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"'Look at once for the general!' exclaimed Josephine, breathless, 'I
must speak to him immediately.'

"I approached her and said that he was in the garden. She ran - she
flew! I placed myself at a window in the first story, from which I could
easily see into the garden-walks. My expectations had not deceived me.

"No sooner did Bonaparte see Josephine approach, than he left Roger
Ducos and hurried to meet her. Both then walked into a path near by. I
could see them well. Josephine spoke with animation; the general walked
on; now and then she held him back. At last they took the path leading
to the castle. I went down to meet them on the steps near the door.

"Madame Bonaparte held her husband by the left hand. Her animated,
expressive features had a bewitching pride and softness; it was a most
delightful admixture of tenderness and heroism. Bonaparte looked around,
pale and grave, but his eyes ever rested with pleasure on his wife. She
refused to enter into the large hall, and retired to her room. Bonaparte
called for Roger, and entered the saloon with him. His guests were
awaiting his arrival, to take their leave. The carriages drove up, and
the gentlemen left Malmaison to return to Paris. Only Lucien and Murat
remained with Bonaparte; Madame Bonaparte joined them as they entered
the vestibule. When she saw Murat, she exclaimed:

"'How, general, you still here! - Do you not consider,' continued she,
turning to Bonaparte, 'that Murat ought to be already in Paris with
Perrin? - Away! quick! to horse, to the Rue Varennes, or I drive thither

"Murat laughed; but four minutes after he was riding at a gallop on
the road to the city. The three others returned to their rooms. I was
curious to know what was the conversation; but as I had nothing more to
do in the castle, I was about leaping on my horse to ride to Paris, when
I saw a detachment of infantry marching toward the castle.

"I thought it my duty to announce them to the general; he sat between
his wife and his brother. 'How!' cried he, as he rose up hastily.

"'What of them?' answered Madame Bonaparte, smiling. 'Your company has
left you, now comes mine. It is a rendezvous; but be comforted - they are
not too many.'

"All three walked into the yard, where the troops were placing
themselves in line without the sound of a drum.

"'You are an extraordinary man, sir,' said Madame Bonaparte to the
captain. 'Nearly as soon as I?'

"'Madame,' replied the officer, 'we have been ready for the march these
four hours.'

"The officers followed the general into the drawing-room, and
refreshments were distributed to the soldiers; it was a company of

"At nine o'clock in the evening, a courier arrived, bearing dispatches
to Bonaparte. At once he, his wife, and his brother, drove to Paris.
The grenadiers were ordered to follow immediately and in silence."
[Footnote: "Memoires secretes," vol. i., p. 26.]

These dispatches, which Bonaparte had received from Paris, brought him
the news that this time the danger was over - that the directors had
abandoned their plan. Some fortunate accident may have warned them, even
as Josephine herself had been warned. The spies who everywhere tracked
Josephine, as well as Bonaparte, had carried to Gohier intelligence of
all the strange movements of the wife of Bonaparte, and the director at
once perceived that she was informed of the danger which threatened her
husband, and that she was bent upon preventing it.

But now that the plan of the directors had been unveiled, danger
threatened them in their turn, and they immediately adopted measures to
face this new peril. In place of Bonaparte, they must find some one
whom they could arrest, without withdrawing their orders. They found a
substitute in a wealthy merchant from Hamburg, who now resided in Paris.
Gohier had him arrested, and accused him of having had relations with
the enemies of France.

Bonaparte assumed the appearance of having no doubts as to the sincerity
of Gohier, of suspecting nothing as to his own arrest, which had been
prevented by the timely and energetic action of Josephine. He thanked
her with increased tenderness for her love and faithfulness, and as he
pressed her affectionately to his breast, he swore to her that he would
never again doubt her; that he would, by the most unreserved confidence,
share with her his schemes and designs, and that henceforth he would
look upon her as the good angel who watched over the pathway of his

And Bonaparte kept his word. From this day his Josephine was not only
his wife, but his confidante, his friend, who knew all his plans, and
who could assist him with her advice and her exquisite practical
tact. She it was who brought about a reconciliation with Moreau and
Bernadotte; and by her amiable nature, attractive and dignified
manner, and great social talents, she bound even his friends closer to
Bonaparte; or with a smile, a kind word, some flattering observation, or
some of those little attentions which often-times tell more effectually
with those who receive them than great services, she would often win
over to him his foes and opponents.

