Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne.

Memoirs of Napoleon — Volume 04 online

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intrigue. Judge things more accurately; reflect more maturely on the
future." - "General," replied I, "I am quite of your opinion on one
point. I never received gift, place, or favour from the Bourbons; and
I have not the vanity to believe that I should ever have attained any
important Appointment. But you must not forget that my nomination as
Secretary of Legation at Stuttgart preceded the overthrow of the throne
only by a few days; and I cannot infer, from what took place under
circumstances unfortunately too certain, what might have happened in the
reverse case. Besides, I am not actuated by personal feelings;
I consider not my own interests, but those of France. I wish you to hold
the reins of government as long as you live; but you have no children,
and it is tolerably certain that you will have none by Josephine. What
will become of us when you are gone? You talk of the future; but what
will be the future fate of France? I have often heard you say that your
brothers are not - " - "You are right," said he, abruptly interrupting
me. "If I do not live thirty years to complete my work you will have a
long series of civil wars after my death. My brothers will not suit
France; you know what they are. A violent conflict will therefore arise
among the most distinguished generals, each of whom will think himself
entitled to succeed me." - "Well, General, why not take means to obviate
the mischief you foresee?" - "Do you imagine I do not think of it? But
look at the difficulties that stand in my way. How are so many acquired
rights and material results to be secured against the efforts of a family
restored to power, and returning with 80,000 emigrants and the influence
of fanaticism? What would become of those who voted for the death of
the King - the men who acted a conspicuous part in the Revolution - the
national domains, and a multitude of things that have been done during
twelve years? Can you see how far reaction would extend?" - "General,
need I remind you that Louis, in his letter, guarantees the contrary of
all you apprehend? I know what will be your answer; but are you not able
to impose whatever conditions you may think fit? Grant what is asked of
you only at that price. Take three or four years; in that time you may
ensure the happiness of France by institutions conformable to her wants.
Custom and habit would give them a power which it would not be easy to
destroy; and even supposing such a design were entertained, it could not
be accomplished. I have heard you say it is wished you should act the
part of Monk; but you well know the difference between a general opposing
the usurper of a crown, and one whom victory and peace have raised above
the ruins of a subverted throne, and who restores it voluntarily to those
who have long occupied it. You are well aware what you call ideology
will not again be revived; and - " - "I know what you are going to say;
but it all amounts to nothing. Depend upon it, the Bourbons will think
they have reconquered their inheritance, and will dispose of it as they
please. The most sacred pledges, the most positive promises, will be
violated. None but fools will trust them. My resolution is formed;
therefore let us say no more on the subject. But I know how these women
torment you. Let them mind their knitting, and leave me to do what I
think right."

Every one knows the adage, 'Si vis pacem para bellum'. Had Bonaparte
been a Latin scholar he would probably have reversed it and said, 'Si vis
bellum para pacem'. While seeking to establish pacific relations with
the powers of Europe the First Consul was preparing to strike a great
blow in Italy. As long as Genoa held out, and Massena continued there,
Bonaparte did not despair of meeting the Austrians in those fields which
not four years before had been the scenes of his success. He resolved to
assemble an army of reserve at Dijon. Where there was previously nothing
he created everything. At that period of his life the fertility of his
imagination and the vigour of his genius must have commanded the
admiration of even his bitterest enemies. I was astonished at the
details into which he entered. While every moment was engrossed by the
most important occupations he sent 24,000 francs to the hospital of Mont
St. Bernard. When he saw that his army of reserve was forming, and
everything was going on to his liking, he said to me, "I hope to fall on
the rear of Melas before he is aware I am in Italy . . . that is to
say, provided Genoa holds out. But MASSENA is defending it."

On the 17th of March, in a moment of gaiety and good humour, he desired
me to unroll Chauchard's great map of Italy. He lay down upon it, and
desired me to do likewise. He then stuck into it pins, the heads of
which were tipped with wax, some red and some black. I silently observed
him; and awaited with no little curiosity the result of this plan of
campaign. When he had stationed the enemy's corps, and drawn up the pins
with red heads on the points where he hoped to bring his own troops, he
said to me, "Where do you think I shall beat Melas?" - "How the devil
should I know?" - "Why, look here, you fool! Melas is at Alessandria with
his headquarters. There he will remain until Genoa surrenders. He has
in Alessandria his magazines, his hospitals, his artillery, and his
reserves. Crossing the Alps here (pointing to the Great Mont St.
Bernard) I shall fall upon Melas, cut off his communications with
Austria, and meet him here in the plains of Scrivia" (placing a red, pin
at San Giuliano). Finding that I looked on this manoeuvre of pins as
mere pastime, he addressed to me some of his usual compliments, such as
fool, ninny, etc., and then proceeded to demonstrate his plans more
clearly on the map. At the expiration of a quarter of an hour we rose;
I folded up the map, and thought no more of the matter.

Four months after this, when I was at San Giuliano with Bonaparte's
portfolio and despatches, which I had saved from the rout which had taken
place during the day, and when that very evening I was writing at Torre
di Galifolo the bulletin of the battle to Napoleon's dictation, I frankly
avowed my admiration of his military plans. He himself smiled at the
accuracy of his own foresight.

