Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne.

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colleagues. It may be remembered that when Roger Ducos and Sieyès bore
the title of Consuls the three members of the Consular commission were
equal, if not in fact at least in right. But when Cambacérès and Lebrun
took their places, Talleyrand, who had at the same time been appointed to
succeed M. Reinhart as Minister of Foreign Affairs, obtained a private
audience of the First Consul in his cabinet, to which I was admitted.
The observations of Talleyrand on this occasion were highly agreeable to
Bonaparte, and they made too deep an impression on my mind to allow me to
forget them.

"Citizen Consul," said he to him, "you have confided to me the office of
Minister for Foreign Affairs, and I will justify your confidence; but I
must declare to you that from this moment, I will not transact business
with any but yourself. This determination does not proceed from any vain
pride on my part, but is induced by a desire to serve France. In order
that France may be well governed, in order that there may be a unity of
action in the government, you must be First Consul, and the First Consul
must have the control over all that relates directly to politics; that is
to say, over the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Police,
for Internal Affairs, and over my department, for Foreign Affairs; and,
lastly, over the two great means of execution, the military and naval
forces. It will therefore be most convenient that the Ministers of those
five departments should transact business with you. The Administration
of Justice and the ordering of the Finances are objects certainly
connected with State politics by numerous links, which, however, are not
of so intimate a nature as those of the other departments. If you will
allow me, General, I should advise that the control over the
Administration of Justice be given to the Second Consul, who is well
versed in jurisprudence; and to the Third Consul, who is equally well
acquainted with Finance, the control over that department. That will
occupy and amuse them, and you, General, having at your disposal all the
vital parts of the government, will be able to reach the end you aim at,
the regeneration of France."

Bonaparte did not hear these remarkable words with indifference. They
were too much in accordance with his own secret wishes to be listened to
without pleasure; and he said to me as soon as Talleyrand had taken
leave, "Do you know, Bourrienne, I think Talleyrand gives good advice.
He is a man of great understanding." - "Such is the opinion," I replied,
"of all who know him." - "He is perfectly right." Afterwards he added,
smiling, "Tallyrand is evidently a shrewd man. He has penetrated my
designs. What he advises you know I am anxious to do. But again I say,
he is right; one gets on quicker by oneself. Lebrun is a worthy man, but
he has no policy in his head; he is a book-maker. Cambacérès carries
with him too many traditions of the Revolution. My government must be an
entirely new one."

Talleyrand's advice had been so punctually followed that even on the
occasion of the installation of the Consular Government, while Bonaparte
was receiving all the great civil and military officers of the State in
the hall of presentation, Cambacérès and Lebrun stood by more like
spectators of the scene than two colleagues of the First Consul. The
Minister of the Interior presented the civil authorities of Paris; the
Minister of War, the staff of the 17th military division; the Minister of
Marine, several naval officers; and the staff of the Consular Guard was
presented by Murat. As our Consular republicans were not exactly
Spartans, the ceremony of the presentations was followed by grand dinner-
parties. The First Consul entertained at his table, the two other
Consuls, the Ministers, and the Presidents of the great bodies of the
State. Murat treated the heads of the army; and the members of the
Council of State, being again seated in their hackney-coaches with
covered numbers, drove off to dine with Lucien.

Before taking possession of the Tuileries we had frequently gone there to
see that the repairs, or rather the whitewashing, which Bonaparte had
directed to be done, was executed. On our first visit, seeing a number
of red caps of liberty painted on the walls, he said to M. Lecomte, at
that time the architect in charge, "Get rid of all these things; I do not
like to see such rubbish."

The First Consul gave directions himself for what little alterations he
wanted in his own apartments. A state bed - not that of Louis XVI. - was
placed in the chamber next his cabinet, on the south side, towards the
grand staircase of the Pavilion of Flora. I may as well mention here
that he very seldom occupied that bed, for Bonaparte was very simple in
his manner of living in private, and was not fond of state, except as a
means of imposing on mankind. At the Luxembourg, at Malmaison, and
during the first period that he occupied the Tuileries, Bonaparte, if I
may speak in the language of common life, always slept with his wife.
He went every evening down to Josephine by a small staircase leading from
a wardrobe attached to his cabinet, and which had formerly been the
chapel of Maria de Medici. I never went to Bonaparte's bedchamber but
by this staircase; and when he came to our cabinet it was always by the
wardrobe which I have mentioned. The door opened opposite the only
window of our room, and it commanded a view of the garden.