"It is known but to few persons," says the author of the "Memoires
secretes," "that Bonaparte always consulted his wife in civil matters,
even when they were of the highest importance. This fact is entirely
true, but Bonaparte would have been extremely mortified had he known
that those around him suspected it. Had it been possible for me to
divide my being, with what delight I should have followed this noble
woman! I would relate a few traits of hers if I did not know that M.
D. B., who is much better acquainted with her than I, is to write a
biography. [Footnote: The "Memoires secretes" appeared in 1815. The
biography spoken of by the author is probably that of Madame Ducrest,
and which appeared in 1818.] I know not what were the events of the
first years of Madame de Beauharnais, but if they were like those of her
last fifteen years, we should have the history of a perfect woman. She
has known but little of me, and therefore no interested motive guides
my pen, no other sentiment than that of truth." [Footnote: "Memoires
secretes," vol. i., p. 36.]

The 2d Brumaire afforded sufficient reasons for Bonaparte to put into
execution his resolutions. He now knew the enmity of the Directory;
he knew he must cause their downfall if he himself did not wish to
be destroyed by them. He knew that, during his last triumphal journey
through France, he had heard sufficient to convince him that the voice
of the people was for him, that every one longed for a change, that
France was heartily wearied of revolutionary commotions, and above
all things craved for rest and peace; that it wished to lay aside all
political strife, and, like him, preferred to have nothing more to do
with a republican majority.

"Every one desires a more central government," said Napoleon to his
brother Joseph. "Our dreams of a republic are the illusions of youth.
Since the 9th Thermidor the republican party has dwindled away more and
more; the efforts of the Bourbons and the foreigners, coupled with the
memories of '93, have called forth against the republican system an
imposing majority. If it had not been for the 13th Vendemiaire and the
18th Fructidor, this majority would long ago have won the ascendency;
the weaknesses, the imperiousness of the Directory, have done the rest.
To-day the people are turning their hopes toward me, to-morrow it will
be toward some one else."

Bonaparte did not wish to wait until to-morrow. He had made all his
preparations; he had made sure of his generals and officers; he knew
also that the soldiers were for him, and that it required but a signal
from him to bring about the catastrophe.

He gave the signal by inviting on the 18th Brumaire, to a dejeuner in
his house, all his confidants and friends, all the generals and superior
officers, and also the commanding general of the National Guards. Nearly
all of them came at this invitation; only General Bernadotte kept aloof,
as he perceived that the breakfast had other objects than to converse
and to eat. Sieyes and Ducos were the only directors who made their
appearance; Gohier, that morning, had sent to Bonaparte an invitation
to dinner, so as to deceive the more securely him whom he knew was his
enemy; Barras and Moulins, suspecting Bonaparte's schemes, remained in
the background, silently awaiting the result.

While the guests were assembling in Bonaparte's house, and filling all
the space in it, a friend and confidant of Bonaparte, in the Council of
the Elders, made the following motion: "In consideration of the intense
political excitement which prevails in Paris, it is necessary to remove
the sessions to St. Cloud, and to give to General Bonaparte the supreme
command of the troops."

After a violent debate, the motion was suddenly adopted; and, when it
was brought to Bonaparte, he saw that the moment for action had come.

He told all those about him that at last the time was at hand to restore
to France rest and peace, that he was decided to do this, and he called
upon them to follow him. Every one was ready, and, surrounded by a
brilliant suite, Bonaparte went first to the Council of the Elders, to
express his thanks for his nomination, and solemnly to swear that he
would adopt every measure necessary to save the country.

Immediately after this he went to the Tuileries to hold a review of the
troops stationed there. The soldiers and the people, who had streamed
thither in masses to see him, received him with loud acclamations,
assuring him of their loyalty and devotedness.

No one this day rose in favor of the deputies, no one seemed to desire
that their sittings should as heretofore take place in Paris, nor to
think that force would have to be used to remove them.

The palace of Luxemburg, in which their sittings had hitherto taken
place, and St. Cloud, in which they were to meet in the future, were
both, by orders of Bonaparte, surrounded with troops, and the deputies
as well as the Council of the Elders adjourned that very day to St.

