Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne.

Memoirs of Napoleon — Volume 04 online

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wished to make the first in the world. Next to war, he regarded the
embellishment of Paris as the source of his glory; and he never
considered a victory fully achieved until he had raised a monument to
transmit its memory to posterity. He, wanted glory, uninterrupted
glory, for France as well as for himself. How often, when talking over
his schemes, has he not said, "Bourrienne, it is for France I am doing
all this! All I wish, all I desire, the end of all my labours is, that
my name should be indissolubly connected with that of France!"

Paris is not the only city, nor is France the only kingdom, which bears
traces of Napoleon's passion for great and useful monuments. In Belgium,
in Holland, in Piedmont, in all Italy, he executed great improvements.
At Turin a splendid bridge was built over the Po, in lieu of an old
bridge which was falling in ruins.

How many things were undertaken and executed in Napoleon's short and
eventful reign! To obviate the difficulty of communication between Metz
and Mayence a magnificent road was made, as if by magic, across
impracticable marshes and vast forests. Mountains were cut through and
ravines filled up. He would not allow nature more than man to resist
him. One day when he was proceeding to Belgium by the way of Givet, he
was detained for a short time at Little Givet, on the right bank of the
Meuse, in consequence of an accident which happened to the ferry-boat.
He was within a gunshot of the fortress of Charlemont, on the left bank,
and in the vexation which the delay occasioned he dictated the following
decree: "A bridge shall be built over the Meuse to join Little Givet to
Great Givet. It shall be terminated during the ensuing campaign." It
was completed within the prescribed time. In the great work of bridges
and highways Bonaparte's chief object was to remove the obstacles and
barriers which nature had raised up as the limits of old France so as to
form a junction with the provinces which he successively annexed to the
Empire. Thus in Savoy a road, smooth as a garden-walk, superseded the
dangerous ascents and descents of the wood of Bramant; thus was the
passage of Mont Cenis a pleasant promenade at almost every season of the
year; thus did the Simplon bow his head, and Bonaparte might have said,
"There are now my Alps," with more reason than Louis XIV. said, "There
are now no Pyrenees."

- [Metternich (tome iv. p. 187) says on this subject, 'If you look
closely at the course of human affairs you will make strange
discoveries. For instance, that the Simplon Pass has contributed as
surely to Napoleon's immortality as the numerous works done in the
reign of the Emperor Francis will fail to add to his.] -

Such was the implicit confidence which Bonaparte reposed in me that I was
often alarmed at the responsibility it obliged me to incur.

- [Of this confidence the following instructions for me, which he
dictated to Duroc, afford sufficient proof: -

"1st. Citizen Bourrienne shall open all the letters addressed to
the First Consul, Vol, and present them to him three times a day, or
oftener in case of urgent business. The letters shall be deposited
in the cabinet when they are opened. Bourrienne is to analyse all
those which are of secondary interest, and write the First Consul's
decision on each letter. The hours for presenting the letters shall
be, first, when the Consul rises; second, a quarter of an hour
before dinner; and third, at eleven at night.

"2d. He is to have the superintendence of the Topographical office,
and of an office of Translation, in which there shall be a German
and an English clerk. Every day he shall present to the First
Consul, at the hours above mentioned the German and English
journals, together with a translation. With respect to the Italian
journals, it will only be necessary to mark what the First Consul is
to read.

"3d. He shall keep a register of appointments to offices under
Government; a second, for appointments to judicial posts; a third
for appointments to places abroad; and a fourth, for the situations
of receivers and great financial posts, where he is to inscribe the
names of all the individuals whom the First Consul may refer to him.
These registers must be written by his own hand, and must be kept
entirely private.

"4th. Secret correspondence, and the different reports of
surveillance, are to be addressed directly to Bourrienne, and
transmitted by him to the hand of the First Consul, by whom they
will be returned without the intervention of any third party.

"6th. There shall be a register for all that relates to secret
extraordinary expenditure. Bourrienne shall write the whole with
his own hand, in order that the business may be kept from the
knowledge of any one.

