Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne.

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gave me, and which I now wear in my hair." - "But I think - " - "Stay: ask
Bourrienne, he will tell you." - "Well, Bourrienne, what do you say to it?
Do you recollect the necklace?" - "Yes, General, I recollect very well
seeing it before." This was not untrue, for Madame Bonaparte had
previously shown me the pearls. Besides, she had received a pearl
necklace from the Cisalpine Republic, but of incomparably less value than
that purchased from Foncier. Josephine performed her part with charming
dexterity, and I did not act amiss the character of accomplice assigned
me in this little comedy. Bonaparte had no suspicions. When I saw the
easy confidence with which Madame Bonaparte got through this scene, I
could not help recollecting Suzanne's reflection on the readiness with
which well-bred ladies can tell falsehoods without seeming to do so.



Police on police - False information - Dexterity of Fouché - Police
agents deceived - Money ill applied - Inutility of political police -
Bonaparte's opinion - General considerations - My appointment to the
Prefecture of police.

Before taking up his quarters in the Tuileries the First Consul organised
his secret police, which was intended, at the same time, to be the rival
or check upon Fouché's police. Duroc and Moncey were at first the
Director of this police; afterwards Davoust and Junot. Madame Bonaparte
called this business a vile system of espionage. My remarks on the
inutility of the measure were made in vain. Bonaparte had the weakness
at once to fear Fouché and to think him necessary. Fouché, whose talents
at this trade are too well known to need my approbation, soon discovered
this secret institution, and the names of all the subaltern agents
employed by the chief agents. It is difficult to form an idea of the
nonsense, absurdity, and falsehood contained in the bulletins drawn up by
the noble and ignoble agents of the police. I do not mean to enter into
details on this nauseating subject; and I shall only trespass on the
reader's patience by relating, though it be in anticipation, one fact
which concerns myself, and which will prove that spies and their wretched
reports cannot be too much distrusted.

During the second year of the Consulate we were established at Malmaison.
Junot had a very large sum at his disposal for the secret police of the
capital. He gave 3000 francs of it to a wretched manufacturer of
bulletins; the remainder was expended on the police of his stable and his
table. In reading one of these daily bulletins I saw the following

"M. de Bourrienne went last night to Paris. He entered an hotel of
the Faubourg St. Germain, Rue de Varenne, and there, in the course
of a very animated discussion, he gave it to be understood that the
First Consul wished to make himself King."

As it happens, I never had opened my mouth, either respecting what
Bonaparte had said to me before we went to Egypt or respecting his other
frequent conversations with me of the same nature, during this period of
his Consulship. I may here observe, too, that I never quitted, nor ever
could quit Malmaison for a moment. At any time, by night or day, I was
subject to be called for by the First Consul, and, as very often was the
case, it so happened that on the night in question he had dictated to me
notes and instructions until three o'clock in the morning.

Junot came every day to Malmaison at eleven o'clock in the morning. I
called him that day into my cabinet, when I happened to be alone. "Have
you not read your bulletin?" said I, "Yes, I have." - "Nay, that is
impossible." - "Why?" - "Because, if you had, you would have suppressed an
absurd story which relates to me." - "Ah!" he replied, "I am sorry on your
account, but I can depend on my agent, and I will not alter a word of his
report." I then told him all that had taken place on that night; but he
was obstinate, and went away unconvinced.

Every morning I placed all the papers which the First Consul had to read
on his table, and among the first was Junot's report. The First Consul
entered and read it; on coming to the passage concerning me he began to

"Have you read this bulletin?" - "Yes, General." - "What an ass that Junot
is! It is a long time since I have known that." - " How he allows himself
to be entrapped! Is he still here?" - "I believe so. I have just seen
him, and made observations to him, all in good part, but he would hear
nothing." - "Tell him to come here." When Junot appeared Bonaparte began
- "Imbecile that you are! how could you send me such reports as these?
Do you not read them? How shall I be sure that you will not compromise
other persons equally unjustly? I want positive facts, not inventions.
It is some time since your agent displeased me; dismiss him directly."
Junot wanted to justify himself, but Bonaparte cut him short - "Enough! -
It is settled!"

