Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne.

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Switzerland and the banks of the Rhine indicated a coldness existing
between the Russians and the Austrians; and at the same time, symptoms of
a misunderstanding between the Courts of London and St. Petersburg began
to be perceptible. The First Consul, having in the meantime discovered
the chivalrous and somewhat eccentric character of Paul I., thought the
moment a propitious one to attempt breaking the bonds which united Russia
and England. He was not the man to allow so fine an opportunity to pass,
and he took advantage of it with his usual sagacity. The English had
some time before refused to include in a cartel for the exchange of
prisoners 7000 Russians taken in Holland. Bonaparte ordered them all to
be armed, and clothed in new uniforms appropriate to the corps to which
they had belonged, and sent them back to Russia, without ransom, without
exchange, or any condition whatever. This judicious munificence was not
thrown away. Paul I. showed himself deeply sensible of it, and closely
allied as he had lately been with England, he now, all at once, declared
himself her enemy. This triumph of policy delighted the First Consul.

Thenceforth the Consul and the Czar became the best friends possible.
They strove to outdo each other in professions of friendship; and it may
be believed that Bonaparte did not fail to turn this contest of
politeness to his own advantage. He so well worked upon the mind of Paul
that he succeeded in obtaining a direct influence over the Cabinet of St.
Petersburg.

Lord Whitworth, at that time the English ambassador in Russia, was
ordered to quit the capital without delay, and to retire to Riga, which
then became the focus of the intrigues of the north which ended in the
death of Paul. The English ships were seized in all the ports, and, at
the pressing instance of the Czar, a Prussian army menaced Hanover.
Bonaparte lost no time, and, profiting by the friendship manifested
towards him by the inheritor of Catherine's power, determined to make
that friendship subservient to the execution of the vast plan which he
had long conceived: he meant to undertake an expedition by land against
the English colonies in the East Indies.

The arrival of Baron Sprengporten at Paris caused great satisfaction
among the partisans of the Consular Government, that is to say, almost
every one in Paris. M. Sprengporten was a native of Swedish Finland.
He had been appointed by Catherine chamberlain and lieutenant-general of
her forces, and he was not less in favour with Paul, who treated him in
the most distinguished manner. He came on an extraordinary mission,
being ostensibly clothed with the title of plenipotentiary, and at the
same time appointed confidential Minister to the Consul. Bonaparte was
extremely satisfied with the ambassador whom Paul had selected, and with
the manner in which he described the Emperor's gratitude for the
generous conduct of the First Consul. M. Sprengporten did not conceal
the extent of Paul's dissatisfaction with his allies. The bad issue, he
said, of the war with France had already disposed the Czar to connect
himself with that power, when the return of his troops at once determined
him.

We could easily perceive that Paul placed great confidence in M.
Sprengporten. As he had satisfactorily discharged the mission with which
he had been entrusted, Paul expressed pleasure at his conduct in several
friendly and flattering letters, which Sprengporten always allowed us to
read. No one could be fonder of France than he was, and he ardently
desired that his first negotiations might lead to a long alliance between
the Russian and French Governments. The autograph and very frequent
correspondence between Bonaparte and Paul passed through his hands. I
read all Paul's letters, which were remarkable for the frankness with
which his affection for Bonaparte was expressed. His admiration of the
First Consul was so great that no courtier could have written in a more
flattering manner.

This admiration was not feigned on the part of the Emperor of Russia: it
was no less sincere than ardent, and of this he soon gave proofs. The
violent hatred he had conceived towards the English Government induced
him to defy to single combat every monarch who would not declare war
against England and shut his ports against English ships. He inserted a
challenge to the King of Denmark in the St. Petersburg Court Gazette; but
not choosing to apply officially to the Senate of Hamburg to order its
insertion in the 'Correspondant', conducted by M. Stoves, he sent the
article, through Count Pahlen, to M. Schramm, a Hamburg merchant. The
Count told M. Schramm that the Emperor would be much pleased to see the
article of the St. Petersburg Court Gazette copied into the
Correspondant; and that if it should be inserted, he wished to have a
dozen copies of the paper printed on vellum, and sent to him by an
extraordinary courier. It was Paul's intention to send a copy to every
sovereign in Europe; but this piece of folly, after the manner of Charles
XII., led to no further results.

