my thanks for the kind in-
terest which you have taken in my affairs."

On the 15th of January, 1835, Joseph wrote
to his brother Louis, the father of Napoleon
III., as follows :

" MY DEAR BROTHER, I have received
your letter of the 27th of December. I am
afflicted by the depression of spirits in which
it was written. It is true that for many years
fortune has been constantly severe with us.
But it is something to be able to say to one's
self that fortune is blind. And an irreproach-
able conscience and a good heart offer many
consolations. They accompany us wherever



376 JOSEPH BONAPARTE. [1835.



Letter from Joseph to Ixmie.



we go, and prevent us from being too severe
in our turn against fortune and her favorites
of the day.

" It is indeed true that there are but few
gleams of happiness to be met in this life.
The least unfortunate have still their storms.
There are but few privileged men. How many
there are whom we must admit to be more un-
happy than we are. And we do not sufficient*
ly take into account the sufferings of dishonor-
ed men, whose conscience will at times awake
and react upon those who have done it vio-
lence. Those whc have borne arms against
their country, against their benefactor, who
have sold their services to foreigners, think
you they can be happy ? The consciousness
of not having merited the abandonment of
which you speak, is not that a happy senti-
ment ? It is necessary then for us to perceive
what we are in this life, and not what we could
wish to be. Being men, we are destined to
live, that is to say, to suffer. But we can pre-
serve our own self-respect, and the esteem of
the friends who appreciate us. So long as that
continues, one is not absolutely unhappy. In
that point of view, no person ought to be more
satisfied than yourself, my dear Louis. All



1335.] LAST DAYS AND DEATH. 377

Meeting of the Brothers in London.

other evils over which we have no control are
hard to endure, undoubtedly. But their neces-
sity, in spite of ourselves, should lead us to
bear them. We ought to submit to that which
we can not prevent.

" Still, I can say nothing upon this subject
which you do not know as well as I do. But
I am not writing a dissertation. I recount my
sensations and my sentiments as they flow from
my pen. The consciousness of not meriting
the evil which one suffers greatly mitigates that
evil. Adieu, my dear Louis. I love you as
ever. We have not known any revolutions in
our affections."

Soon after Joseph had established himself
in London, he called his brothers Lucien and
Jerome, and his nephew, Prince Louis Napole-
on, to join him there. The acts of the Govern-
ment of Louis Philippe and the intense opposi-
tion they encountered engrossed his meditations.
Fully satisfied that the Government could not
maintain itself in the course it was pursuing,
Joseph deemed it important for the triumph
of what he called the popular cause, to effect a
cordial union between the Republican and Im-
perial parties. The Government thwarted this
union by sending spies into the clubs, who,



378 JOSEPH BONAPARTE. [1836.



Testimony of Loui* Napoleon.



joining those associations, assumed to be earn-
est democrats, and strove in every way to pro-
mote discord, while they extolled in most ex-
travagant terms the brutal deeds of Marat, St.
Just, and Robespierre. Joseph could not act
in harmony with such men, and the projected
alliance was abandoned. 1

In a brief sketch which Louis Napoleon,
while a prisoner at Harn, wrote of his uncle
Joseph just after his death, he says: "In gen-
eral, Prince Louis Napoleon was in accord with
his uncle upon all fundamental questions;
but he differed from him upon one essential
point, which offered a very strange contrast.
The old man, whose days were nearly finished,
did not wish to precipitate any thing. He was
resigned to await the developments of time.
But the young man, impatient, wished to act,
and to precipitate events.

"The insurrection at Strasbourg, in the
month of October, 1836, thus took place with-
out the authorization and without the participa-
tion of Joseph. He was also much displeased
with it, since the journals deceived him respect-
ing the aim and intentions of his nephew. la
1837 Joseph revisited America. Upon his re-
' CEuvres de Napoleon III., tome deuxieme, p. 449.



1837.] LAST DAYS AND DEATH, 379



The Attempt at Strasbourg.



turn to Europe in 1839 he found his nephew
in England. Then, enlightened respecting the
object, the means, and the plans of Prince Lou-
is Napoleon, he restored to him all his tender-
ness. The publication of Les Idees Napoleo-
niennes merited his entire approbation. And
upon that occasion he declared openly that, in
his quality of friend and depositary of the most
intimate thoughts of the Emperor, he could say
positively that that book contained the exact
and faithful record of the political intentions
of his brother."

It will be remembered that Louis Napoleon,
after the attempt at Strasbourg, was sent in a
French frigate to Brazil, and thence to New
York, where he remained but a few weeks,
when he returned to Europe to his dying moth-
er. At New York, under date of April 22,
1837, he wrote the following letter to his uncle
Joseph at London. The letter very clearly re-
veals the relation then existing between tbem.