As for our cabinet, where so many great, and also small events were
prepared, and where I passed so many hours of my life, I can, even now,
give the most minute description of it to those who like such details.

There were two tables. The best, which was the First Consul's, stood in
the middle of the room, and his armchair was turned with its back to the
fireplace, having the window on the right. To the right of this again
was a little closet where Duroc sat, through which we could communicate
with the clerk of the office and the grand apartments of the Court.
When the First Consul was seated at his table in his chair (the arms of
which he so frequently mutilated with his penknife) he had a large
bookcase opposite to him. A little to the right, on one side of the
bookcase, was another door, opening into the cabinet which led directly
to the state bedchamber which I have mentioned. Thence we passed into
the grand Presentation Saloon, on the ceiling of which Lebrun had painted
a likeness of Louis XIV. A tri-coloured cockade placed on the forehead
of the great King still bore witness of the imbecile turpitude of the
Convention. Lastly came the hall of the Guards, in front of the grand
staircase of the Pavilion of Flora.

My writing-table, which was extremely plain, stood near the window, and
in summer I had a view of the thick foliage of the chestnut-trees; but in
order to see the promenaders in the garden I was obliged to raise myself
from my seat. My back was turned to the General's side, so that it
required only a slight movement of the head to speak to each other.
Duroc was seldom in his little cabinet, and that was the place where I
gave some audiences. The Consular cabinet, which afterwards became the
Imperial, has left many impressions on my mind; and I hope the reader, in
going through these volumes, will not think that they have been of too
slight a description.



The Tuileries - Royalty in perspective - Remarkable observation -
Presentations - Assumption of the prerogative of mercy - M. Defeu -
M. de Frotte - Georges Cadoudal's audience of Bonaparte - Rapp's
precaution and Bonaparte's confidence - The dignity of France -
Napper Tandy and Blackwell delivered up by the Senate of Hamburg -
Contribution in the Egyptian style - Valueless bill - Fifteen thousand
francs in the drawer of a secretaire - Josephine's debts - Evening
walks with Bonaparte.

The morning after that ardently wished-for day on which we took
possession of the Palace of the Kings of France I observed to Bonaparte
on entering his chamber, "Well, General, you have got here without much
difficulty, and with the applause of the people! Do you remember what
you said to me in the Rue St. Anne nearly two years ago?" - "Ay, true
enough, I recollect. You see what it is to have the mind set on a thing.
Only two years have gone by! Don't you think we have not worked badly
since that time? Upon the whole I am very well content. Yesterday
passed off well. Do you imagine that all those who came to flatter me
were sincere? No, certainly not: but the joy of the people was real.
They know what is right. Besides, consult the grand thermometer of
opinion, the price of the funds: on the 17th Brumaire at 11 francs, on
the 20th at 16 and to-day at 21. In such a state of things I may let the
Jacobins prate as they like. But let them not talk too loudly either!"

As soon as he was dressed we went to look through the Gallery of Diana
and examine the statues which had been placed there by his orders. We
ended our morning's work by taking complete possession of our new
residence. I recollect Bonaparte saying to me, among other things, "To
be at the Tuileries, Bourrienne, is not all. We must stay here. Who, in
Heaven's name, has not already inhabited this palace? Ruffians,
conventionalists! But hold! there is your brother's house! Was it not
from those windows I saw the Tuileries besieged, and the good Louis XVI.
carried off? But be assured they will not come here again!"