Moulins and Gohier alone had the courage to offer opposition, and, in
a letter to the Council of the Elders, to describe Bonaparte as a
criminal, who threatened the republic, and to demand of them his arrest;
and also that they should immediately decree that the republic was in
danger, and that it must be defended with all energy. But this letter
fell into Bonaparte's hands; and the directors, when they saw that their
request was unheeded, resigned, as Barras had done.

The republic now had but two legitimate rulers, Sieyes and Ducos; and at
their side stood Bonaparte, soon to exalt himself above them.

The following day, the 19th Brumaire, was actually the decisive day.
The Five Hundred, who now, like the Council of the Elders, held their
deliberations in St. Cloud, were discussing under great excitement the
abdication of the Directory and the necessity of a new election. The
debates were so vehement and so full of passion that the president,
Lucien Bonaparte, could not command order. A wild uproar arose, and at
this moment Napoleon entered the hall. Every one rushed at him with wild
frenzy; and the most violent recriminations were launched at him. "He
is a traitor!" they cried out. "He is a Cromwell, who wants to seize
the sovereign power!" What Bonaparte had never experienced on the
battle-field, in the thickest of the fight, he now felt. He became
bewildered by this violent strife of words, by this hailstorm of
accusations which whizzed around his ears. He tried to speak; he
tried to address the audience, but he could not - he could merely
give utterance to a few broken sentences; he made charges against the
Directory, with assurances of his own loyalty and devotedness, which
the audience received with loud murmurs, and then with wild shouts.
Bonaparte became more embarrassed and bewildered. Suddenly turning
toward the door of the hall, he exclaimed, "Who loves me, let him follow
me!" and he walked out hastily.

The soldiers outside received him with great cheers, and this brought
back Bonaparte's presence of mind. "General," whispered Augereau, as
they mounted their horses, "you are in a critical position."

"Think of Arcola," replied Bonaparte, calmly. "There the position seemed
still more critical. Have patience for half an hour, and you will see
how things change."

Bonaparte made good use of this half hour. At its expiration he
re-entered the hall of deliberation of the Five Hundred, surrounded by
his officers, at the very moment when, on a motion of a member, they
were renewing their oaths to the constitution. Again they received
him with shouts: "Down with the tyrant! - down with the dictator! The
sanctity of the law is violated! Death to the tyrant who brings soldiers
here to do us violence!"

One of the deputies rushed upon Bonaparte and seized him, but at that
instant the grenadiers also entered the room, delivered their general,
and carried him in triumph out of the hall.

After his departure, the waves of wrath and political frenzy rose higher
and higher. Shouts and imprecations filled the room with confusion;
reproaches fell on all sides upon the president, Lucien Bonaparte, for
not having immediately ordered the arrest of the traitor, who by his
appearance, as well as by his armed escort, had insulted the assembly.
When Lucien endeavored to defend Napoleon's conduct, he was interrupted
by the cries: "He is a stain on the republic! He has tarnished his
reputation!" Louder and wilder rose the cry to declare Napoleon an
outlaw. [Footnote: "Memoires du Roi Joseph."]

Lucien refused, and, as they urged their demand with increasing
violence, he left the presidential chair, and with deep emotion put
off the insignia of his office - his mantle and his sash - and was at the
point of making for himself an outlet through the wild crowd pressing
in frenzy around him, when the doors opened, and a company of grenadiers
rushed in, who by main force carried him away out of the hall.

Lucien, whom Napoleon awaited outside with his troops, immediately
mounted his horse, and in this moment of deepest danger kept his
presence of mind, being fully aware that he must now be decided to save
himself and his brother or perish with him. He turned to the troops, and
ordered them to protect the president of the Five Hundred, to defend the
constitution attacked by a few fanatics, and to obey General Bonaparte,
who was empowered by the Council of the Elders to arrest the seditious,
and to protect the republic and its laws.

The soldiers answered him with the acclamation, "Long live Bonaparte!"
But a certain shudder was visible. A few warning voices were lifted
up; they thought it strange that weapons should be directed against the
representatives of the country.

