Madame de (Anne-Louise-Germaine) Staël.

Ten years' exile; online

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her conquests ; she restored Malta, of which it had
been said, when it was taken by the French, that
if there had been nobody in the fortress, they

TEN years' exile. 57

would never have been able to enter it. In short,
she gave up every thing, and without compensation,
to a power which she had constantly beaten at sea.
What an extraordinary effect of the passion for
peace ! And yet this man, who had so miraculously
obtained such advantages, had not the patience to
make use of them for a few years, to put the French
navy in a state to meet that of England. Scarcely
had the treaty of Amiens been signed, when Napo-
leon, by a senatus-consultum, annexed Piedmont to
France. During the twelve months the peace last-
ed, every day was marked by some new proclama-
tion, provoking to a breach of the treaty. The
motives of this conduct it is easy to penetrate ; Bo-
naparte wished to dazzle the French nation, now by
unexpected treaties of peace, at other times by wars
which would make him necessary to it. He believed
that a period of disturbance was favourable to usur-
pation. The newspapers, which were instructed to
boast of the advantages of peace in the spring of
J 802, said then, "We are approaching the mo-
ment when systems of politics will become of no ef-
fect." If Bonaparte had really wished it, he might
at that period have easily bestowed twenty years
of peace upon Europe, in the state of terror and
ruin to which it was reduced.

The friends of liberty in the tribunate were
still endeavouring to struggle against the constant-
ly increasing power of the first consul ; but they
had not then the advantage of being seconded by
public opinion. The greater number of the op-
position tribunes were every way deserving of es-
teem : but there were three or four persons who
acted along with them, who had been guilty of
revolutionary excesses, and the government look


58 TEN years' exile.

especial care to throw upon all, the blame which
could onlj attach to a few. It is certain, however,
that men collected in a jDubiic assembly generally
end in electrifying themselves with the sparks of
mental dignity ; and this tribunate, even such as it
was, would, had it been allowed to continue, have
prevented the establishment of tyranny. Already
the majority of votes had nominated, as a can-
didate for the senate, Daunou, an honest and en-
lightened republican, but certainly not a man to
be dreaded. This was sufficient, however, to de-
termine the first consul to the elimination of the
tribunate ; which means to make twenty of the
most energetic members of the assembly retire,
one by one, on the designation of the senators,
and to have them replaced by twenty others, de-
voted to the government. The eighty who re-
mained, were each year to undergo the same
operation by fourths. A lesson was in this man-
ner given them of what they were expected to
do, to retain their places, or in other words, their
salary of fifteen thousand francs ; the first consul,
wishing to preserve some time longer this muti-
lated assembly, which might serve for two or
three years more as a popular mask to his tyran-
nical acts.

Among the proscribed tribunes were several of
my friends; but my opinion was in this instance
altogether independent of my attachments. Per-
haps, however, I might feel a greater degree of
irritation at the injustice which fell upon persons
with whom I was connected, and I have no doubt
that I allowed myself the expression of some sar-
castic remarks on this hypocritical method of in-
terpreting the unfortunate constitution, into which

TEN years' exile. 59

they had endeavoured to prevent the entrance of
the smallest spark of liberty.

There was at that time formed round General
Bernadotte, a party of generals and senators,
who wished to have his opinion, if some means
could not be devised to stop the progress of the
usurpation, which was now rapidly approaching.
He proposed a variety of plans, all founded upon
some legislative measure or other, considering
any other means as contrary to his principles.
But to obtain any such measure, it required a de-
liberation of at least some members of the senate,
and not one of them was found bold enough to
subscribe such an instrument. While this most
perilous negotiation continued, I was in the
habit of seeing General Bernadotte and his friends
very frequently; this was more than enough to
ruin me, if their designs were discovered. Bo-
naparte remarked, that people always came away
from my house less attached to him than when
they entered it ; in short, he determined to single
me out as the only culprit, among many, who
were much more so than I was, but whom it was
of more consequence to him to spare.