The Ambassadors and other foreign Ministers then in Paris were presented
to the First Consul at a solemn audience. On this occasion all the
ancient ceremonials belonging to the French Court were raked up, and in
place of chamberlains and a grand master of ceremonies a Counsellor of
State, M. Benezech, who was once Minister for Foreign Affairs,

When the Ambassadors had all arrived M. Benezech conducted them into the
cabinet, in which were the three Consuls, the Ministers, and the Council
of State. The Ambassadors presented their credentials to the First
Consul, who handed them to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. These
presentations were followed by others; for example, the Tribunal of
Cassation, over which the old advocate, Target, who refused to defend
Louis XVI., then presided. All this passed in view of the three Consuls;
but the circumstance which distinguished the First Consul from his
colleagues was, that the official personages, on leaving the audience-
chamber, were conducted to Madame Bonaparte's apartments, in imitation of
the old practice of waiting on the Queen after presentation to the King.

Thus old customs of royalty crept by degrees into the former abodes of
royalty. Amongst the rights attached to the Crown, and which the
Constitution of the year VIII. did not give to the First Consul, was one
which he much desired to possess, and which, by the most happy of all
usurpations, he arrogated to himself. This was the right of granting
pardon. Bonaparte felt a real pleasure in saving men under the sentence
of the law; and whenever the imperious necessity of his policy, to which,
in truth, he sacrificed everything, permitted it, he rejoiced in the
exercise of mercy. It would seem as if he were thankful to the persons
to whom he rendered such service merely because he had given them
occasion to be thankful to him. Such was the First Consul: I do not
speak of the Emperor. Bonaparte, the First Consul, was accessible to the
solicitations of friendship in favour of persons placed under
proscription. The following circumstance, which interested me much,
affords an incontestable proof of what I state: -

Whilst we were still at the Luxembourg, M. Defeu, a French emigrant, was
taken in the Tyrol with arms in his hand by the troops of the Republic.
He was carried to Grenoble, and thrown into the military prison of that
town. In the course of January General Ferino, then commanding at
Grenoble, received orders to put the young emigrant on his trial. The
laws against emigrants taken in arms were terrible, and the judges dared
not be indulgent. To be tried in the morning, condemned in the course of
the day, and shot in the evening, was the usual course of those
implacable proceedings. One of my cousins, the daughter of M.
Poitrincourt, came from Sens to Paris to inform me of the dreadful
situation of M. Defeu. She told me that he was related to the most
respectable families of the town of Sens, and that everybody felt the
greatest interest in his fate.

I had escaped for a few moments to keep the appointment I made with
Mademoiselle Poitrincourt. On my return I perceived the First Consul
surprised at finding himself alone in the cabinet, which I was not in the
habit of quitting without his knowledge. "Where have you been?" said he.
"I have been to see one of my relations, who solicits a favour of you." -
"What is it?" I then informed him of the unfortunate situation of M.
Defeu. His first answer was dreadful. "No pity! no pity for emigrants!
Whoever fights against his country is a child who tries to kill his
mother!" This first burst of anger being over, I returned to the charge.
I urged the youth of M. Defeu, and the good effect which clemency would
produce. "Well," said he, "write -

"The First Consul orders the judgment on M. Defeu to be suspended."

He signed this laconic order, which I instantly despatched to General
Ferino. I acquainted my cousin with what had passed, and remained at
ease as to the result of the affair.

Scarcely had I entered the chamber of the First Consul the next morning
when he said to me, "Well, Bourrienne, you say nothing about your M.
Defeu. Are you satisfied?" - "General, I cannot find terms to express my
gratitude." - "Ah, bah! But I do not like to do things by halves. Write
to Ferino that I wish M. Defeu to be instantly set at liberty. Perhaps I
am serving one who will prove ungrateful. Well, so much the worse for
him. As to these matters, Bourrienne, always ask them from me. When I
refuse, it is because I cannot help it."