"7th. He shall despatch all the business which may be referred to
him, either from Citizen Duroc, or from the cabinet of the First
Consul, taking care to arrange everything so as to secure secrecy.

"(Signed) "BONAPARTE, First Council.

"Paris, 13th Germinal, year VIII.
"(3d. April 1800.)"] -


Official business was not the only labour that devolved upon me. I had
to write to the dictation of the First Consul during a great part of the
day, or to decipher his writing, which was always the most laborious part
of my duty. I was so closely employed that I scarcely ever went out; and
when by chance I dined in town, I could not arrive until the very moment
of dinner, and I was obliged to run away immediately after it. Once a
month, at most, I went without Bonaparte to the Comédie Française, but I
was obliged to return at nine o'clock, that being the hour at which we
resumed business. Corvisart, with whom I was intimately acquainted,
constantly expressed his apprehensions about my health; but my zeal
carried me through every difficulty, and during our stay at the Tuileries
I cannot express how happy I was in enjoying the unreserved confidence of
the man on whom the eyes of all Europe were filed. So perfect was this
confidence that Bonaparte, neither as General, Consul, nor Emperor, ever
gave me any fixed salary. In money matters we were still comrades: I
took from his funds what was necessary to defray my expenses, and of this
Bonaparte never once asked me for any account.

He often mentioned his wish to regenerate public education, which he
thought was ill managed. The central schools did not please him; but he
could not withhold his admiration from the Polytechnic School, the finest
establishment of education that was ever founded, but which he afterwards
spoiled by giving it a military organisation. In only one college of
Paris the old system of study was preserved: this was the Louis-le-Grand,
which had received the name of Pritanée. The First Consul directed the
Minister of the Interior to draw up a report on that establishment; and
he himself went to pay an unexpected visit to the Pritanée, accompanied
by M. Lebrun and Duroc. He remained there upwards of an hour, and in the
evening he spoke to me with much interest on the subject of his visit.
"Do you know, Bourrienne," said he, "that I have been performing the
duties of professor?" - "You, General!" - "Yes! and I did not acquit
myself badly. I examined the pupils in the mathematical class; and I
recollected enough of my Bezout to make some demonstrations before them.
I went everywhere, into the bedrooms and the dining-room. I tasted the
soup, which is better than we used to have at Brienne. I must devote
serious attention to public education and the management of the colleges.
The pupils must have a uniform. I observed some well and others ill
dressed. That will not do. At college, above all places, there should
be equality. But I was much pleased with the pupils of the Pritanée.
I wish to know the names of those I examined, and I have desired Duroc to
report them to me. I will give them rewards; that stimulates young
people. I will provide for some of them."

On this subject Bonaparte did not confine himself to an empty scheme.
After consulting with the headmaster of the Pritanée, he granted pensions
of 200 francs to seven or eight of the most distinguished pupils of the
establishment, and he placed three of them in the department of Foreign
Affairs, under the title of diplomatic pupils.

- [This institution of diplomatic pupils was originally suggested by
M. de Talleyrand.] -

What I have just said respecting the First Consul's visit to the Pritanée
reminds me of a very extraordinary circumstance which arose out of it.
Among the pupils at the Pritanée there was a son of General Miackzinski,
who died fighting under the banners of the Republic. Young Miackzinski
was then sixteen or seventeen years of age. He soon quitted the college,
entered the army as a volunteer, and was one of a corps reviewed by
Bonaparte, in the plain of Sablons. He was pointed out to the First
Consul, who said to him, "I knew your father. Follow his example, and
in six months you shall be an officer." Six months elapsed, and
Miackzinski wrote to the First Consul, reminding him of his promise. No
answer was returned, and the young man then wrote a second letter as
follows:

You desired me to prove myself worthy of my father; I have done so.
You promised that I should be an officer in six months; seven have
elapsed since that promise was made. When you receive this letter I
shall be no more. I cannot live under a Government the head of
which breaks his word.