Just at this time, I set out for Coppet, and reach-
ed my father's house in a most painful state of
anxiety and mental oppression. My letters from
Paris informed me, that after my departure, the
first consul had expressed himself very warmly on
the subject of my connections with General Berna-
dotte. There was every appearance of his being
resolved to punish me ; but he paused at the idea
of sacrificing General Bernadotte ; either because
bis military talents were necessary to him ; re-
strained by the family ties which connected them ;

60 TEN years' exile.

afraid of the greater popularity of Bernadotte with
the French army ; or finally because there is a
certain charm in his manners, which renders it dif-
ficult even to Bonaparte to become entirely his ene-
my. What provoked the first consul still more
than the opinions which he attributed to me, was
the number of strangers who came to visit me.
The Prince of Orange, son of the Stadtholder, did
me the honour to dine with me, for which he was
reproached by Bonaparte. The existence of a
woman, who was visited on account of her literary
reputation, was but a trifle 5 but that trifle was to-
tally independent of him, and was sufficient to
make him resolve to crush me.

In this year, 1802, the afiair of the princes, who
had possessions in Germany, was settled. The
whole of that negotiation was conducted at Paris,
to the great profit, it was said, of the ministers who
were employed in it. Be that as it may, it was at
this period that began the diplomatic spoliation of
Europe, which was only stopped at its very extre-

All the great noblemen of feudal Germany, were
seen at Paris exhibiting their ceremonial, whose
obsequious formalities were much more agreeable
to the first consul than the still easy manner of the
French ; and asking back wSiat belonged to them
with a servility which would almost make one lose
the right to one's own property, so much had it
the air of regarding the authority of justice as no-

A nation singularly proud, the English, was not
at this time altogether e&empt from a degree of
curiosity about the person of the first consul, ap-
proaching to homage. The ministerial party re-



garded him in his proper light; but the opposition,
which ought to have a greater hatred of tyrannyj
as it is supposed to be more enthusiastic for liberty,
the opposition party, and Fox himself, whose talents
and goodness of heart one cannot recollect without
admh'ation, and the tenderest emotion, committed
the error of showing too much attention to Bona-
parte, thereby serving to prolong the mistake of
those, who wished still to confound with the French
revolution, the most decided enemy of the first
principles of that revolution.


Kew symptoms of Bonaparte^ s ill loill to my fathe
and m,ysdf. — Affairs of Szvitzerlajid.


At the beginning of the winter 1802 — 3, when
I saw by the papers that so many ilhistrious Eng-
lishmen, and so many of the most intelligent per-
sons in France were collected in Paris, I felt, I con-
fess, the strongest desire to be among them. I do
not dissemble, that a residence in Paris has always
appeared to me the most agreeable of all others ; I
was born there — there I have passed my infancy
and early youth — and there only could 1 meet the
generation which had known my father, and the
friends who had with us passed through the hor-
rors of the revolution. This love of country, which
has attached the most strongly constituted minds,
lays still stronger hold of us, when it unites the en-
joyments of intellect with the affections of the heart,
and the habits of imagination. French conversa-
tion exists no where hut in Paris, and conversation
has been, since my infancy, my greatest pleasure. I
experienced such grief at the apprehension of being
deprived of this residence, thai my reason could not
support itself against it. I was then in the fall vi-
vacity of life, and it is precisely the want of animated
enjoyment, which leads most frequently to de-^pair,
as it renders that resignation very difficult, without
which we cannot support the vicissitudes of life.

The prefect of Geneva had received no orders
to refuse me my passports for Paris, but I knew that


tlie first consul had said in the midst of his circle,
that I would do well not to return ; and he was al-
ready in the habit, on subjects of this nature, of
dictating his pleasure in conversation, in order to
prevent his being called upon, by the anticipation
of his orders. If he had in this manner said, that
such and such an individual ought to go and hang
himself, I believe that he would have been displeas-
ed, if the submissive subject had not, in obedience
to the hint, bought a rope and prepared the gal-
lows. Another proof of his ill will to me, was the
manner in which the French journals criticized my
romance ofDelphine, which appeared at this time;
they thought proper to denounce it as immoral, and
the work which had received my father's approba-
tion was condemned by these courtier critics.
There might be found in that book, that fire of
youth, and ardour after happiness, which ten years,
and those years of suffering, have taught me to di-
rect in another manner. But my censors were not
capable of feeling this sort of error, and merely
acted in obedience to that voice which ordered
them to pull to pieces the work of the father, prior
to attacking that of the daughter. In fact we heard
from all quarters, that the true reason of the first
consul's anger, was this last work of my father, in
which the whole scafiblding of his monarchy was
delineated by anticipation.