I despatched at my own expense an extraordinary courier, who arrived in
time to save M. Defeu's life. His mother, whose only son he was, and M.
Blanchet, his uncle, came purposely from Sens to Paris to express their
gratitude to me. I saw tears of joy fall from the eyes of a mother who
had appeared to be destined to shed bitter drops, and I said to her as I
felt, "that I was amply recompensed by the success which had attended my

Emboldened by this success, and by the benevolent language of the First
Consul, I ventured to request the pardon of M. de Frotte, who was
strongly recommended to me by most honourable persons. Comte Louis de
Frotte had at first opposed all negotiation for the pacification of La
Vendée. At length, by a series of unfortunate combats, he was, towards
the end of January, reduced to the necessity of making himself the
advances which he had rejected when made by others. At this period he
addressed a letter to General Guidal, in which he offered pacificatory
proposals. A protection to enable him to repair to Alençon was
transmitted to him. Unfortunately for M. de Frotte, he did not confine
himself to writing to General Guidal, for whilst the safe-conduct which
he had asked was on the way to him, he wrote to his lieutenants, advising
them not to submit or consent to be disarmed. This letter was
intercepted. It gave all the appearance of a fraudulent stratagem to his
proposal to treat for peace. Besides, this opinion appeared to be
confirmed by a manifesto of M. de Frotte, anterior, it is true, to the
offers of pacification, but in which he announced to all his partisans
the approaching end of Bonaparte's "criminal enterprise."

I had more trouble than in M. Defeu's case to induce the First Consul to
exercise his clemency. However, I pressed him so much, I laboured so
hard to convince him of the happy effect of such indulgence, that at
length I obtained an order to suspend the judgment. What a lesson I then
experienced of the evil which may result from the loss of time! Not
supposing that matters were so far advanced as they were, I did not
immediately send off the courier with the order for the suspension of the
judgment. Besides, the Minister-of-Police had marked his victim, and he
never lost time when evil was to be done. Having, therefore, I know not
for what motive, resolved on the destruction of M. de Frotte, he sent an
order to hasten his trial.

Comte Louis de Frotte was brought to trial on the 28th Pluviôse,
condemned the same day, and executed the next morning, the day before we
entered the Tuileries. The cruel precipitation of the Minister rendered
the result of my solicitations abortive. I had reason to think that
after the day on which the First Consul granted me the order for delay he
had received some new accusation against M. de Frotte, for when he heard
of his death he appeared to me very indifferent about the tardy arrival
of the order for suspending judgment. He merely said to me, with unusual
insensibility, "You should take your measures better. You see it is not
my fault."

Though Bonaparte put no faith in the virtue of men, he had confidence in
their honour. I had proof of this in a matter which deserves to be
recorded in history. When, during the first period of our abode at the
Tuileries, he had summoned the principal chiefs of La Vendée to
endeavour to bring about the pacification of that unhappy country, he
received Georges Cadoudal in a private audience. The disposition in
which I beheld him the evening before the day appointed for this audience
inspired me with the most flattering hopes. Rapp introduced Georges into
the grand salon looking into the garden. Rapp left him alone with the
First Consul, but on returning to the cabinet where I was he did not
close either of the two doors of the state bedchamber which separated the
cabinet from the salon. We saw the First Consul and Georges walk from
the window to the bottom of the salon - then return - then go back again.
This lasted for a long time. The conversation appeared very animated,
and we heard several things, but without any connection. There was
occasionally a good deal of ill-humour displayed in their tone and
gestures. The interview ended in nothing. The First Consul, perceiving
that Georges entertained some apprehensions for his personal safety, gave
him assurances of security in the most noble manner, saying, "You take a
wrong view of things, and are wrong in not coming to some understanding;
but if you persist in wishing to return to your country you shall depart
as freely as you came to Paris." When Bonaparte returned to his cabinet
he said to Rapp, "Tell me, Rapp, why you left these doors open, and
stopped with Bourrienne?" Rapp replied, "If you had closed the doors I
would have opened them again. Do you think I would have left you alone
with a man like that? There would have been danger in it." - "No, Rapp,"
said Bonaparte, "you cannot think so." When we were alone the First
Consul appeared pleased with Rapp's attachment, but very vexed at
Georges' refusal. He said, "He does not take a correct view of things;
but the extravagance of his principles has its source in noble
sentiments, which must give him great influence over his countrymen.
It is necessary, however, to bring this business soon to an end."

Of all the actions of Louis XIV. that which Bonaparte most admired was
his having made the Doge of Genoa send ambassadors to Paris to apologise
to him. The slightest insult offered in a foreign country to the rights
and dignity of France put Napoleon beside himself. This anxiety to have
the French Government respected exhibited itself in an affair which made
much noise at the period, but which was amicably arranged by the soothing
influence of gold.

