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

Joseph Bonaparte online

. (page 5 of 19)
Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottJoseph Bonaparte → online text (page 5 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

much to the satisfaction of Napoleon, and with
great honor to himself. Napoleon was now


Conspiracy to assassinate Napoleon.

Emperor of France, and the Senate and the
people had declared Joseph and his children
heirs of the throne, on failure of Napoleon's

A gigantic conspiracy was formed in Eng-
land by Count d'Artois, subsequently Charles
X., and other French emigrants, for the assas-
sination of Napoleon. The plan was for a hun-
dred resolute men, led by the desperate George
Cadoudal, to waylay Napoleon when passing,
as was his wont, with merely a small guard of
ten outriders, from the Tuileries to Malmaison.
The conspirators flattered themselves that this
would be considered war, not assassination.
The Bourbons were then to raise their banner
in France, and the emigrants, lingering upon
the frontiers, were to rush into the empire with
the Allied armies, and re-establish the throne
of the old re'gime. The Princes of Conde
grandfather, son, and grandson, were then in
the service and pay of Great Britain, fighting
against their native land, and, by the laws of
France traitors, exposed to the penalty of
death. The grandson, the Duke d'Enghien,
was on the French frontier, in the duchy of
Baden, waiting for the signal to enter France
arms in hand.


Arrest of the Duke d'Enghien.

It was supposed that he was actively en-
gaged in the conspiracy for the assassination,
as he was known frequently to enter France
by night and in disguise. But it afterward ap-
peared that these journeys were to visit a
young lady to whom the duke was much at-

Napoleon, supposing that the duke was in-
volved in the conspiracy, and indignant in
view of these repeated plots, in which the
Bourbons seemed to regard him but as a wild
beast whom they could shoot down at their
pleasure, resolved to teach them that he was
not thus to be assailed with impunity. A de
tachment of soldiers was sent across the border,
who arrested the duke in his bed, brought him
to Vincennes, where he was tried by court-
martial, condemned as a traitor waging war
against his native country, and, by a series of
accidents, was shot before Napoleon had time
to extend that pardon which he intended to
grant. The friends of Napoleon do not se-
verely censure him for this deed. His enemies
call it wanton murder. Joseph thus speaks of
this event :

" The catastrophe of the Duke d'Enghien
requires of me some details too honorable to


Joseph's Interview with Napoleon.

the memory of Napoleon for me to pass them
by in silence. Upon the arrival of the duke at
Vincennes, I was in my home at Mortfontaine.
} was sent for to Malmaison. Scarcely had I
ar/ived at the gate when Josephine came to
*meet me, very much agitated, to announce the
event of the day. Napoleon had consulted
Cambaceres and Berthier, who were in favor
of the prisoner; but she greatly feared the
influence of Talleyrand, who had already made
the tour of the park with Napoleon

" ; Your brother,' said she, ' has called for
you several times. Hasten to interrupt this
long interview ; that lame man makes me

" When I arrived at the door of the saloon,
the First Consul took leave of M. de Talley-
rand, and called me. He expressed his astonish-
ment at the great diversity of opinion of the two
last persons whom he had consulted, and de-
manded mine. I recalled to him his political
principles, which were to govern all the fac-
tions by taking part with none. I recalled to
him the circumstance of his entry into the artil-
lery in consequence of the encouragement which
the Prince of Conde" had given me to commence
a military career. I still remembered the qua-


Conflicting Views. Madame de rttaaL

train of the verses composed by the abbd Si-

" ' Conde ! quel nom, 1'univers le ve"nere j
A ce pays- il est cher a jamais ;
Mars 1'honore pendant la guerre,
Et Minerve pendant la paix.' 1

"Little did we then think that we should
ever be deliberating upon the fate of his grand-
son. Tears moistened the eyes of Napoleon.
With a nervous gesture, which always with
him accompanied a generous thought, he said,
' His pardon is in my heart, since it is in my
power to pardon him. But that is not enough
for me. I wish that the grandson of Conde
should serve in our armies. I feel myself suf-
ficiently strong for that.'