My father, and also my mother, during her life-
time, had both the same predilection for a Paris re-
sidence that 1 had. I was extremely sorrowful at
being separated from my friends, and at being un-
able to give my children that taste for the fine arts,
which is acquired with difiiculty in the country ;
and as there was no positive prohibition of my re -

64 TEN years' exile.

turn in the letter of the consul Lebrun,* but merely
some significant hints, I formed a hundred projects
of returning, and trying if the first consul, who at
that time was still tender of public opinion, would
venture to brave the murmurs which my banish-
ment would not fail to excite. My father, who con-
descended sometimes to reproach himself for being
partly the cause of spoiling my fortune, conceived
the idea of going himself to Paris, to speak to the
first consul in my favour. I confess, that at first I
consented to accept this proof of my father's at-
tachment ; I represented to myself such an idea of
the ascendancy which his presence would produce,
that I thought it impossible to resist him ; his age,
the fine expression of his looks, and the union of so
much noble mindedness, and refinement of intellect,
appeared to me likely even to captivate Bonaparte
himself. I knew not at that time, to what a degree
the consul was irritated against his book ; but for-
tunately for me, I reflected that these very advanta-
ges were only more likely to excite in the first con-
sul a stronger desire of humbling iheir possessor.
Assuredly he would have found means, at least in
appearance, of accomplishing that desire ; as power
in Frauce has man) allies, and if the spirit of op-
pogitioa has been frequently displayed, it has only
been because the weakness of the government has
offered it an easy victory. Il cannot be too often
repeated, that what the French love above all things,
is success, and that with them, power easily suc-
ceeds in making misfortune ridiculous. Finally,

* This letter is the same which is spoken of in the 4th
part of the CQnsideraiions on the French revolution, cljap. 7.


thank God ! I awoke from the illusion to which I
had given myself up, and positively refused the no-
ble sacrifice which my father proposed to make for
me. When he saw me completely decided not to
accept it, I perceived how much it would have cost
him. I lost him fifteen months afterwards, and if
he had then executed the journey he proposed, I
should have attributed his illness to that cause, and
remorse would have still kept my wound festering.

It was also during the winter of 1802 — 3, that
Sv/itzerland took arms against the unitarian con-
stitution which had been imposed upon her. Sin-
gular mania of the French revolutionists to com-
pel all countries to adopt a political organization
similar to that of France ! There are, doubtless,
principles common to all countries, such as those
which secure the civil and political rights of free
people; but of what consequence is it whether
there should be a limited monarchy as in England,
or a federal republic like the United States, or the
Thirteen Swiss Cantons ? and was it necessary to
reduce Europe to a single idea, like the Roman
people to a single head, in order to be able to
command and to change the whole in one day !

The first consul certainly attached no impor-
tance to this or that form of constitution, or even
to any constitution whatever ; but what was of
consequence to him, was to make the best use he
could of Switzerland for his own interest, and
with that view, he conducted himself prudently.
He combined the various plans which were offer-
ed to him, and drew up a form of constitution
which conciliated sufficiently well the ancient
habits with the modern pretensions, and in caus-^
ing himself to be named Mediator of the Swiss


66 TEN years' exile.

Confederation, he drew more persons from that
country, than he could have driven from it if he
had governed it directly. He made the deputies
nominated by the cantons and principal cities of
Switzerland come to Paris; and on the 29th of
January, 1803, he had a conference of seven
hours with ten delegates, chosen from the general
deputation. He dwelt upon the necessity of re-
estabhshing the democratic cantons in their for-
mer state, pronouncing on this occasion some de-
clamations on the cruelty of depriving shepherds
dispersed among the mountains, of their sole
amusement, namely, popular assemblies ; stating
also, (what concerned him more nearly,) the rea-
sons he had fbi: mistrusting the aristocratic can-
tons. He insisted strongly on the importance of
Switzerland to France. These were his words,
as they are given in a narrative of this confe-
rence : " I can declare, that since I have been at
the head of this government, no power has taken
the least interest in Switzerland : 'twas I who
made the Helvetic republic be acknowledged at
liuneville ; Austria cared not the least for it. At
Amiens I wished to do the same, and England re-
fused it ; but England has nothing to do with
Switzerland. If she had expressed the least ap-
prehension that I wished to be declared your Lan-
damann, I would have been so. It has been said
that England encouraged the last insurrection ; if
the English cabinet had tnken a single official step,
or if there had been a syllable said about it in the
London Gazette, 1 would have immediately united
you with France." What incredible language !
Thus, the existence of a people who had secured
their independence in the midst of Europe by the