Bonaparte never felt greater satisfaction in the whole course of his life
than he experienced from Paul's enthusiasm for him. The friendship of a
sovereign seemed to him a step by which he was to become a sovereign
himself. At the same time the affairs of La Vendée began to assume a
better aspect, and he hoped soon to effect that pacification in the
interior which he so ardently desired.

It was during the First Consul's residence at the Luxembourg that the
first report on the civil code was made to the legislative body. It was
then, also, that the regulations for the management of the Bank of France
were adopted, and that establishment so necessary to France was founded.

There was at this time in Paris a man who has acquired an unfortunate
celebrity, the most unlucky of modern generals - in a word, General Mack.
I should not notice that person here were it not for the prophetic
judgment which Bonaparte then pronounced on him. Mack had been obliged
to surrender himself at Championnet some time before our landing at
Fréjus. He was received as a prisoner of war, and the town of Dijon had
been appointed his place of residence, and there he remained until after
the 18th Brumaire. Bonaparte, now Consul, permitted him to come to
Paris, and to reside there on his parole. He applied for leave to go to
Vienna, pledging himself to return again a prisoner to France if the
Emperor Francis would not consent to exchange him for Generals Pérignon
and Grouchy, then prisoners in Austria. His request was not granted, but
his proposition was forwarded to Vienna. The Court of Vienna refused to
accede to it, not placing perhaps so much importance on the deliverance
of Mack as he had flattered himself it would.

Bonaparte speaking to me of him one day said, "Mack is a man of the
lowest mediocrity I ever saw in my life; he is full of self-sufficiency
and conceit, and believes himself equal to anything. He has no talent.
I should like to see him opposed some day to one of our good generals;
we should then see fine work. He is a boaster, and that is all. He is
really one of the most silly men existing; and, besides all that, he is
unlucky." Was not this opinion of Bonaparte, formed on the past, fully
verified by the future?

It was at Malmaison that Bonaparte thus spoke of General Mack. That
place was then far from resembling what it afterwards became, and the
road to it was neither pleasant nor sure. There was not a house on the
road; and in the evening, during the season when we were there, it was
not frequented all the way from St. Germain. Those numerous vehicles,
which the demands of luxury and an increasing population have created,
did not then, as now, pass along the roads in the environs of Paris.
Everywhere the road was solitary and dangerous; and I learned with
certainty that many schemes were laid for carrying off the First Consul
during one of his evening journeys. They were unsuccessful, and orders
were given to enclose the quarries, which were too near to the road. On
Saturday evening Bonaparte left the Luxembourg, and afterwards the
Tuileries, to go to Malmaison, and I cannot better express the joy he
then appeared to experience than by comparing it to the delight of a
school-boy on getting a holiday.

Before removing from the Luxembourg to the Tuileries Bonaparte determined
to dazzle the eyes of the Parisians by a splendid ceremony. He had
appointed it to take place on the 'decadi', Pluviôse 20 (9th February
1800), that is to say, ten days before his final departure from the old
Directorial palace. These kinds of fetes did not resemble what they
afterwards became; their attraction consisted in the splendour of
military dress: and Bonaparte was always sure that whenever he mounted
his horse, surrounded by a brilliant staff from which he was to be
distinguished by the simplicity of his costume, his path would be crowded
and himself greeted with acclamations by the people of Paris. The object
of this fete was at first only to present to the 'Hôtel des Invalides',
then called the Temple of Mars, seventy-two flags taken from the Turks
in the battle of Aboukir and brought from Egypt to Paris; but
intelligence of Washington's death, who expired on the 14th of December
1799, having reached Bonaparte, he eagerly took advantage of that event
to produce more effect, and mixed the mourning cypress with the laurels
he had collected in Egypt.

Bonaparte did not feel much concerned at the death of Washington, that
noble founder of rational freedom in the new world; but it afforded him
an opportunity to mask his ambitious projects under the appearance of a
love of liberty. In thus rendering honour to the memory of Washington
everybody would suppose that Bonaparte intended to imitate his example,
and that their two names would pass in conjunction from mouth to mouth.
A clever orator might be employed, who, while pronouncing a eulogium on
the dead, would contrive to bestow some praise on the living; and when
the people were applauding his love of liberty he would find himself one
step nearer the throne, on which his eyes were constantly fixed. When
the proper time arrived, he would not fail to seize the crown; and would
still cry, if necessary, "Vive la Liberté!" while placing it on his
imperial head.