" With these impressions I returned to Mort-
fontaine. The family were at the dinner-table.
I took a seat by the side of Madame de Stae'l,
who had at her left M. Mathieu de Montmo-
rency. Madame de Stae'l, with the assurance
which I gave her of the intention of the First
Consul to pardon a descendant of the great
Conde', exclaimed in characteristic language,

1 "Conde ! what a name ! the universe reveres it;
To this country it is ever daar ;
Mars honors it during war,
And Minerva daring peace. ''


Execution of the Duke d'F.nghien.

" ' Ah ! that is right ; if it were not so, we
should not see here M. Mathieu de Montmo-

" But another nobleman present, who had not
emigrated, said to me, on the contrary: 'Will it
then be permitted to the Bourbons to conspire
with impunity ? The First Consul is deceived
if he think that the nobles who have not emi-
grated, and particularly the historic nobility,
take any deep interest in the Bourbons.' Sev-
eral others present expressed the same views.

" The next day, upon my return to Malmai-
son, I found Napoleon very indignant against
Count Real ; whose motives he accused, re-
proaching him with having employed in his
government certain men too much compromised
in the great excesses of the Revolution. The
Duke tfEnghien had been condemned and execu-
ted even before the announcement of his trial had
been communicated to Napoleon.

" Subsequently he was convinced of the in-
nocence of Real, and of the strange fatality
which had caused him for a moment to appear
culpable in his eyes. In the mean time, re-
suming self-control, he said to me, ' Another
opportunity has been lost It would have
been admirable to have had^ as aid-de-camp,


Statement of Joseph Bonaparte'.

the grandson of the great Conde". But of that
there can be no more question. The blow ia
irremediable. Yes ; I was sufficiently strong
to allow a descendant of the great Conde to
serve in our armies. But we must seek conso-
lation. Undoubtedly, if I had been assassina-
ted by the agents of the family, he would have
been the first to have shown himself in France,
arms in his hands. I must take the responsi-
bility of the deed. To cast it upon others, even
with truth, would have too much the appear-
ance of cowardice, for me to be willing to
do it.'

"Napoleon," continues Joseph, "has never
appeared with greater eclat than under these
sad and calamitous circumstances. I only
learned, several years afterward, in the United
States, from Count Heal himself, the details of
that which passed at the time of the death of
the Duke d'Enghien. It was at New York, in
the year 1825, at Washington Hall, where we
met, by an arrangement with M. Le Ray de
Chaumont, the proprietor of some lands, a por-
tion of which he had sold to me and to M.
Real, that he informed me how a simple emo-
tion of impatience on his part had very invol-
untarily the effect of preventing the kindly


Statement of Count ReaL

feeling which the First Consul cherished in
favor of the Duke d'Enghien.

" M. Real, one of the four counsellors of
state charged with the police of France, had
charge of the arrondissement of Paris and of
Vincennes. A dispatch was sent to him in the
night, informing him of the condemnation of
the prince. The police clerk, attending in the
chamber which opened into his apartment, had
already awoke him twice for reasons of but lit-
tle importance, which had quite annoyed M.
Real. The third dispatch was therefore placed
upon his chimney, and did not meet his eye
until a late hour in the morning.

" Opening it, he hastened to Malmaison,
where he was preceded by an officer of the
gendarmerie, who brought information of the
condemnation and execution of the prince.
The commission had judged, from the silence
of the Government, that he was not to be par-
doned. I need not dwell upon the regret, the
impatience, the indignation of Napoleon."

The crown of Lombardy was, about this
time, offered to Joseph, which he declined, as
he did not wish to separate himself from
France. The kingdom of Naples was now in-
fluenced by England to make an attack upon


Expulsion of the Knglish.

Napoleon. The King of Naples supposed that
France could be easily vanquished, with En-
gland, Russia, Austria, and Naples making a
simultaneous attack upon her. But the great
victory of Austerlitz, which compelled Austria
and Russia to withdraw from the coalition,
struck the perfidious King of Naples with dis-
may. France had done him no wrong, and
the only apology the Neapolitan Court had for
commencing hostilities was, that if the French
were permitted to dethrone the Bourbons and
to choose their own rulers, the Neapolitan
might claim the same privilege.