The First Consul was not satisfied with General Berthier as War Minister,
and he superseded him by Carnot,

- [There were special reasons for the appointment of Carnot,
Berthier was required with his master in Italy, while Carnot, who
had so long ruled the armies of the Republic, was better fitted to
influence Moreau, at this time advancing into Germany. Carnot
probably fulfilled the main object of his appointment when he was
sent to Moreau, and succeeded in getting that general, with natural
reluctance, to damage his own campaign by detaching a large body of
troops into Italy. Berthier was reappointed to the Ministry on the
8th of October 1800, - a very speedy return if he had really been
disgraced.] -

who had given great proofs of firmness and integrity, but who,
nevertheless, was no favourite of Bonaparte, on account of his decided
republican principles. Berthier was too slow in carrying out the
measures ordered, [duplicated line removed here D.W.] and too lenient in
the payment of past charges and in new contracts. Carnot's appointment
took place on the 2d of April 1800; and to console Berthier, who, he
knew, was more at home in the camp than in the office, he dictated to me
the following letter for him: -

PARIS, 2d April 1800.

CITIZEN-GENERAL, - The military talents of which you have given so
many proofs, and the confidence of the Government, call you to the
command of an army. During the winter you have REORGANISED the War
Department, and you have provided, as far as circumstances would
permit, for the wants of our armies. During the spring and summer
it must be your task to lead our troops to victory, which is the
effectual means of obtaining peace and consolidating the Republic.

Bonaparte laughed heartily while he dictated this epistle, especially
when he uttered the word which I have marked in italics [CAPS]. Berthier
set out for Dijon, where he commenced the formation of the army of

The Consular Constitution did not empower the First Consul to command an
army out of the territory of France. Bonaparte therefore wished to keep
secret his long-projected plan of placing himself at the head of the army
of Italy, which he then for the first time called the grand army. I
observed that by his choice of Berthier nobody could be deceived, because
it must be evident that he would have made another selection had he not
intended to command in person. He laughed at my observation.

Our departure from Paris was fixed for the 6th of May, or, according to
the republican calendar, the 16th Floréal. Bonaparte had made all his
arrangements and issued all his orders; but still he did not wish it to
be known that he was going to take the command of the army. On the eve
of our departure, being in conference with the two other Consuls and the
Ministers, he said to Lucien, "Prepare, to-morrow morning, a circular to
the prefects, and you, Fouché, will publish it in the journals. Say I am
gone to Dijon to inspect the army of reserve. You may add that I shall
perhaps go as far as Geneva; but you must affirm positively that I shall
not be absent longer than a fortnight. You, Cambacérès, will preside to-
morrow at the Council of State. In my absence you are the Head of the
Government. State that my absence will be but of short duration, but
specify nothing. Express my approbation of the Council of State; it has
already rendered great services, and I shall be happy to see it continue
in the course it has hitherto pursued. Oh! I had nearly forgotten - you
will at the same time announce that I have appointed Joseph a Councillor
of State. Should anything happen I shall be back again like a
thunderbolt. I recommend to you all the great interests of France, and I
trust that I shall shortly be talked of in Vienna and in London."

We set out at two in the morning, taking the Burgundy road, which we had
already so often travelled under very different circumstances.

On the journey Bonaparte conversed about the warriors of antiquity,
especially Alexander, Caesar, Scipio, and Hannibal. I asked him which he
preferred, Alexander or Caesar. "I place Alexander in the first rank,"
said he, "yet I admire Caesar's fine campaign in Africa. But the ground
of my preference for the King of Macedonia is the plan, and above all the
execution, of his campaign in Asia. Only those who are utterly ignorant
of war can blame Alexander for having spent seven months at the siege of
Tyre. For my part, I would have stayed there seven years had it been
necessary. This is a great subject of dispute; but I look upon the siege
of Tyre, the conquest of Egypt, and the journey to the Oasis of Ammon as
a decided proof of the genius of that great captain. His object was to
give the King of Persia (of whose force he had only beaten a feeble
advance-guard at the Granicus and Issus) time to reassemble his troops,
so that he might overthrow at a blow the colossus which he had as yet
only shaken. By pursuing Darius into his states Alexander would have
separated himself from his reinforcements, and would have met only
scattered parties of troops who would have drawn him into deserts where
his army would have been sacrificed. By persevering in the taking of
Tyre he secured his communications with Greece, the country he loved as
dearly as I love France, and in whose glory he placed his own. By taking
possession of the rich province of Egypt he forced Darius to come to
defend or deliver it, and in so doing to march half-way to meet him.
By representing himself as the son of Jupiter he worked upon the ardent
feelings of the Orientals in a way that powerfully seconded his designs.
Though he died at thirty-three what a name he has left behind him!"

Though an utter stranger to the noble profession of arms, yet I could
admire Bonaparte's clever military plans and his shrewd remarks on the
great captains of ancient and modern times. I could not refrain from
saying, "General, you often reproach me for being no flatterer, but now I
tell you plainly I admire you." And certainly, I really spoke the true
sentiments of my mind.

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