Poor Miackzinski kept his word but too faithfully. After writing the
above letter to the First Consul he retired to his chamber and blew out
his brains with a pistol. A few days after this tragical event
Miackzinski's commission was transmitted to his corps, for Bonaparte had
not forgotten him. A delay in the War Office had caused the death of
this promising young man. Bonaparte was much affected at the circumstance,
and he said to me, "These Poles have such refined notions of honour....
Poor Sulkowski, I am sure, would have done the same."

At the commencement of the Consulate it was gratifying to see how
actively Bonaparte was seconded in the execution of plans for the social
regeneration of France; all seemed animated with new life, and every one
strove to do good as if it were a matter of competition.

Every circumstance concurred to favour the good intentions of the
First Consul. Vaccination, which, perhaps, has saved as many lives
as war has sacrificed, was introduced into France by M. d Liancourt; and
Bonaparte, immediately appreciating the value of such a discovery, gave
it his decided approbation. At the same time a council of Prizes was
established, and the old members of the Constituent Assembly were invited
to return to France. It was for their sake and that of the Royalists
that the First Consul recalled them, but it was to please the Jacobins,
whom he was endeavouring to conciliate, that their return was subject to
restrictions. At first the invitation to return to France extended only
to those who could prove that they had voted in favour of the abolition
of nobility. The lists of emigrants were closed, and committees were
appointed to investigate their claims to the privilege of returning.

From the commencement of the month of Germinal the reorganisation of the
army of Italy had proceeded with renewed activity. The presence in Paris
of the fine corps of the Consular Guard, added to the desire of showing
themselves off in gay uniforms, had stimulated the military ardour of
many respectable young men of the capital. Taking advantage of this
circumstance the First Consul created a corps of volunteers destined for
the army of reserve, which was to remain at Dijon. He saw the advantage
of connecting a great number of families with his cause, and imbuing them
with the spirit of the army. This volunteer corps wore a yellow uniform
which, in some of the salons of Paris where it was still the custom to
ridicule everything, obtained for them the nickname of "canaries."
Bonaparte, who did not always relish a joke, took this in very ill part,
and often expressed to me his vexation at it. However, he was gratified
to observe in the composition of this corps a first specimen of
privileged soldiers; an idea which he acted upon when he created the
orderly gendarmes in the campaign of Jena, and when he organised the
guards of honour after the disasters of Moscow.

In every action of his life Bonaparte had some particular object in view.
I recollect his saying to me one day, "Bourrienne, I cannot yet venture
to do anything against the regicides; but I will let them see what I
think of them. To-morrow I shall have some business with Abrial
respecting the organisation of the court of Cassation. Target, who is
the president of that court, would not defend Louis XVI. Well, whom do
you think I mean to appoint in his place? . . . Tronchet, who did
defend the king. They may say what they please; I care not."

- [On this, as on many other occasions, the cynicism of Bonaparte's
language does not admit of a literal translation.] -

Tronchet was appointed.

Nearly about the same time the First Consul, being informed of the escape
of General Mack, said to me, "Mack may go where he pleases; I am not
afraid of him. But I will tell you what I have been thinking. There are
some other Austrian officers who were prisoners with Mack; among the
number is a Count Dietrichstein, who belongs to a great family in Vienna.
I will liberate them all. At the moment of opening a campaign this will
have a good effect. They will see that I fear nothing; and who knows but
this may procure me some admirers in Austria." The order for liberating
the Austrian prisoners was immediately despatched. Thus Bonaparte's acts
of generosity, as well as his acts of severity and his choice of
individuals, were all the result of deep calculation.

This unvarying attention to the affairs of the Government was manifest in
all he did. I have already mentioned the almost simultaneous suppression
of the horrible commemoration of the month of January, and the permission
for the revival of the opera balls. A measure something similar to this
was the authorisation of the festivals of Longchamps, which had been
forgotten since the Revolution. He at the same time gave permission for
sacred music to be performed at the opera. Thus, while in public acts he
maintained the observance of the Republican calendar, he was gradually
reviving the old calendar by seasons of festivity. Shrove-Tuesday was
marked by a ball, and Passion-week by promenades and concerts.