Two Irishmen, Napper Tandy and Blackwell, who had been educated in
France, and whose names and rank as officers appeared in the French army
list, had retired to Hamburg. The British Government claimed them as
traitors to their country, and they were given up; but, as the French
Government held them to be subjects of France, the transaction gave rise
to bitter complaints against the Senate of Hamburg.

Blackwell had been one of the leaders of the united Irishmen. He had
procured his naturalisation in France, and had attained the rank of chef
d'escadron. Being sent on a secret mission to Norway, the ship in which
he was embarked was wrecked on the coast of that kingdom. He then
repaired to Hamburg, where the Senate placed him under arrest on the
demand of Mr. Crawford, the English Minister. After being detained in
prison a whole year he was conveyed to England to be tried. The French
Government interfered, and preserved, if not his liberty, at least his

Napper Tandy was also an Irishman. To escape the search made after him,
on account of the sentiments of independence which had induced him to
engage in the contest for the liberty of his country, he got on board a
French brig, intending to land at Hamburg and pass into Sweden. Being
exempted from the amnesty by the Irish Parliament, he was claimed by the
British Government, and the Senators of Hamburg forgot honour and
humanity in their alarm at the danger which at that moment menaced their
little republic both from England and France. The Senate delivered up
Napper Tandy; he was carried to Ireland, and condemned to death, but owed
the suspension of his execution to the interference of France. He
remained two years in prison, when M. Otto, who negotiated with Lord
Hawkesbury the preliminaries of peace, obtained the release of Napper
Tandy, who was sent back to France.

The First Consul spoke at first of signal vengeance; but the Senate of
Hamburg sent him a memorial, justificatory of its conduct, and backed the
apology with a sum of four millions and a half, which mollified him
considerably. This was in some sort a recollection of Egypt - one of
those little contributions with which the General had familiarised the
pashas; with this difference, that on the present occasion not a single
sous went into the national treasury. The sum was paid to the First
Consul through the hands of M. Chapeau Rouge.

- [A solemn deputation from the Senate arrived at the Tuileries to
make public apologies to Napoleon. He again testified his
indignation: and when the envoys urged their weakness he said to
them. "Well and had you not the resource of weak states? was it not
in your power to let them escape?" (Napoleon's Memoirs).] -

I kept the four millions and a half in Dutch bonds in a secretaire for a
week. Bonaparte then determined to distribute them; after paying
Josephine's debts, and the whole of the great expenses incurred at
Malmaison, he dictated to me a list of persons to whom he wished to make
presents. My name did not escape his lips, and consequently I had not
the trouble to transcribe it; but some time after he said to me, with the
most engaging kindness, "Bourrienne, I have given you none of the money
which came from Hamburg, but I will make you amends for it." He took
from his drawer a large and broad sheet of printed paper, with blanks
filled up in his own handwriting, and said to me, "Here is a bill for
300,000 Italian livres on the Cisalpine Republic, for the price of cannon
furnished. It is endorsed Halter and Collot - I give it you." To make
this understood, I ought to state that cannon had been sold to the
Cisalpine Republic, for the value of which the Administrator-general of
the Italian finances drew on the Republic, and the bills were paid over
to M. Collot, a provision contractor, and other persons. M. Collot had
given one of these bills for 300,000 livres to Bonaparte in quittance of
a debt, but the latter had allowed the bill to run out without troubling
himself about it. The Cisalpine Republic kept the cannons and the money,
and the First Consul kept his bill. When I had examined it I said,
"General, it has been due for a long time; why have you not got it paid?
The endorsers are no longer liable." - "France is bound to discharge debts
of this kind;" said he; "send the paper to de Fermont: he will discount
it for three per cent. You will not have in ready money more than about
9000 francs of rentes, because the Italian livre is not equal to the
franc." I thanked him, and sent the bill to M. de Fermont. He replied
that the claim was bad, and that the bill would not be liquidated because

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Online LibraryLouis Antoine Fauvelet de BourrienneMemoirs of Napoleon — Volume 04 → online text (page 6 of 9)