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He was the general of the army of the interior, but beyond the frontiers
of France there stood another French army, whose soldiers had not the
sad mission to maintain peace and quietness at home, to fight against
brothers; but an army seeking for the foe, whose blood and victories
were to secure them laurels.

General Bonaparte longed to be with this army, and to obliterate the
remembrance of the 13th Vendemiaire and its sad victory by brilliant
exploits beyond the Alps. It was also to him a humiliating and
depressing feeling to become the husband of a wealthy woman, and not
bring her as a glorious gift or a wedding-present the fame and laurels
of a husband.

It has often been said that Josephine obtained for her husband, as
a wedding-gift, his appointment of commanding general of the army in
Italy; that she procured this appointment from Barras, with whom, before
her acquaintance with Bonaparte, she had been in closer relationship
than that of mere friendship. Even such historians as Schlosser have
accepted this calumny as truth, without taking pains to investigate
whether the facts justified this supposition. In the great historical
events which have shaken nations, it is really of little importance if,
under the light which illumines and brings out such events, a shadow
should fall and darken an individual. Even the hatred and scorn with
which a nation, trodden down in the dust, curses a tyrant, and endeavors
to take vengeance on his fame, ask not if the stone flung at the hated
one falls upon other heads than the one aimed at.

Not Josephine, but Bonaparte, did they wish to injure when stating she
had been the beloved of Barras. It was Bonaparte whom they wished to
humble and mortify, when historians published that, not to his merits,
but to the petitions of his wife, he was indebted for his commission as
general of the army in Italy.

But truth justifies not this calumny; and when with the light of truth
the path of the widow of General Beauharnais is lighted, it will be
found that this path led to solitude and quietness; that at none of the
great and brilliant banquets which Barras then gave, and which in the
Moniteur are described with so much pomp, not once is, the name of
Viscountess de Beauharnais mentioned; that in the numerous pasquinades
and lampoons which then appeared in Paris and in all France, and in
which all private life was fathomed, not once is the name of Josephine
brought out, neither is there any indirect allusion to her.

Calumny has placed this stain on Josephine's brow, but truth takes it
away. And that truth is, that not Josephine, but Bonaparte, was the
friend of Barras; that it was not Barras, but Carnot, who promoted
Bonaparte to the rank of commanding general of the army in Italy.

Carnot, the minister of war of the republic, the noble, incorruptible
republican, whose character, pure, bright, and true as steel, turned
aside all the darts of wickedness and calumny, which could not inflict
even a wound, or leave a stain on the brilliancy of his spotless
character, has given upon this point his testimony in a refutation. At
a later period, when the hatred of parties, and the events of the 18th
Fructidor, had forced him to flee from France, he defended himself
against the accusation launched at him in the Council of the Five
Hundred, which pointed him out as a traitor to the republic; and this
defence gave a detailed account of the whole time of his administration,
and especially what he achieved for the republic, claiming as one of his
services the appointment of Bonaparte.

"It is not true," says he, "that Barras proposed Bonaparte for the chief
command of the army in Italy. I myself did it. But time was allowed to
intervene, so as to ascertain whether Bonaparte would succeed before
Barras congratulated himself, and then only to his confidants, that it
was he who had made this proposition to the Directory. Had Bonaparte
not answered the expectations, then I should have been the one to
blame: then it would have been I who had chosen a young, inexperienced,
intriguing man; and I who had betrayed the nation, for the other members
did not interfere in war-matters; upon me all responsibility would
have fallen. But as Bonaparte is victorious, then it must be Barras
who appointed him! To Barras alone are the people indebted for this
nomination! He is Bonaparte's protector, his defender against my
attacks! I am jealous of Bonaparte; I cross him in all his plans; I
lower his character; I persecute him; I refuse him all assistance; I, in
all probability, am to plunge him into ruin!" - such were the calumnies
which at that time filled the journals bribed by Barras. [Footnote:
"Response de L. N. M. Carnot, citoyen francais, l'un des fondateurs
de la republique, et membre constitutionnel du Directoire executif an
rapport fait sur la conjuration du 18 Fructidor an conseil des Cinq

To Carnot, the secretary of war of the republic, did Bonaparte go, to
ask of him the command of the army in Italy. But Carnot answered him, as
he had already before Aubry, the minister of war, "You are too young."