CHAPTER XXXV

1800.

The Memorial of St. Helena - Louis XVIII.'s first letter to Bonaparte
- Josephine, Hortense, and the Faubourg St. Germain -
Madame Bonaparte and the fortune-teller - Louis XVIII's second letter
- Bonaparte's answer - Conversation respecting the recall of Louis
XVIII. - Peace and war - A battle fought with pins - Genoa and Melas -
Realisation of Bonaparte's military plans - Ironical letter to
Berthier - Departure from Paris - Instructions to Lucien and
Cambacérès - Joseph Bonaparte appointed Councillor of State -
Travelling conversation - Alexander and Caesar judged by Bonaparte.

It sometimes happens that an event which passes away unnoticed at the
time of its occurrence acquires importance from events which subsequently
ensue. This reflection naturally occurs to my mind now that I am about
to notice the correspondence which passed between Louis XVIII. and the
First Consul. This is certainly not one of the least interesting
passages in the life of Bonaparte.

But I must first beg leave to make an observation on the 'Memorial of St.
Helena.' That publication relates what Bonaparte said respecting the
negotiations between Louis XVIII. and himself; and I find it necessary to
quote a few lines on the subject, in order to show how far the statements
contained in the Memorial differ from the autograph letters in my
possession.

At St. Helena Napoleon said that he never thought of the princes of the
House of Bourbon. This is true to a certain point. He did not think of
the princes of the House of Bourbon with the view of restoring them to
their throne; but it has been shown, in several parts of these Memoirs,
that he thought of them very often, and on more than one occasion their
very names alarmed him.

- [The Memorial states that "A letter was delivered to the First
Consul by Lebrun who received it from the Abbé de Montesquieu, the
secret agent of the Bourbons in Paris." This letter which was very
cautiously written, said: -

"You are long delaying the restoration of my throne. It is to be
feared you are suffering favourable moments to escape. You cannot
secure the happiness of France without me, and I can do nothing for
France without you. Hasten, then, to name the offices which you
would choose for your friends."

The answer, Napoleon said, was as follows: -

"I have received your royal highness' letter. I have always taken a
lively interest in your misfortunes, and those of your family. You
must not think of appearing in France; you could only return here by
trampling over a hundred thousand dead bodies. I shall always be
happy to do anything that can alleviate your fate and help to banish
the recollection of your misfortunes." - Bourrienne.] -

The substance of the two letters given in the 'Memorial of St. Helena' is
correct. The ideas are nearly the same as those of the original letters.
But it is not surprising that, after the lapse of so long an interval,
Napoleon's memory should somewhat have failed him. However, it will not,
I presume, be deemed unimportant if I present to the reader literal
copies of this correspondence; together with the explanation of some
curious circumstances connected with it.

The following is Louis XVIII's letter: -

February 20,1800.

SIR - Whatever may be their apparent conduct, men like you never
inspire alarm. You have accepted an eminent station, and I thank
you for having done so. You know better than any one how much
strength and power are requisite to secure the happiness of a great
nation. Save France from her own violence, and you will fulfil the
first wish of my heart. Restore her King to her, and future
generations will bless your memory. You will always be too
necessary to the State for me ever to be able to discharge, by
important appointments, the debt of my family and myself.

(Signed) Louis.


The First Consul was much agitated on the reception of this letter.
Though he every day declared his determination to have nothing to do with
the Princes, yet he hesitated whether or no he should reply to this
overture. The numerous affairs which then occupied his mind favoured
this hesitation. Josephine and Hortense conjured him to hold out hope to
the King, as by so doing he would in no way pledge himself, and would
gain time to ascertain whether he could not ultimately play a far greater
part than that of Monk. Their entreaties became so urgent that he said
to me, "These devils of women are mad! The Faubourg St. Germain has
turned their heads! They make the Faubourg the guardian angel of the
royalists; but I care not; I will have nothing to do with them."