I related what had passed to Fouché, who told me that, wishing to amuse
himself at Junot's expense, whose police agents only picked up what they
heard related in coffeehouses, gaming-houses, and the Bourse, he had
given currency to this absurd story, which Junot had credited and
reported, as he did many other foolish tales. Fouché often caught the
police of the Palace in the snares he laid for them, and thus increased
his own credit.

This circumstance, and others of the same nature, induced the First
Consul to attach less importance than at first he had to his secret
police, which seldom reported anything but false and silly stories.
That wretched police! During the time I was with him it embittered his
life, and often exasperated him against his wife, his relations, and

- [Bourrienne, it must be remembered, was a sufferer from the
vigilance of this police.] -

Rapp, who was as frank as he was brave, tells us in his Memoirs (p. 233)
that when Napoleon, during his retreat from Moscow, while before
Smolenski, heard of the attempt of Mallet, he could not get over the
adventure of the Police Minister, Savary, and the Prefect of Police,
Pasquier. "Napoleon," says Rapp, "was not surprised that these wretches
(he means the agents of the police) who crowd the salons and the taverns,
who insinuate themselves everywhere and obstruct everything, should not
have found out the plot, but he could not understand the weakness of the
Duc de Rovigo. The very police which professed to divine everything had
let themselves be taken by surprise." The police possessed no foresight
or faculty of prevention. Every silly thing that transpired was reported
either from malice or stupidity. What was heard was misunderstood or
distorted in the recital, so that the only result of the plan was
mischief and confusion.

The police as a political engine is a dangerous thing. It foments and
encourages more false conspiracies than it discovers or defeats real
ones. Napoleon has related "that M. de la Rochefoucauld formed at Paris
a conspiracy in favour of the King, then at Mittau, the first act of
which was to be the death of the Chief of the Government. The plot being
discovered, a trusty person belonging to the police was ordered to join
it and become one of the most active agents. He brought letters of
recommendation from an old gentleman in Lorraine who had held a
distinguished rank in the army of Condé." After this, what more can be
wanted? A hundred examples could not better show the vileness of such a
system. Napoleon, when fallen, himself thus disclosed the scandalous
means employed by his Government.

Napoleon on one occasion, in the Isle of Elba, said to an officer who was
conversing with him about France, "You believe, then, that the police
agents foresee everything and know everything? They invent more than
they discover. Mine, I believe, was better than that they have got now,
and yet it was often only by mere chance, the imprudence of the parties
implicated, or the treachery of some of them, that something was
discovered after a week or fortnight's exertion." Napoleon, in directing
this officer to transmit letters to him under the cover of a commercial
correspondence, to quiet his apprehensions that the correspondence might
be discovered, said, "Do you think, then, that all letters are opened at
the post office? They would never be able to do so. I have often
endeavoured to discover what the correspondence was that passed under
mercantile forms, but I never succeeded. The post office, like the
police, catches only fools."

Since I am on the subject of political police, that leprosy of modern
society, perhaps I may be allowed to overstep the order of time, and
advert to its state even in the present day.

The Minister of Police, to give his prince a favourable idea of his
activity, contrives great conspiracies, which he is pretty sure to
discover in time, because he is their originator. The inferior agents,
to find favour in the eyes of the Minister, contrive small plots. It
would be difficult to mention a conspiracy which has been discovered,
except when the police agents took part in it, or were its promoters.
It is difficult to conceive how those agents can feed a little intrigue,
the result at first, perhaps, of some petty ill-humour and discontent
which, thanks to their skill, soon becomes a great affair. How many
conspiracies have escaped the boasted activity and vigilance of the
police when none of its agents were parties. I may instance Babeuf's
conspiracy, the attempt at the camp at Grenelle, the 18th Brumaire, the
infernal machine, Mallet, the 20th of March, the affair of Grenoble, and
many others.