The skilful orator was found. M. de Fontanes

- [L. de Fontanes (1767-1821) became president of the Corps
Legislatif, Senator, and Grand Master of the University. He was the
centre of the literary group of the Empire,] -

was commissioned to pronounce the funeral eulogium on Washington, and the
flowers of eloquence which he scattered about did not all fall on the
hero of America.

Lannes was entrusted by Bonaparte with the presentation of the flags; and
on the 20th Pluviôse he proceeded, accompanied by strong detachments of
the cavalry then in Paris, to the council-hall of the Invalides, where he
was met by the Minister of War, who received the colours. All the
Ministers, the councillors of State, and generals were summoned to the
presentation. Lannes pronounced a discourse, to which Berthier replied,
and M. de Fontanes added his well-managed eloquence to the plain military
oratory of the two generals. In the interior of this military temple a
statue of Mars sleeping had been placed, and from the pillars and roof
were suspended the trophies of Denain, Fontenoy, and the campaign of
Italy, which would still have decorated that edifice had not the demon of
conquest possessed Bonaparte. Two Invalides, each said to be a hundred
years old, stood beside the Minister of War; and the bust of the
emancipator of America was placed under the trophy composed of the flags
of Aboukir. In a word, recourse was had to every sort of charlatanism
usual on such occasions. In the evening there was a numerous assembly at
the Luxembourg, and Bonaparte took much credit to himself for the effect
produced on this remarkable day. He had only to wait ten days for his
removal to the Tuileries, and precisely on that day the national mourning
for Washington was to cease, for which a general mourning for freedom
might well have been substituted.

I have said very little about Murat in the course of these Memoirs except
mentioning the brilliant part he performed in several battles. Having
now arrived at the period of his marriage with one of Napoleon's sisters
I take the opportunity of returning to the interesting events which
preceded that alliance.

His fine and well-proportioned form, his great physical strength and
somewhat refined elegance of manner, - the fire of his eye, and his fierce
courage in battle, gave to Murat rather the character of one of those
'preux chevaliers' so well described by Ariosto and Taro, than that a
Republican soldier. The nobleness of his look soon made the lowness of
his birth be forgotten. He was affable, polished, gallant; and in the
field of battle twenty men headed by Murat were worth a whole regiment.
Once only he showed himself under the influence of fear, and the reader
shall see in what circumstance it was that he ceased to be himself.

- [Marshal Lannes, so brave and brilliant in war and so well able to
appreciate courage, one day sharply rebuked a colonel for having
punished a young officer just arrived from school at Fontainebleau
because he gave evidence of fear in his first engagement. "Know,
colonel," said he, "none but a poltroon (the term was even more
strong) will boast that he never was afraid." - Bourrienne.] -

When Bonaparte in his first Italian campaign had forced Wurmser to
retreat into Mantua with 28,000 men, he directed Miollis, with only 4000
men, to oppose any sortie that might be attempted by the Austrian
general. In one of these sorties Murat, who was at the head of a very
weak detachment, was ordered to charge Wurmser. He was afraid, neglected
to execute the order, and in a moment of confusion said that he was
wounded. Murat immediately fell into disgrace with the General-in-Chief,
whose 'aide de camp' he was.

Murat had been previously sent to Paris to present to the Directory the
first colours taken by the French army of Italy in the actions of Dego
and Mondovi, and it was on this occasion that he got acquainted with
Madame Tallien and the wife of his General. But he already knew the
beautiful Caroline Bonaparte, whom he had seen at Rome in the residence
of her brother Joseph, who was then discharging the functions of
ambassador of the Republic. It appears that Caroline was not even
indifferent to him, and that he was the successful rival of the Princess
Santa Croce's son, who eagerly sought the honour of her hand. Madame
Tallien and Madame Bonaparte received with great kindness the first 'aide
de camp', and as they possessed much influence with the Directory, they
solicited, and easily obtained for him, the rank of brigadier-general.
It was somewhat remarkable at that time Murat, notwithstanding his newly-
acquired rank, to remain Bonaparte's 'aide de camp', the regulations not
allowing a general-in-chief an 'aide de camp' of higher rank than chief
of brigade, which was equal to that of colonel. This insignificant act
was, therefore, rather a hasty anticipation of the prerogatives
everywhere reserved to princes and kings.