A few days after the battle of Austerlitz
Joseph received orders from his brother to
hasten to the Italian Peninsula, and take com-
mand of the Army of Italy, and march upon
Naples. The King of Naples had, in addition
to his own troops, fourteen thousand Russians
and several thousand English auxiliaries. Jo-
seph placed himself at the head of forty thou-
sand French troops, and in February, 1806,
entered the kingdom of Naples. The Nea-
politans could make no effectual resistance.
Joseph soon arrived before Capua, a fortified
town about fifteen miles north of the metropo-
lis of the kingdom. Eight thousand of the


Conquest of Naples.

Neapolitan troops took refuge in the citadel,
and made some show of resistance. They
soon, however, were compelled to surrender.

The Neapolitan Court was in a state of
consternation. The English precipitately em-
barked in their ships and fled to Sicily. The
Russians escaped to Corfu. The Court, hav-
ing emptied the public coffers, and even the
vaults of the bank, took refuge in Palermo, on
the island of Sicily. The prince royal, with a
few troops of the Neapolitan army, who ad-
hered to the old monarchy, retreated two or
three hundred miles south, to the mountains
of Calabria. On the 15th of February, Joseph,
at the head of his troops, marched triumphant-
ly into Naples. He not only encountered no
resistance, but the population, regarding him
as a liberator, received him with acclamations

f joy-
On the 30th of March, 1806, Napoleon is-
sued a decree, declaring Joseph king of Na-
ples. The decret was as follows :

" Napoleon, by the grace of God and the
constitutions, Emperor of the French and King
of Italy, to all those to whom these presents
come, salutation.

" The interests of our people, the honor of


Debasement of the Neapolitans under the Old Regime

our crown, and the tranquillity of the Conti-
tinent of Europe requiring that we should as-
sure, in a stable and definite manner, the lot
of the people of Naples and of Sicily, who
have fallen into our power by the right of con-
quest, and who constitute a part of the grand
empire, we declare that we recognize, as King
of Naples and of Sicily, our well -beloved
brother, Joseph Napoleon, Grand Elector of
France. This crown will be hereditary, by
order of primogeniture, in his descendants
masculine, legitimate, and natural," etc.

The former Government of Naples was de-
tested by the whole people. The warmest ad-
vocates of the Allies have never yet ventured
to utter a word in its defense. Even the
grandees of the realm were heartily glad to be
rid of their dissolute, contemptible, and tyran-
nical queen, who regarded the inhabitants of the
kingdom but as her slaves, and the wealth of
the kingdom but as her personal dowry, to be
squandered for the gratification of herself and
her favorites. With great energy Joseph im-
mediately commenced a reform in all the ad-
ministrative departments. He carefully sought
out Neapolitan citizens of integrity, intelli-
gence, and influence, to occupy the important


Debasement of Maple*.

public stations. Accompanied by a guard of
chosen men, he made a tour of the country;
thus informing himself, by personal observa-
tion, of the character of the inhabitants, and of
the wants and capabilities of the kingdom. It
was indeed a gloomy prospect of indolence
and poverty which presented itself to his eye,
though the climate was enchanting, with its
genial temperature, its brilliant skies, and its
fertile soil. The landscape combined all the
elements of sublimity and of beauty, with tow-
ering mountains and lovely meadows, streams
and lakes watering the interior, and harbors
inviting the commerce of the world. But the
condition of the populace was wretched in the
extreme. The Government, despotic and cor-
rupt, seized all the earnings of the people, and
consigned nearly the whole population to pen-
ury and rags. King Ferdinand and his disso-
lute queen, Louisa, made an effort to rouse the
people to resist the French. Their efforts
were, however, entirely in vain. Joseph is-
sued the following proclamation to the Near
poli tans, which they read with great satisfac-
tion :

" People of the kingdom of Naples ; the
Emperor of the French, King of Italy, wishing


Administration of King Joseph.

to save you from the calamities of war, had
signed, with your Court, a treaty of neutrality.
He believed that in that way he could secure
your tranquillity, in the midst of the vast con-
flagration with which the third coalition has
menaced Europe. But the Court of Naples
has zealously allied itself with our enemies,
and has opened its states to the Russians and
to the English.

" The Emperor of the French, wh'ose justice
equals his power, wishes to give a signal ex-
ample, commanded by the honor of his crown,
by the interests of his people, and by the ne-
cessity of re-establishing in Europe the respect
which is due to public faith.