By a dramatic action Lucien brought the matter to a close, though it
was at the time meant by him in all sincerity. He drew his sword, and,
directing its point toward Napoleon's breast, he exclaimed: "I swear
to pierce even my brother's heart if he ever dares touch the liberty of

These words had an electric effect; every one felt inspired, lifted up,
and swore to obey Bonaparte, and to remain loyal to him even unto death.
At a sign from Napoleon, Murat, with his grenadiers, dashed into the
hall and drove away the assembly of the Five Hundred. At ten o'clock
that evening St. Cloud was vacant; only a few deputies, like homeless
night-birds, wandered around the palace out of which they had been so
violently ejected.

In the interior of St. Cloud, Bonaparte was busy preparing for the
people of Paris a proclamation, in which he justified his deed, and
repeated the sacred assurance "that he would protect liberty and the
republic against all her enemies at home as well as abroad." When this
was done, it was necessary to think of giving to the French people a new
government, instead of the one which had been broken up. Napoleon had
been in conference until the dawn of day with Talleyrand, Roderer, and
Sieyes. Meanwhile Lucien had gathered around him in a room the members
of the Five Hundred who were devoted to him, and had resumed the
presidential chair; Napoleon's friends among the members of the Council
of the Elders also gathered together, and both assemblies issued a
decree, in which they declared there was no longer a Directory, and in
which they excluded from the assembly as rebellious and factious a
vast number of deputies. And more, they decreed the nomination of a
provisional commission, and decided that it should consist of three
members, who should bear the title of Consuls of the Republic, and they
appointed as consuls Sieyes, Ducos, and Bonaparte.

At three o'clock in the morning every thing was ready, and Napoleon,
accompanied by Bourrienne, went to Paris. He had reached his goal; he
was at the head of the administration, but his countenance betrayed no
joyous excitement; he was taciturn and pensive, and during the whole
journey to Paris he spoke not a word, but quietly leaned in a corner
of the carriage. Perhaps he dreamed of a great and brilliant future;
perhaps he was busy with the thought how he could ascend higher on this
ladder to a throne, whose first step he had now ascended, since he had
exalted himself into a consul of the republic.

Not till he arrived at his residence in the Rue de la Victoire did
Bonaparte's cheerfulness return, when, with countenance beaming
with joy, and followed by Bourrienne, he hastened to Josephine, who,
exhausted by anxiety and care during this day full of danger, had
finally gone to rest. Near her bed Bonaparte sank into an arm-chair,
and, gazing at her and seizing her hand, he turned smilingly to

"Is it not true," said he - "I said many foolish things?"

"Well, yes, general, that cannot be denied," replied Bourrienne,
shrugging his shoulders, while Josephine broke out into loud, joyous

"I would sooner speak to soldiers than to lawyers," said Bonaparte,
cheerfully. "These honorable fools made me timid. I am not accustomed to
speak to an audience - but that will come in time."

With affectionate sympathy Josephine requested him to relate in detail
all the events of the day; and she listened with breathless attention to
the descriptions which Bonaparte made in his own terse, brief, and lucid

"And Gohier?" said she, at last - "you know I love his wife, and when you
were in Egypt he was ever kind and attentive to me. You will not touch
him, will you, mon ami?"

Bonaparte shrugged his shoulders. "What of it, my love?" said he; "it is
not my fault if he is pushed aside. Why has he not wished it otherwise?
He is a good-natured man, but a blockhead. He does not understand me....
I would do much better to have him transported. He wrote against me to
the Council of the Elders, but his letter fell into my hands, and the
council has heard nothing of it. The unfortunate man!... Yesterday he
expected me to dinner.... And that is called statesmanship.... Let us
speak no more of this matter." [Footnote: Bonaparte's own words. - See
Bourrienne, vol. iii., p. 106.]

Then he began to relate to his Josephine how Bernadotte had acted,
refusing to take any part in the events of the day, and how, when
Bonaparte had requested him at least to undertake nothing against him,
he answered: "As a citizen, I will keep quiet; but if the Directory
gives me the order to act, I will fight against every disturber of the
peace and every conspirator, whoever he may be."