The political police, the result of the troubles of the Revolution, has
survived them. The civil police for the security of property, health,
and order, is only made a secondary object, and has been, therefore,
neglected. There are times in which it is thought of more consequence
to discover whether a citizen goes to mass or confession than to defeat
the designs of a band of robbers. Such a state of things is unfortunate
for a country; and the money expended on a system of superintendence over
persons alleged to be suspected, in domestic inquisitions, in the
corruption of the friends, relations, and servants of the man marked out
for destruction might be much better employed. The espionage of opinion,
created, as I have said, by the revolutionary troubles, is suspicious,
restless, officious, inquisitorial, vexatious, and tyrannical.
Indifferent to crimes and real offences, it is totally absorbed in the
inquisition of thoughts. Who has not heard it said in company, to some
one speaking warmly, "Be moderate, M - - - is supposed to belong to the
police." This police enthralled Bonaparte himself in its snares, and
held him a long time under the influence of its power.

I have taken the liberty thus to speak of a scourge of society of which
I have been a victim. What I here state may be relied on. I shall not
speak of the week during which I had to discharge the functions of
Prefect of Police, namely, from the 13th to the 20th of March, 1815.
It may well be supposed that though I had not held in abhorrence the
infamous system which I have described, the important nature of the
circumstances and the short period of my administration must have
prevented me from making complete use of the means placed at my disposal.
The dictates of discretion, which I consider myself bound to obey,
forbid me giving proofs of what I advance. What it was necessary to do
I accomplished without employing violent or vexatious means; and I can
take on myself to assert that no one has cause to complain of me. Were I
to publish the list of the persons I had orders to arrest, those of them
who are yet living would be astonished that the only knowledge they had
of my being the Prefect of Police was from the Moniteur. I obtained by
mild measures, by persuasion, and reasoning what I could never have got
by violence. I am not divulging any secrets of office, but I believe I
am rendering a service to the public in pointing out what I have often
observed while an unwilling confidant in the shameful manoeuvres of that
political institution.

The word ideologue was often in Bonaparte's mouth; and in using it he
endeavoured to throw ridicule on those men whom he fancied to have a
tendency towards the doctrine of indefinite perfectibility. He esteemed
them for their morality, yet he looked on them as dreamers seeking for
the type of a universal constitution, and considering the character of
man in the abstract only. The ideologues, according to him, looked for
power in institutions; and that he called metaphysics. He had no idea of
power except in direct force. All benevolent men who speculate on the
amelioration of human society were regarded by Bonaparte as dangerous,
because their maxims and principles were diametrically opposed to the
harsh and arbitrary system he had adopted. He said that their hearts
were better than their heads, and, far from wandering with them in
abstractions, he always said that men were only to be governed by fear
and interest. The free expression of opinion through the press has been
always regarded by those who are not led away by interest or power as
useful to society. But Bonaparte held the liberty of the press in the
greatest horror; and so violent was his passion when anything was urged
in its favour that he seemed to labour under a nervous attack. Great man
as he was, he was sorely afraid of little paragraphs.

- [Joseph Bonaparte fairly enough remarks on this that such writings
had done great harm in those extraordinary times (Erreurs, tome i,
p. 259). Metternich, writing in 1827 with distrust of the
proceedings of Louis XVIII., quotes, with approval, Napoleon's
sentiments on this point. "Napoleon, who could not have been
wanting in the feeling of power, said to me, 'You see me master of
France; well, I would not undertake to govern her for three months
with liberty of the press. Louis XVIII., apparently thinking
himself stronger than Napoleon, is not content with allowing the
press its freedom, but has embodied its liberty in the charter"
(Metternich, tome iv, p. 391.)] -



Successful management of parties - Precautions - Removal from the
Luxembourg to the Tuileries - Hackney-coaches and the Consul's white
horses - Royal custom and an inscription - The review - Bonaparte's
homage to the standards - Talleyrand in Bonaparte's cabinet -
Bonaparte's aversion to the cap of liberty even in painting - The
state bed - Our cabinet.