Madame Bonaparte said she was anxious he should adopt the step she
proposed in order to banish from his mind all thought of making himself
King. This idea always gave rise to a painful foreboding which she could
never overcome.

In the First Consul's numerous conversations with me he discussed with
admirable sagacity Louis XVIII.'s proposition and its consequences.
"The partisans of the Bourbons," said he, "are deceived if they suppose
I am the man to play Monk's part." Here the matter rested, and the
King's letter remained on the table. In the interim Louis XVIII. wrote a
second letter, without any date. It was as follows:

You must have long since been convinced, General, that you possess
my esteem. If you doubt my gratitude, fix your reward and mark out
the fortune of your friends. As to my principles, I am a Frenchman,
merciful by character, and also by the dictates of reason.

No, the victor of Lodi, Castiglione, and Arcola, the conqueror of
Italy and Egypt, cannot prefer vain celebrity to real glory. But
you are losing precious time. We may ensure the glory of France.

I say we, because I require the aid of Bonaparte, and he can do
nothing without me.

General, Europe observes you. Glory awaits you, and I am impatient
to restore peace to my people.
(Signed) LOUIS.


This dignified letter the First Consul suffered to remain unanswered for
several weeks; at length he proposed to dictate an answer to me. I
observed, that as the King's letters were autographs, it would be more
proper that he should write himself. He then wrote with his own hand the
following:

Sir - I have received your letter, and I thank you for the
compliments you address to me.

You must not seek to return to France. To do so you must trample
over a hundred thousand dead bodies.

Sacrifice your interest to the repose and happiness of France, and
history will render you justice.

I am not insensible to the misfortunes of your family. I shall
learn with pleasure, and shall willingly contribute to ensure, the
tranquillity of your retirement.
(Signed) BONAPARTE.


He showed me this letter, saying, "What do you think of it? is it not
good? "He was never offended when I pointed out to him an error of
grammar or style, and I therefore replied, "As to the substance, if such
be your resolution, I have nothing to say against it; but," added I,
"I must make one observation on the style. You cannot say that you shall
learn with pleasure to ensure, etc." On reading the passage over again
he thought he had pledged himself too far in saying that he would
willingly contribute, etc. He therefore scored out the last sentence,
and interlined, "I shall contribute with pleasure to the happiness and
tranquillity of your retirement."

The answer thus scored and interlined could not be sent off, and it lay
on the table with Bonaparte's signature affixed to it.

Some time after he wrote another answer, the three first paragraphs of
which were exactly alike that first quoted; but far the last paragraph he
substituted the following

"I am not insensible to the misfortunes of your family; and I shall
learn with pleasure that you are surrounded with all that can
contribute to the tranquillity of your retirement."

By this means he did not pledge himself in any way, not even in words,
for he himself made no offer of contributing to the tranquillity of the
retirement. Every day which augmented his power and consolidated his
position diminished, he thought, the chances of the Bourbons; and seven
months were suffered to intervene between the date of the King's first
letter and the answer of the First Consul, which was written on the 2d
Vendemiaire, year IX. (24th September 1800) just when the Congress of
Luneville was on the point of opening.

Some days after the receipt of Louis XVIII.'s letter we were walking in
the gardens of Malmaison; he was in good humour, for everything was going
on to his mind. "Has my wife been saying anything more to you about the
Bourbons?" said he. - "No, General." - "But when you converse with her you
concur a little in her opinions. Tell me why you wish the Bourbons back?
You have no interest in their return, nothing to expect from them. Your
family rank is not high enough to enable you to obtain any great post.
You would be nothing under them. Through the patronage of M. de
Chambonas you got the appointment of Secretary of Legation at Stuttgart;
but had it not been for the change you would have remained all your life
in that or some inferior post. Did you ever know men rise by their own
merit under kings? Everything depends on birth, connection, fortune, and


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Online LibraryLouis Antoine Fauvelet de BourrienneMemoirs of Napoleon — Volume 04 → online text (page 8 of 9)