" The army which I command is on the
march to punish this perfidy. But you, the
people, have nothing to fear. It is not against
you that our arms are directed. The altars,
the ministers of your religion, your laws, your
property, will be respected. The French sol-
diers will be your brothers. If, contrary to
the benevolent intentions of his majesty, the
Court which excites you will sacrifice you, the
French army is so powerful that all the forces
promised to your princes, even if they were
on your territory, could not defend it. Peo


1 "mba rrassme n t .

pie I have no solicitude. This war will be for
you the epoch of a solid peace, and of durable

Ferdinand, upon retiring to the island of
Sicily, had swept the continental coast of ev-
ery vessel and even boat. Joseph thus found
it quite impossible to transport his troops
across the strait of Messina to pursue the fugi-
tive king. He, however, made a very thor-
ough survey of the continental kingdom, and
having planned many measures of internal im-
provement of vast magnitude, which were sub-
sequently executed, he returned to Naples.
He was here received with congratulations by
all classes of his subjects.

The clergy, led by Cardinal Buffo, and even
the nobility, vied with each other in their ex-
pressions of satisfaction in a change of dynas-
ty. The great majority of the most intelli-
gent people in the kingdom were weary of the
corrupt Court which, swaying the sceptre of
feudal despotism, had consigned Naples to in-
dolence, dilapidation, and penury. Joseph im
mediately selected the most distinguished Ne-
apolitans as members of his council. He made
every effort to introduce into his kingdom all
the benefits which the French Revolution had


Philanthropic Labors.

brought to France, while he carefully sought
to avoid the evils which accompanied that
great popular movement.

Though Joseph soon found himself firmly
seated on the throne, war still lingered along
the coasts, and in the more remote parts of his
kingdom. The fortress of Gaeta, almost im-
pregnable, was still held by a garrison of Fer-
dinand's troops. Marauding bands of Neapol-
itans, lured by love of plunder, infested and
pillaged the unprotected districts. The Eng-
lish fleet was hovering along the coast, watch-
ing for opportunities of assault. It landed an
army at the Gulf of St. Euphemia, and dis-
comfited a small division of Joseph's troops.
Thus the kingdom was in a general state of
disorder wherever the influence of Joseph was
not sensibly felt.

But the wise . and energetic measures he
adopted removed one after another of these
evils. He found but little difficulty in per-
suading all those who co-operated with him in
the government, both French and Neapolitans,
that the interests of each individual class in
the community were dependent upon the eleva-
tion and improvement of the whole country;
and it is a remarkable fact that the princiisJ


Philanthropic Labors.

noblemen in Naples were among the first to
appreciate and adopt the great ideas of reform
which Joseph introduced. Influenced by his
arguments, they, of their own accord, relin-
quished their feudal privileges, and adopted
those principles of equal rights upon which the
empire of Napoleon was founded, and which
gave it its almost omnipotent hold upon popu-
lar affections. Even the ecclesiastics, men of
commanding character and intelligence, who
had been introduced into the Council of State,
voted for the suppression of monastic orders,
and for the use of their funds to place the credit
of the kingdom upon a solid basis.

Eeform was thus extended, wisely and effi-
ciently, through all the departments of Gov-
ernment. And though the masses of the peo-
ple, being illiterate peasants, incapable of any
intelligent administration of public affairs, had
but little voice in the Government, every thing
was done for their welfare that enlightened
patriotism could suggest. All writers, friends
and foes, agree alike in their testimony to the
wise measures adopted by Joseph. He found-
ed colleges for the instruction of young men,
and many other institutions of a high charac*
ter for male and female education. Splendid


The Lazzaronu

roads were constructed from one extremity of
the kingdom to the other; manufactories of
various kinds were established and encour-
aged ; the arts were rewarded ; agriculture re-
ceived a new impulse ; the army was efficient-
ly organized and brought under salutary dis-
cipline ; a topographical bureau was created,
the whole kingdom carefully surveyed, and a
fine map constructed. The mouldering ram-
parts of the city were rebuilt, and new fort-
resses reared.

Naples had for ages been filled with a mis-
erable idle population, called lazzaroni. They
infested the streets and the squares, and were
devoured by vermin, and half-covered with
rags. With no incitement to industry, indeed
with hardly the possibility of obtaining any
work, they had fallen into the most abject state
of vice and despair. These men, in large num-
bers, were collected, comfortably clothed, well
fed, well paid, and were employed in construct-
ing a new and splendid avenue to the metropo-
lis. Made happy by industry, and inspired by
its sure reward, they became contented and use-
ful subjects.