Of the three brothers to whom the 18th Brumaire gave birth Bonaparte
speedily declared himself the eldest, and hastened to assume all the
rights of primogeniture. He soon arrogated to himself the whole power.
The project he had formed, when he favoured the revolution of the 18th
Fructidor, was now about to be realized. It was then an indispensable
part of his plan that the Directory should violate the constitution in
order to justify a subsequent subversion of the Directory. The
expressions which escaped him from time to time plainly showed that his
ambition was not yet satisfied, and that the Consulship was only a state
of probation preliminary to the complete establishment of monarchy.
The Luxembourg was then discovered to be too small for the Chief of the
Government, and it was resolved that Bonaparte should inhabit the
Tuileries. Still great prudence was necessary to avoid the quicksands
which surrounded him! He therefore employed great precaution in dealing
with the susceptibilities of the Republicans, taking care to inure them
gradually to the temperature of absolute power. But this mode of
treatment was not sufficient; for such was Bonaparte's situation between
the Jacobins and the Royalists that he could not strike a blow at one
party without strengthening the other. He, however, contrived to solve
this difficult problem, and weakened both parties by alternately
frightening each. "You see, Royalists," he seemed to say, "if you do not
attach yourselves to my government the Jacobins will again rise and bring
back the reign of terror and its scaffold." To the men of the Revolution
he, on the other hand, said, "See, the counter-Revolution appears,
threatening reprisals and vengeance. It is ready to overwhelm you; my
buckler can alone protect you from its attacks." Thus both parties were
induced, from their mutual fear of each other, to attach themselves to
Bonaparte; and while they fancied they were only placing themselves under
the protection of the Chief of the Government, they were making
themselves dependent on an ambitious man, who, gradually bending them to
his will, guided them as he chose in his political career. He advanced
with a firm step; but he never neglected any artifice to conceal, as long
as possible, his designs.

I saw Bonaparte put in motion all his concealed springs; and I could not
help admiring his wonderful address.

But what most astonished me was the control he possessed over himself, in
repressing any premature manifestation of his intentions which might
prejudice his projects. Thus, for instance, he never spoke of the
Tuileries but under the name of "the Palace of the Government," and he
determined not to inhabit, at first, the ancient palace of the kings of
France alone. He contented himself with selecting the royal apartments,
and proposed that the Third Consul should also reside in the Tuileries,
and in consequence he occupied the Pavilion of Flora. This skilful
arrangement was perfectly in accordance with the designation of "Palace
of the Government" given to the Tuileries, and was calculated to deceive,
for a time, the most clear-sighted.

The moment for leaving the Luxembourg having arrived, Bonaparte still
used many deceptive precautions. The day filed for the translation of
the seat of government was the 30th Pluviôse, the previous day having
been selected for publishing the account of the votes taken for the
acceptance of the new Constitution. He had, besides, caused the
insertion in the 'Moniteur' of the eulogy on Washington, pronounced, by
M. de Fontanes, the decadi preceding, to be delayed for ten days. He
thought that the day when he was about to take so large a step towards
monarchy would be well chosen for entertaining the people of Paris with
grand ideas of liberty, and for coupling his own name with that of the
founder of the free government of the United States.

At seven o'clock on the morning of the 30th Pluviôse I entered, as usual,
the chamber of the First Consul. He was in a profound sleep, and this
was one of the days on which I had been desired to allow him to sleep a
little longer than usual. I have often observed that General Bonaparte
appeared much less moved when on the point of executing any great design
than during the time of projecting it, so accustomed was he to think
that what he had resolved on in his mind, was already done.

When I returned to Bonaparte he said to me, with a marked air of
satisfaction, "Well, Bourrienne, to-night, at last, we shall sleep in the
Tuileries. You are better off than I: you are not obliged to make a
spectacle of yourself, but may go your own road there. I must, however,
go in procession: that disgusts me; but it is necessary to speak to the
eyes. That has a good effect on the people. The Directory was too
simple, and therefore never enjoyed any consideration. In the army
simplicity is in its proper place; but in a great city, in a palace,
the Chief of the Government must attract attention in every possible way,
yet still with prudence. Josephine is going to look out from Lebrun's
apartments; go with her, if you like; but go to the cabinet as soon as
you see me alight from my horse."