"Let us put appearances and age aside," said Bonaparte, impatiently.
"Alexander, Scipio, Conde, and many others, though still younger than
I, marched armies to brilliant conquests, and decided the fate of whole
kingdoms. I believe I have given a few proofs of what I can achieve, if
I am set at the right place; and I burn with great longing to serve my
country, to obtain victories over despots who hate France because they
fear, calumniate, and envy her!"

"I know you are a good patriot," said Carnot, slowly turning his head;
"I know and appreciate your services, and you may rest assured that
the obstacles which I place in your path are not directed against you
personally. But do you know the situation of our army? It is devoured
by the quartermaster; betrayed and sold, I fear, by its general, and
demoralized, notwithstanding its successes! That army needs every thing,
even discipline, whilst the enemy's army has all that we need. We want
nearly a miracle to be victorious. Whoever is to lead to success our
disordered, famished, disorganized army must, above all things, possess
its full confidence. Besides which, without further events, I cannot
dismiss the commanding general, Scherer, but I must wait until some
new disgrace furnishes me the right to do so. You know all. Judge for

"I have already made all these objections within my own mind," replied
Bonaparte, quietly; "yet I do not despair that if you will give me your
advice and assistance, I will overcome all these difficulties. Listen to
me, and I will let you know my plan for the arrangement of the war, and
I am convinced you will give it your sanction."

With glowing eloquence, complete clearness and assurance, and the
convincing quietude of a persuaded, all-embracing, all-weighing mind,
Bonaparte unfolded the daring and astounding plan of his campaign. As he
spoke, his face brightened more and more, his eyes glowed with the
fire of inspiration, his countenance beamed with that exalted, wondrous
beauty which is granted to genius alone in the highest moments of its
ecstasy; the small, insignificant, pale young man became the bold,
daring hero, who was fully prepared gladly to tread a world under his

Carnot, who had looked on in astonishment, was finally carried away,
inspired by the persuasive eloquence of the young general, who in a
few words understood how to map out battle-fields, to measure whole
engagements, and to give to every one the needful and appropriate place.

"You are right," cried Carnot, delighted, and offering his hand to
Bonaparte. "This plan must be carried out, and then we shall conquer our
enemies. I no longer doubt of the result, and from this moment you can
rely upon me. You shall be commander-in-chief of the army in Italy. I
will myself propose you to the Directory, and I will so warmly speak
in your favor, that my request will be granted." [Footnote: "Memoires
historiques et militaires, sur Carnot," vol. ii.]

On this day the face of General Bonaparte was irradiated with a still
deeper lustre than when Josephine avowed that his love was returned, and
when she consented to be his.

Josephine's affianced, in the depths of his heart, retained a deep,
unfulfilled desire, an unreached aim of his existence. The commanding
general of the army in Italy had nothing more to wish, or to long
for; he now stood at hope's summit, and saw before him the brilliant,
glorious goal of ambition toward which the path lay open before him.

Love alone could not satisfy the heart of Napoleon; the larger portion
of it belonged to ambition - to the lust for a warrior's fame.

"I am going to live only for the future," said Bonaparte, that day, to
Junot, as he related to him the successful result of his interview with
Carnot. "None of you know me yet, but you will soon. You will see what
I can do: I feel within me something which urges me onward. Too long has
the war been limited to a single district; I will take it into the heart
of the continent, I will bring it on fresh soil, and so carry it out
that the men of habit will lose their footing, and the old officers
their heads, so that they will no more know where they are. The soldiers
will see what one man, with a will of iron, can accomplish. All this
I will do - and from this day I strike out from the dictionary the word

Carnot was true to his word. On the 23d day of February, 1796, Bonaparte
was appointed by the Directory commander-in-chief of the army of Italy.

From the face of the young general beamed forth the smile of victory;
he was now certain of the future! He now knew that to his Josephine he
could offer more than a hat and a sword, that he would bring her undying
fame and victory's brilliant crown. This was to be the dowry before
which the twenty-five thousand francs' yearly income, which the little
giant Ragideau had so highly prized, would fall into the background.