It was after having discharged this commission that Murat, on his return
to Italy, fell into disfavour with the General-in Chief. He indeed
looked upon him with a sort of hostile feeling, and placed him in
Reille's division, and afterwards Baraguey d'Hilliers'; consequently,
when we went to Paris, after the treaty of Campo-Formio, Murat was not of
the party. But as the ladies, with whom he was a great favourite, were
not devoid of influence with the Minister of War, Murat was, by their
interest, attached to the engineer corps in the expedition to Egypt.
On board the Orient he remained in the most complete disgrace. Bonaparte
did not address a word to him during the passage; and in Egypt the
General-in-Chief always treated him with coldness, and often sent him
from the headquarters on disagreeable services. However, the General-in-
Chief having opposed him to Mourad Bey, Murat performed such prodigies of
valour in every perilous encounter that he effaced the transitory stain
which a momentary hesitation under the walls of Mantua had left on his
character. Finally, Murat so powerfully contributed to the success of
the day at Aboukir that Bonaparte, glad to be able to carry another
laurel plucked in Egypt to France, forgot the fault which had made so
unfavourable an impression, and was inclined to efface from his memory
other things that he had heard to the disadvantage of Murat; for I have
good reasons for believing, though Bonaparte never told me so, that
Murat's name, as well as that of Charles, escaped from the lips of Junot
when he made his indiscreet communication to Bonaparte at the walls of
Messoudiah. The charge of grenadiers, commanded by Murat on the 19th
Brumaire in the hall of the Five Hundred, dissipated all the remaining
traces of dislike; and in those moments when Bonaparte's political views
subdued every other sentiment of his mind, the rival of the Prince Santa
Croce received the command of the Consular Guard.

- [Joachim Murat (1771-1616), the son of an innkeeper, aide de camp
to Napoleon in Italy, etc.; Marshal, 1804; Prince in 1806; Grand
Admiral; Grand Duc de Berg et de Clesves, 1808; King of Naples,
1808. Shot by Bourbons 13th October 1815. Married Caroline
Bonaparte (third sister of Napoleon) 20th January 1800.] -

It may reasonably be supposed that Madame Bonaparte, in endeavouring to
win the friendship of Murat by aiding his promotion, had in view to gain
one partisan more to oppose to the family and brothers of Bonaparte; and
of this kind of support she had much need. Their jealous hatred was
displayed on every occasion; and the amiable Josephine, whose only fault
was being too much of the woman, was continually tormented by sad
presentiments. Carried away by the easiness of her character, she did
not perceive that the coquetry which enlisted for her so many defenders
also supplied her implacable enemies with weapons to use against her.

In this state of things Josephine, who was well convinced that she had
attached Murat to herself by the bonds of friendship and gratitude, and
ardently desired to see him united to Bonaparte by a family connection,
favoured with all her influence his marriage with Caroline. She was not
ignorant that a close intimacy had already sprung up at Milan between
Caroline and Murat, and she was the first to propose a marriage. Murat
hesitated, and went to consult M. Collot, who was a good adviser in all
things, and whose intimacy with Bonaparte had initiated him into all the
secrets of the family. M. Collot advised Murat to lose no time, but to
go to the First Consul and formally demand the hand of his sister. Murat
followed his advice. Did he do well? It was to this step that he owed
the throne of Naples. If he had abstained he would not have been shot at
Pizzo. 'Sed ipsi Dei fata rumpere non possunt!'

However that might be, Bonaparte received, more in the manner of a
sovereign than of a brother in arms, the proposal of Murat. He heard him
with unmoved gravity, said that he would consider the matter, but gave no
positive answer.