I did not go to the review, but proceeded to the Tuileries, to arrange in
our new cabinet the papers which it was my duty to take care of, and to
prepare everything for the First Consul's arrival. It was not until the
evening that I learned, from the conversation in the salon, where there
was a numerous party, what had taken place in the course of the day.

At one o'clock precisely Bonaparte left the Luxembourg. The procession
was, doubtless, far from approaching the magnificent parade of the
Empire: but as much pomp was introduced as the state of things in France
permitted. The only real splendour of that period consisted in fine
troops. Three thousand picked men, among whom was the superb regiment of
the Guides, had been ordered out for the occasion: all marched in the
greatest order; with music at the head of each corps. The generals and
their staffs were on horseback, the Ministers in carriages, which were
somewhat remarkable, as they were almost the only private carriages then
in Paris, for hackney-coaches had been hired to convey the Council of
State, and no trouble had been taken to alter them, except by pasting
over the number a piece of paper of the same colour as the body of the
vehicle. The Consul's carriage was drawn by six white horses. With the
sight of those horses was associated the recollection of days of glory
and of peace, for they had been presented to the General-in-Chief of the
army of Italy by the Emperor of Germany after the treaty of Campo-Formio.
Bonaparte also wore the magnificent sabre given him by the Emperor
Francis. With Cambacérès on his left, and Lebrun in the front of the
carriage, the First Consul traversed a part of Paris, taking the Rue de
Thionville, and the Quai Voltaire to the Pont Royal. Everywhere he was
greeted by acclamations of joy, which at that time were voluntary, and
needed not to be commanded by the police.

From the wicket of the Carrousel to the gate of the Tuileries the troops
of the Consular Guard were formed in two lines, through which the
procession passed - a royal custom, which made a singular contrast with an
inscription in front of which Bonaparte passed on entering the courtyard.
Two guard-houses had been built, one on the right and another on the left
of the centre gate. On the one to the right were written these words:


It was already re-established!

In the meantime the troops had been drawn up in line in the courtyard.
As soon as the Consul's carriage stopped Bonaparte immediately alighted,
and mounted, or, to speak more properly, leaped on his horse, and
reviewed his troops, while the other two Consuls proceeded to the state
apartments of the Tuileries, where the Council of State and the Ministers
awaited them. A great many ladies, elegantly dressed in Greek costume,
which was then the fashion, were seated with Madame Bonaparte at the
windows of the Third Consul's apartments in the Pavilion of Flora. It is
impossible to give an idea of the immense crowds which flowed in from all
quarters. The windows looking to the Carrousel were let for very large
sums; and everywhere arose, as if from one voice, shouts of "Long live
the First Consul!" Who could help being intoxicated by so much

Bonaparte prolonged the review for some time, passed down all the ranks,
and addressed the commanders of corps in terms of approbation and praise.
He then took his station at the gate of the Tuileries, with Murat on his
right, and Lannes on his left, and behind him a numerous staff of young
warriors, whose complexions had been browned by the sun of Egypt and
Italy, and who had been engaged in more battles than they numbered years.
When the colours of the 96th, 43d, and 34th demi-brigades, or rather
their flagstaffs surmounted by some shreds, riddled by balls and
blackened by powder, passed before him, he raised his hat and inclined
his head in token of respect. Every homage thus paid by a great captain
to standards which had been mutilated on the field of battle was saluted
by a thousand acclamations. When the troops had finished defiling before
him, the First Consul, with a firm step, ascended the stairs of the

The General's part being finished for the day, that of the Chief of the
State began; and indeed it might already be said that the First Consul
was the whole Consulate. At the risk of interrupting my narrative of
what occurred on our arrival at the Tuileries, by a digression, which may
be thought out of place, I will relate a fact which had no little weight
in hastening Bonaparte's determination to assume a superiority over his

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Online LibraryLouis Antoine Fauvelet de BourrienneMemoirs of Napoleon — Volume 04 → online text (page 5 of 9)