On the 9th of March the marriage between General Bonaparte and the widow
Viscountess Josephine de Beauharnais took place. Barras, as member of
the government, was Bonaparte's first witness; his second was Captain
Lemarrois, his adjutant; and the choice of this witness was a delicate
homage which Napoleon paid to his dear Josephine: for Lemarrois was the
one who had first led the boy Eugene to Bonaparte, and had thus been the
means of his acquaintance with Josephine.

The two witnesses of Josephine were Tallien, who had delivered her from
prison, and to whom she owed the restoration of her property, and a
M. Calmelet, an old friend and counsellor of the Beauharnais family.
[Footnote: "Souvenirs historiques du Baron de Meneval," vol. i., p.

In the pure modesty of her heart, Josephine had not desired that the two
children of her deceased husband should be the witnesses of her second
marriage, and Bonaparte was glad that Josephine's bridal wreath would
not be bedewed with the tears of memory.

On this happy day of Bonaparte's marriage, so much of the past was set
aside, that the certificate of baptism of the betrothed was forgotten,
and the number of years which made Josephine older than Bonaparte was
struck out.

The civil record, which M. Leclerc received of the marriage of Bonaparte
and Josephine, describes them as being nearly of the same age, for it
ran thus: "Napoleon Bonaparte, born in Ajaccio, on the 5th of February,
1768; and Marie Josephe Rosa Tascher de la Pagerie, born in Martinique,
the 23d of June, 1767."

Bonaparte's glowing and impassioned love led him - in order to spare his
Josephine the smallest, degree of humiliation - to alter and destroy the
dates of the certificate of their baptism; for Bonaparte was born on the
15th of August, 1769, and Josephine on the 23d of June, 1763. She was
consequently six years older than he; but she knew not that these six
years would, one day, be the abyss which was to swallow her happiness,
her love, her grandeur.

Two days after his marriage with Josephine, Bonaparte left Paris for the
army, to travel in haste, an uninterrupted journey toward Italy.

"I must hasten to my post," said he smiling to Josephine, "for an
army without a chief is like a widow who can commit foolish deeds and
endanger her reputation. I am responsible for the army's conduct from
the moment of my appointment."


Carnot had told Bonaparte the truth concerning the state of the army in
Italy. His statements were sustained by the proclamation which the new
commander-in-chief of the army in Italy addressed to his soldiers, as
for the first time he welcomed them at Nice.

"Soldiers," said he, "you are naked and badly fed; the government owes
you much, and can give you nothing. Your patience and the courage you
have exhibited amid these rocks are worthy of admiration; but you gain
no fame: no glory falls upon you here. I will lead you into the fertile
plains of the world; rich provinces and large cities will fall into
your power; there you will find honor, fame, and abundance. Soldiers of
Italy, would you fail in courage and perseverance?" [Footnote: Norvins,
"Histoire de Napoleon," vol. i., p. 89.]

The mangled, ragged, half-starved soldiers answered with loud
enthusiastic shouts. When the vivats had died away, an old veteran
came out of the ranks, and with countenance half-defiant, half-smiling,
looking at the little general, he asked: "General, what must we do
that the roasted partridges, which are promised to us, may fly into our

"Conquer," cried Bonaparte, with a loud resounding voice - "conquer!
To the brave, glory and good repasts! To the coward, disgrace! To the
faint-hearted, misery! I will lead you into the path of victory. Will
you follow?"

"We will, we will!" shouted the soldiers. "Long live the little general
who is to deliver us from our wretchedness, who is to lead us into
victory's path!"

Bonaparte kept his word. He led them to Voltri, to the bridge of Arcola,
to Lodi. But amid his wild career of fights, hardships, vigils, studies, and
perils, the thought of Josephine was the guiding star of his heart.
His mind was with her amid the battle's storm; he thought of her in
the camp, on the march, in the greatest conflict, and after the most
brilliant victories. This was shown in the letters he wrote every day
to Josephine; and in the brilliant hymns which the warrior, amid the
carnage of war, sung with the enthusiastic fervor of a poet to his love
and to his happiness.

It is the mission of eminent historians, when describing his victorious
campaign of Italy, to narrate his conquests; our mission is simply to
observe him in his conduct toward Josephine, and to show how under the
uniform of the warrior beat the heart of the lover.