This affair was, as may be supposed, the subject of conversation in the
evening in the salon of the Luxembourg. Madame Bonaparte employed all
her powers of persuasion to obtain the First Consul's consent, and her
efforts were seconded by Hortense, Eugène, and myself, "Murat," said he,
among other things, "Murat is an innkeeper's son. In the elevated rank
where glory and fortune have placed me, I never can mix his blood with
mine! Besides, there is no hurry: I shall see by and by." We forcibly
described to him the reciprocal affection of the two young people, and
did not fail to bring to his observation Murat's devoted attachment to
his person, his splendid courage and noble conduct in Egypt. "Yes," said
he, with warmth, "I agree with you; Murat was superb at Aboukir." We did
not allow so favourable a moment to pass by. We redoubled our
entreaties, and at last he consented. When we were together in his
cabinet in the evening, "Well, Bourrienne," said he to me, "you ought to
be satisfied, and so am I, too, everything considered. Murat is suited
to my sister, and then no one can say that I am proud, or seek grand
alliances. If I had given my sister to a noble, all your Jacobins would
have raised a cry of counter-revolution. Besides, I am very glad that my
wife is interested in this marriage, and you may easily suppose the
cause. Since it is determined on, I will hasten it forward; we have no
time to lose. If I go to Italy I will take Murat with me. I must strike
a decisive blow there. Adieu."

When I entered the First Consul's chamber at seven o'clock the next day
he appeared even more satisfied than on the preceding evening with the
resolution he had taken. I easily perceived that in spite of all his
cunning, he had failed to discover the real motive which had induced
Josephine to take so lively an interest respecting Murat's marriage with
Caroline. Still Bonaparte's satisfaction plainly showed that his wife's
eagerness for the marriage had removed all doubt in his mind of the
falsity of the calumnious reports which had prevailed respecting her
intimacy with Murat.

The marriage of Murat and Caroline was celebrated at the Luxembourg, but
with great modesty. The First Consul did not yet think that his family
affairs were affairs of state. But previously to the celebration a
little comedy was enacted in which I was obliged to take a part, and I
will relate how.

At the time of the marriage of Murat Bonaparte had not much money, and
therefore only gave his sister a dowry of 30,000 francs. Still, thinking
it necessary to make her a marriage present, and not possessing the means
to purchase a suitable one, he took a diamond necklace which belonged to
his wife and gave it to the bride. Josephine was not at all pleased with
this robbery, and taxed her wits to discover some means of replacing her
necklace.

Josephine was aware that the celebrated jeweler Foncier possessed a
magnificent collection of fine pearls which had belonged, as he said, to
the late Queen, Marie Antoinette. Having ordered them to be brought to
her to examine them, she thought there were sufficient to make a very
fine necklace. But to make the purchase 250,000 francs were required,
and how to get them was the difficulty. Madame Bonaparte had recourse to
Berthier, who was then Minister of War. Berthier, after biting his
nails according to his usual habit, set about the liquidation of the
debts due for the hospital service in Italy with as much speed as
possible; and as in those days the contractors whose claims were admitted
overflowed with gratitude towards their patrons, through whom they
obtained payment, the pearls soon passed from Foncier's shop to the
casket of Madame Bonaparte.

The pearls being thus obtained, there was still another difficulty, which
Madame Bonaparte did not at first think of. How was she to wear a
necklace purchased without her husband's knowledge? Indeed it was the
more difficult for her to do so as the First Consul knew very well that
his wife had no money, and being, if I may be allowed the expression,
something of the busybody, he knew, or believed he knew, all Josephine's
jewels. The pearls were therefore condemned to remain more than a
fortnight in Madame Bonaparte's casket without her daring to use them.
What a punishment for a woman! At length her vanity overcame her
prudence, and being unable to conceal the jewels any longer, she one day
said to me, "Bourrienne, there is to be a large party here to-morrow, and
I absolutely must wear my pearls. But you know he will grumble if he
notices them. I beg, Bourrienne, that you will keep near me. If he asks
me where I got my pearls I must tell him, without hesitation, that I have
had them a long time."

Everything happened as Josephine feared and hoped.

Bonaparte, on seeing the pearls, did not fail to say to Madame, "What is
it you have got there? How fine you are to-day! Where did you get these
pearls? I think I never saw them before." - "Oh! 'mon Dieu'! you have
seen them a dozen times! It is the necklace which the Cisalpine Republic


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Online LibraryLouis Antoine Fauvelet de BourrienneMemoirs of Napoleon — Volume 04 → online text (page 4 of 9)