Bonaparte then suddenly turned to Bourrienne to dismiss him, that he
might himself take some rest; and when he extended his hand to bid him
farewell, he added, carelessly:

"Apropos, to-morrow we sleep in the Luxemburg." It was decided! - the
long-premeditated deed was done! With the 18th Brumaire, Bonaparte had
made an important step forward on the path of fame and power whose end
was seen by him alone.

Bonaparte was no longer a general receiving orders from a superior
authority; he was no longer the servant of the Directory; but he was now
the one who would give orders - he was the master and ruler; he stood at
the head of the French nation; he made the laws, and his deep, clear eye
looked far beyond both consuls who stood at his side, into that future
when he alone would be at the head of France; when, instead of the
uprooted throne of the lilies, he would sit in the Tuileries, in the
chair of the First Consul, this chair of a Caesar, which could so easily
become an emperor's throne!

On the 20th Brumaire, Napoleon occupied the residence of the Directory
in the palace of the Luxemburg, after he had, through his brother Louis,
made Gohier prisoner, the only one of the directors who still lingered
there, and whom he afterward released. Josephine's intercession procured
the liberty of the husband of her friend, and this generous pardon
of the furious letter which Gohier had written against him was the
thank-offering which Bonaparte presented to the gods as he made his
entrance into the Luxemburg.

The Luxemburg itself was, however, but a relay for a change of horses
in the wondrous journey which Bonaparte had to travel from the lawyer's
house on the island of Corsica to the throne-room of the Bourbons in the
palace of the Tuileries.

In simple equipage, he with Josephine made his entrance into the
Luxemburg, but after the rest of a few weeks he left this station, to
make his entrance into the Tuileries in a magnificent carriage, drawn
by the six splendid grays which the Emperor of Austria had presented to
General Bonaparte in Campo Formio. For already another change had taken
place in the government of France, and the trefoil-leaf of the consuls
had assumed another form.

The two consuls, who had stood at the side of Bonaparte, invested with
equal powers, had been set aside by the new constitution of the year
VIII., which the people had adopted on the 17th of February, 1800 (18th
Pluviose, year VIII.). This constitution named Bonaparte as consul for
ten years, and with him two other consuls, who were more his secretaries
than his colleagues. Next to him was Cambaceres, as second consul for
ten years, and then Lebrun, as third consul for five years.

With these two consuls, Bonaparte, on the 19th of February, 1800, made
his solemn entry into the Tuileries. The old century, with its Bourbon
throne, its bloody revolution, its horrors, its party passions, had
passed away, and the new century found in the Tuileries a hero who
wanted to crush all parties with a hand of iron, and to place his foot
on the head of the revolution, so as to close the abyss which it had
opened, in order to build himself an emperor's throne over it.

He was for the present satisfied to hear himself called "First Consul;"
he was willing for a short time to grant to the two men who sat at his
side in the carriage drawn by the six imperial grays, that they should
share the power with him, and should consider themselves vested with the
same authority. But Cambaceres and Lebrun had a keen ear for the joyful
shouts with which the people followed their triumphal march from the
Luxemburg to the Tuileries. They knew very well that these shouts and
acclamations were not addressed to them, but only to General Bonaparte,
the conqueror of Lodi and Arcola, the hero of the pyramids, the "savior
of society," who, on the 18th Brumaire, had rescued France from the
terrorists. Both consuls were shrewd enough to draw a lesson from this
enthusiasm of the people, and willingly to fall back into the shade
rather than to be forced into it. The Tuileries had been appointed
for the residence of the three consuls, but the next day after their
triumphal entry Cambaceres left the royal palace to take up his abode in
the Hotel Elboeuf, on the Place de Carrousel. Lebrun, who at first made
the Flora Pavilion his headquarters, soon found it more advisable to
take his lodgings elsewhere, and he left the Tuileries, to make his
residence in the Faubourg St. Honore.


The Tuileries had again found a master; the halls where Marie Antoinette
received her joyous guests, her beautiful lady-friends, were now again
alive with elegant female figures, and resounded with gay voices,
cheerful laughter, and unaffected pleasantry. The apartments in which
Louis XVI. had passed such sad and fearful days, where he had laid with
his ministers such nefarious schemes, and where royalty had been trodden
down under the feet of the infuriated populace - these rooms were now

Online LibraryL. MühlbachEmpress Josephine → online text (page 30 of 40)