The letters which Bonaparte then wrote to Josephine are consequently
what concerns us most, and from which we will select a few as a proof of
the impassioned love which Napoleon felt for his young wife.


I. "PORT MAURICE, the 14th Germinal (April 3), 1796.

"I have received all your letters, but none has made so much impression
on me as the last one. How can you, my adored friend, speak to me in
that way? Do you not believe that my situation here is already horrible
enough, without your exciting my longings, and still more setting my
soul in rebellion? What a style! what emotions you describe! They glow
like fire, they burn my poor heart! My own Josephine, away from you,
there is no joy; away from you, the world is a wilderness in which I
feel alone, and have no one in whom I can confide. You have taken from
me more than my soul; you are the only thought of my life. When I feel
weary with the burden of affairs, when I dread some inauspicious result,
when men oppose me, when I am ready to curse life itself, I place my
hand upon my heart, your image beats there; I gaze on it, and love is
for me absolute bliss, and everything smiles except when I am away from
my beloved.

"By what art have you been able to enchain all my powers, and to
concentrate in yourself all my mental existence? It is an enchantment,
my dear friend, which is to end only with my life. To live for
Josephine, such is the history of my life! I am working to return to
you, I am dying to approach you! Fool that I am, I see not that I am
more and more drifting away from you! How much space, how many mountains
separate us! how long before you can read these words, the feeble
expression of a throbbing soul in which you rule! Ah, my adored wife, I
know not what future awaits me, but if it keeps me much longer away from
you, it will be intolerable; my courage reaches not that far. There was
a time when I was proud of my reputation; and sometimes when I cast
my eyes on the wrong which men could have done me, on the fate which
Providence might have in reserve for me, I prepared myself for the most
unheard-of adversities without wrinkling the brow or suffering fear; but
now the thought that my Josephine should be uncomfortable, or sick,
or, above all, the cruel, horrible thought that she might love me
less, makes my soul tremble, and my blood to remain still, bringing
on sadness, despondency, and taking away even the courage of anger and
despair. In times past I used to say, 'Men have no power over him who
dies without regret.' But now to die without being loved by you, to die
without the certainty of being loved, is for me the pains of hell, the
living, fearful feeling of complete annihilation. It is as if I were
going to suffocate! My own companion, you whom fate has given me, to
make life's painful journey, the day when no more I can call your heart
mine, when nature will be for me without warmth, without vitality. ... I
will give way, my sweet friend (ma douce amie); my soul is sorrowful, my
body languishes; men weary me. I have a good right to detest them, for
they keep me away from my heart.

"I am now in Port Maurice, near to Oneglia; to-morrow I go to Albenga.
Both armies are moving forward; we are endeavoring to deceive each
other. Victory belongs to the swiftest. I am well satisfied with General
Beaulieu, he manoeuvres well; he is a stronger man than his predecessor.
I trust to beat him soundly. Be without care; love me as your eyes;
but no, that is not enough, as yourself, more than yourself, as your
thoughts, as your spirit, your life, your all! Sweet friend, pardon me;
I am beyond myself; nature is too weak for him who feels with passion,
for him whom you love.

"To Barras, Sucy, Madame Tallien, my heart-felt friendship; to Madame
Chateau Renaud, kindest regards; for Eugene and Hortense, my true love.
N. B."

II. "ALBENGA, the 18th Germinal (April 7), 1796 [Footnote: The three
following letters have never been published until recently, and are not
to be found in any collection of letters from Napoleon and Josephine,
not even among those published by Queen Hortense: "Lettres de Napoleon a
Josephine, et de Josephine a Napoleon." They are published for the first
time in the "Histoire de l'Imperatrice Josephine," by Aubenas, and were
communicated to this author in Napoleon's manuscript by the well-known
and famous gatherer of autographs, Feuillet de Couches.]

"I have just now received your letter, which you break off, as you say,
to go to the country; and then, you assume a tone as if you were envious
of me, who am here nearly overwhelmed by affairs and by exertion! Ah, my
dear friend, ... it is true, I am wrong. In the spring it is so pleasant
in the country; and then the beloved one of eighteen years will be so
happy there; how would it be possible to lose one moment for the sake
of writing to him who is three hundred miles away from you, who lives,
breathes, exists only in remembering you, who reads your letters as a
man, after hunting for six hours, devours a meal he is fond of.