" MY DEAR UNCLE, Upon my arrival in the
United States, I hoped to have found a letter
from you. I confess to you that I have been
deeply pained to learn that you were displeased
with me. I have even been astonished by it,
knowing your judgment and your heart. Yes,



880 JOSEPH BONAPARTE. [1837.

Letter from Louis Napoleon to bis Uncle Joseph.

my uncle, you must have been strangely led
into error in respect to me, to repel as enemies
men who have devoted themselves to the cause
of the Empire.

" If, successful at Strasbourg, and it was very
near a success, I had marched upon Paris, draw-
ing after me the populations fascinated by
the souvenirs of the Empire, and, arriving in
the capital a pretender, I had seized upon the
legal power, then indeed there would have been
nobleness and grandeur of soul in disavowing
my conduct, and in breaking with me.

" But how is it ? I attempt one of those
bold enterprises which could alone re-establish
that which twenty years of peace have caused
to be forgotten. I throw myself into the at-
tempt, ready to sacrifice my life, persuaded that
my death even would be useful to our cause.
I escape, against my wishes, the bayonets and
the scaffold; and, having escaped, I find on
the part of my family only contumely and dis-
dain.

" If the sentiments of respect and esteem
with which I regard you were not so sincere, I
should not so deeply feel your conduct in re-
spect to me ; for I venture to say that public
opinion can never admit that there is any alien-



1837.] LAST DAYS AND DEATH. 381

Letter from Louis Napoleon to his Uncle Joseph.

ation between us. No person can comprehend
that you disavow your nephew because he has
exposed himself in your cause. No one can
comprehend that men who have perilled their
lives and their fortune to replace the eagle upon
our banners can be regarded by you as enemies,
any more than they could comprehend that
Louis XVIII. would repel the Prince of Conde
or the Due d'Enghien because they had been
unfortunate in their enterprises.

" I know you too well, my dear uncle, to
doubt the goodness of your heart, and not to
hope that you will return to sentiments more
just in respect to me, and in respect to those
who have compromised themselves for your
cause. As for myself, whatever may be your
procedure in reference to me, my line of con-
duct will be ever the same. The sympathy of
which so many persons have given me proofs;
my conscience, which does in nothing reproach
me ; in fine, the conviction that if the Emperor
beholds me from his elevation in the skies, he
would approve my conduct, are so many com-
pensations for all the mortifications and injus-
tice which I have experienced. My enterprise
bas failed ; that is true. But it has announced
to France that the family of the Emperor is not



382 JOSEPH BONAPARTE. [1840.

Letter from Louis Napoleon to his Uncle Joseph.

yet dead ; that it still numbers many devoted
friends ; in fine, that their pretensions are not
limited to the demand of a few pence from the
Government, but to the re-establishment, in
favor of the people, of those rights of which
foreigners and the Bourbons have deprived
them. This is what I have done. Is it for
you to condemn me?

"I send you with this a recital of my re-
movement from the prison of Strasbourg, that
you may be fully informed of all my proceed-
ings, and that you may know that I have done
nothing unworthy of the name which I bear.
I beg you to present my respects to my uncle
Lucien. I rely upon his judgment and affec-
tion to be my advocate with you. I entreat
you, my dear uncle, not to be displeased with
the laconic manner in which I represent these
facts, such as they are. Never doubt my un-
alterable attachment to you.

"Your tender and respectful nephew,

" NAPOLEON Louis.'"

In 1840 the health of Joseph began to be

1 For a short time after the death of his elder hrothflr,
Louis Napoleon, in accordance with the understood wish of
the Emperor, adopted the signature of Napoleon Louis.
Soon, however, he again resumed his original name.



1843.] LAST DAYS AND DEATH. 383



Failing Health of Joseph.



seriously impaired. In London he had an at-
tack of paralysis, which induced him to go to
the warm baths of Wildbad, in Wurtemberg.
He was somewhat benefited by the waters, and
cherished the hope that he might join members
of his family in Italy. But the Continental
sovereigns so feared the potency of the name
of Bonaparte upon the masses of the people
that his request was peremptorily refused.
Thus repulsed, he returned to the cold climate
of England.

In 1841, the King of Sardinia, who was
strongly leaning toward popular principles,
allowed Joseph to take up his residence in
Genoa. He was conveyed to that city in an
English ship. He had been there but a few
weeks, when the Duke of Tuscany, commiser-
ating his dying condition, kindly consented
that he should join his wife, his children, and
his brothers in Florence.

In 1842 Joseph bequeathed to the principal
cities of Corsica several hundred valuable
paintings, which he had received as a legacy
from his uncle, Cardinal Fesch.