The Ministry of the Interior was confided
to Count Miot. It was his duty to devote all


Vigorous Measures.

his energies to promote the interests of agri-
culture, commerce, manufactures, the arts, the
sciences, public instruction, and all liberal in-
stitutions. The country had been filled with
brigands, rioting in violence, robbery, and mur-
der. To repress their excesses, Joseph estab-
lished a military commission with each army
corps, whose duty it was to judge and execute,
without appeal, the brigands taken with arms
in their hands.

The English fleet commanded the Mediter-
ranean. The Neapolitan troops, under the
command of Ferdinand, had fled to Calabria,
and, under the protection of the English fleet
had crossed the straits of Messina to the island
of Sicily. The British squadron then swept
the coasts of Calabria, applying the torch to
all the public property which could not be car-
ried away. While these scenes were transpir-
ing, Napoleon wrote to Joseph almost daily,
giving him very minute directions. He wrote
to him on the 12th of January, 1806 : " Speak

seriously to M and to L , and say that

you will have no robberies. M robbed

much in the Venetian country. I have re-
called S to Paris for that reason. He is a

bad man. Maintain severe discipline."



Letters from Napoleon and others.

Again he wrote on the 19th : " It is my in-
tention that the Bourbons should cease to reign
at Naples. I wish to place upon that throne a
prince of my family ; you first, if that is agree-
able to you ; another, if that is not agreeable
to you. The country ought to furnish food,
clothing, horses, and every thing that is neces-
sary for your army ; so that it shall cost me

Again, on the 27th, Napoleon wrote from
Paris : " I have only to congratulate myself
with alJ that you did while you remained in
Paris. Receive my thanks, and, as a testimony
of my satisfaction, my portrait upon a snuff-
box, which I will forward by the first officer
I send to you. Tolerate no robbers. I have
just received a letter from the Queen of Naples.
I shall not reply. After the violation of the
treaty, I can no longer trust her promises."

Again, on the 3d of February, 1806, he
writes : " Believe in my friendship. Do not
listen to those who wish to keep you out of fire,
loin du feu. It is necessary that you should
establish your reputation, if there should be
opportunity. Place yourself conspicuously
As to real danger, it is everywhere in war."

The Prince-royal of Naples wrote a letter to


The British Fleet.

Joseph, with the hope of regaining his crown.
He stated that the King and Queen had abdi-
cated in favor of their son. Joseph replied
that he could not listen to the appeal ; that he
could only execute the orders which he received,
and that the application was too late.

The city of Gaeta was one of the strongest
positions in Europe. The troops of Ferdinand
maintained a siege there for many months.
They were very efficiently aided by the British
fleet, which brought them continual re-enforce-
ments and supplies. Its capture was considered
one of the most brilliant achievements in mod-
ern warfare. There was now not a spot upon
the Continent of Europe where a flag floated in
avowed hostility to France. Ferdinand of Na-
ples, with a small army, had fled to the island
of Sicily, where, for a short time, he was pro-
tected by the British fleet.

In the mean time King Joseph was devoting
himself untiringly and with great wisdom to
the development of the new institutions of re-
form, and of equal rights for all, which every-
where accompanied the French banners. Mar-
shal Massena was sent to the provinces of Gala*
bria to put a stop to brigandage. The brigands
were merciless. Severe reprisals became nee-



essary. The British fleet, under Sir Sidney
Smith, hovered along the shores of the gulfs
of Salerno and of Naples, striving to rouse and
encourage resistance to the new Government.

There was a renowned bandit, named Mi-
chael Pozza, who, from his energy and atrocities,
had acquired the sobriquet of Fra Diavolo, or
brother of the devil. His bands, widely scat-
tered, were at times concentrated, and waged
fierce battle. Gradually French discipline gain-
ed upon them. Large numbers of the Neapoli-
tans, hating the old regime, and glad to be rid
of it, enlisted in defense of the new institutions.
The robbers were at length cut to pieces. Fra
Diavolo escaped to the mountains, where he
was taken and shot. In this warfare with the

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottJoseph Bonaparte → online text (page 5 of 19)