"I am satisfied. Your last letter is cold, like friendship. I have not
found in it the fire which glows in your eyes, the fire which I have
at least imagined to be there. So far runs my fancy. I found that your
first letters oppressed my soul too much; the revolution which they
created in me disturbed my peace and bewildered my senses. I wanted
letters more cold, and now they bring on me the chill of death. The
fear of being no more loved by Josephine - the thought of having her
inconstant - of seeing her ... But I martyrize myself with anguish! There
is enough in the reality, without imagining any more! You cannot have
inspired me with this immeasurable love without sharing it; and with
such a soul, such thoughts, such an understanding as you possess, it
is impossible that, as a reward for the most glowing attachment and
devotion, you should return a mortal blow. ...

"You say nothing of your bodily sufferings; they have my regret.
Farewell till to-morrow, mio dolce amor. From my own wife a thought - and
from fate a victory; these are all my wishes: one sole, undivided
thought from you, worthy of him who every moment thinks of you.

"My brother is here. He has heard of my marriage with pleasure. He longs
to become acquainted with you. I am endeavoring to persuade him to go to
Paris, His wife has recently given birth to a daughter. They send you
a box of bonbons from Genoa as a present. You will receive oranges,
perfumes, and water of orange-flowers, which I send you. Junot and Murat
send their best wishes.

"N. B."

The victory which Bonaparte implored from his destiny was soon to take
place; and the battle of Mondovi, which followed the capitulation of
Cherasco, made Bonaparte master of Piedmont and of the passes of the
Alps. He sent his brother Joseph to Paris, to lay before the Directory
pressing considerations concerning the necessity and importance of
concluding a permanent peace with the King of Sardinia, so as to isolate
Austria entirely in Italy. At the same time Junot was to take to the
Directory the conquered standards. Joseph and Junot travelled together
from Nice by means of post-horses, and they made so rapid a journey that
in one hundred and twenty hours they reached Paris.

The victor's messengers and the conquered flags were received in Paris
with shouts of rapture, and with a glowing enthusiasm for General
Bonaparte. His name was on every tongue. In the streets and on the
squares crowds gathered together to talk of the glorious news, and to
shout their acclamations to the brave army and its general. Even the
Directory, the five monarchs of France, shared the universal joy and
enthusiasm. They received Joseph and Junot with affable complacency, and
communicated to the army and to its general public eulogies. In honor
of the messengers who had brought the standards and the propositions of
peace, they gave a brilliant banquet; and Carnot, proud of having been
the one who had brought about Bonaparte's appointment, went so far in
his enthusiasm as at the close of the banquet to tear his garments open
and exhibit to the assembled guests Napoleon's portrait which he carried
on his breast.

"Tell your brother," cried he to Joseph, "that I carry him here on my
heart, for I foresee he will be the deliverer of France, and therefore
he must know that in the Directory he has only admirers and friends."
[Footnote: "Memoires du Roi Joseph," vol. i., p. 62.]

But something else, more glorious than these salutations of love from
France and from the Directory, was to be brought back by his messengers
to the victorious commander-his wife, his Josephine; he claimed her
as the reward of battles won. Joseph was not only the messenger of the
general, he was also the messenger of the lover; and before delivering
his papers to the Directory, he had first, as Bonaparte had ordered him,
to deliver to Josephine his letter which called her to Milan. Napoleon
had thus written to her:


"CAEN, the 3rd Floreal (May 24), 1796.

"My brother will hand you this letter. I cherish for him the most
intimate friendship. I trust he will also gain your affection. He
deserves it. Nature has gifted him with a tender and inexhaustibly good
character; he is full of rare qualities. I write to Barras to have
him appointed consul to some Italian port. He desires to live with his
little wife away from the world's great stream of events. I recommend
him to you.

"I have received your letters of the 16th and of the 21st. You have
indeed for many days forgotten to write. What, then, are you doing? Yes,
my dear friend, I am not exactly jealous, but I am sometimes uneasy.

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