In 1843, the Government of Louis Philippe,
with marvellous inconsistency, voted to demand
the remains of the Emperor Napoleon from



384 JOSEPH BONAPARTE. [1843,

The Remains of the Kmperor brought back to France.

the British Government, and to rear to his
honor, beneath the dome of the Invalides. the
monument of a nation's gratitude, while at
the same time that Government persisted in
banishing from France all the members of the
Napoleon family.

A very earnest petition was sent at this
time to the Government, numerously signed
by Frenchmen, praying that the decree of
banishment against the Bonaparte family
might be annulled. But the Louis Philippe
Government declared in council that the reso-
lution of the Government to prolong the exile
of the family of Napoleon was positive and
unchanging. Joseph wrote a letter of thanks
in behalf of the Bonaparte family to the sign-
ers of the petition, in which he said :

" The elder branch of the Bourbons, brought
back to France by foreign bayonets, we have
ever frankly treated as enemies. They did not
conceive the hope of degrading us in our own
eyes. It has been reserved for the younger
branch to call artifice to its aid to glorify the
dead Napoleon, and to traduce, to proscribe his
mother, his sisters, his nephews, fifty or sixty
French people, charged with the crime of bear-
ing his name.



1843.] LAST DAYS AND DEATH. 385



Letter of Thanks from Joseph.



" Were Napoleon living to-day, he would
think as we do. He would recognize in France
no other sovereign than the French people,
who alone have the right to establish such a
form of Government as to them may seem best
for their interests. The too long dictatorship
of Napoleon was prolonged by the persistence
of the enemies of the Revolution, who endeav-
ored to destroy in him the principle of nation-
al sovereignty from which he emanated.

" At a general peace, universal suffrage, lib-
erty of the press, and all the guaranties for
the perpetual prosperity of a great nation,
which were in the plans of Napcieon, would
have been unveiled before entire France, and
would have made him the greatest man in his-
tory. His whole thoughts were made known
to me. It is my duty loudly to proclaim them.
He sacrificed himself twice, that he might save
France from civil war. The heirs of his name
would renounce forever the happiness of breath-
ing the air of their native country, did they
think that their presence would inflict upon it
the least injury. Such are the principles, the
opinions, the sentiments of all the members of
the family of Napoleon, of which I am here the
interpreter. Every thing for and by the people. 11

ft 25



386 JOSEPH BONAPARTE. [1844



Sickness and Death.



In the few remaining years of his life,
nursed by the tender care of his wife Julie,
who was to him an angel of consolation, Jo-
seph remained in Florence, his mind entirely
engrossed with the misfortunes of his family.
He had become fully reconciled to his nephew,
and keenly sympathized with him in his cap-
tivity at Ham. The glaring inconsistency of
the Government of Louis Philippe in persisting
to banish from France the relatives of a man
whom all France almost adored, simply because
they were that great man's relatives, often
roused bis indignation.

T.he thought that he was an exile from
his native land from France, which he .had
served so faithfully, and loved so well embit-
tered his last hours. Supported by the devo-
tion of Julie, and by the presence of his broth-
ers, Louis and Jerome, to both of whom he
was tenderly attached, he awaited without re-
gret the approach of death.

On the 23d of July, 1844, Joseph breathed
his last at Florence, at the age of sixty-six
years. He left his fortune, which was not very
large, to his eight grandchildren. He also re-
quested that his remains should be deposited
in Florence until the hour should come when



1844.] LAST DAYS AND DEATH. 387



Character of Joseph.



they could be removed to the soil of his beloved
France. Queen Julie survived him but a few-
months. Her remains were deposited by the
side of those of her husband, and of her second
daughter, the Princess Charlotte, who died in
1839.

Joseph was eminently calculated to embel-
lish society and to adorn the arts of peace.
His literary attainments were very extensive,
and in the Tribune he was eminent, both as an
orator and a ready debater. Familiar with all
the choicest passages of the classic writers of
France and Italy, and thoroughly read in all
the branches of political economy, with great
affability of manners and spotless purity of
character, he would have been a man of dis-
tinction in any country and in any age. To
say that he was not equal to his brother Napo-
leon is no reproach, for Napoleon has never
probably, in all respects, had his equal. But
Joseph filled with distinguished honor all the
varied positions of his eventful life. As a leg
islator, an ambassador, a general, a monarch,
and a private citizen, he was alike eminent.

From the commencement of his career until
his last breath, he was devoted to those princi-
ples of popular rights to which the French



388 JOSEPH BONAPARTE. [1844.



Character of Joseph.



Revolution gave birth, and which his more il-


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 18

Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottJoseph Bonaparte → online text (page 18 of 19)