TEN years' exile, G7

most heroic efforts, and maintained it for five
centuries fey wisdom and moderation, this exist-
ence would have been annihilated by a move-
ment of spleen which the least accident might
have excited in a being so capricious. Bonaparte
added, in this same conference, that it was un-
pleasant to him to have a constitution to make,
because it exposed him to be hissed, which he
had no partiality for. This expression [etre sif-
jie) bears the stamp of the deceitfully affable vul-
garity in which he frequently took pleasure in in-
dulging. Roederer and Desmeunier wrote the
act of mediation from his dictation, and the whole
passed during the time that his troops occupied
Switzerland. He has since withdrawn them, and
this country, it must be confessed, has been belter
treated by Napoleon than the rest of Europe, al-
though both in a political and military point of
view more completely dependent upon him; con-
sequently it will remain tranquil in the general in-
surrection. The peo|)le of Europe were dis-
posed to such a degree of patience, that it has
required a Bonaparte to exhaust \t.

The London newspapers attacked the first
consul bitterly enough ; the English nation was
too enlightened not to perceive the drift of his
actions. Whenever any translations from the
Enghsh papers were brought to him, he used to
apostrophize Lord Whitworth, who answered
him, with equal coolness and propriety, that the
King of Great Britain himself was not protected
from the sarcasms of newswriters, and that the
constitution permitted no violation of their lib-
erty on that score. However, the English
government caused M. Peltier to^be prosecuted

(3S TEN years' exile.

for some articles in his journal directed against
the first consul. Peltier had the honour to be de-
fended by Mr. Mackintosh, who made upon this
occasion one of the most eloquent speeches that has
been read in modern times : I will mention farther
on, under what circumstances this speech came into
mv hands.


Rupture toith England, — Commencement of my

I WAS at Geneva, living from taste and from
circumstances in the society of the English,
when the news of the declaration of war reached
us. The rumour immediately spread that the
English travellers would all be made prisoners ;
as nothing similar had ever been heard of in the
law of European nations, I gave no credit to it,
and my security was nearly proving injurious to
my friends : they contrived, however, to save
themselves. But persons entirely unconnected
with political affairs, among whom was Lord
Beverley, the father of eleven children, return-
ing from Italy with his wife and daughters, and
a hundred other persons provided with French
passports, some of them repairing to different
universities for education, others to the South
for the recovery of their health, all travelling
under the safeguard of laws recognised by all
nations, were arrested, and have been languish-
ing for ten years in country towns, leading the
oiost miserable life that the imagiDation can
conceive. This scandalous act was productive
of no advantage ; scarcely two thousand English,
including very few mihtary, became the victims
ot this . aprice of the tyrant, making a few poor
individuals suffer, to gratify his spleen against
the invincible nation to which they belong.


During the summer of 1803 began the great
farce of the invasion of England ; flat-boltomed
boats were ordered to be built from one end of
France to the other ; they were even constructed in
the forest on the borders of the great roads. The
French, who have in all things a very strong rage
for imitation, cut out deal upon deal, and heaped
phrase upon phrase : while in Picardy some erect-
ed a triumphal arch, on which was inscribed, '' the
road to London," others wrote, '^ To Bonaparte
the Great. We request you will admit us on board
the vessel which will bear you to England, and
with you the destiny and the vengeance of the
French people." This vessel, on board of which
Bonaparte was to embark, has had time to wear
herself out in harbour. Others put, as a device for
their flags in the roadstead, " A good wind, and
thirty hours,^^ In short, all France resounded
with gasconades, of which Bonaparte alone knew
perfectly the secret.

Toward the autumn I believed myself forgotten
by Bonaparte : I heard from Paris that he was
completely absorbed in his English expedition, that
he was preparing to set out for the coast, and to
embark himself to direct the descent. I put no
faith in this project ; but I flattered myself that he
would be satisfied if I lived at a kw leagues dis-
tance from Paris, with the small number of friends
who would come that distance to visit a person in
disgrace. I thought also that being sufficiently
well known to make my banishment talked of all
over Europe, the first consul would wish to avoid
this eclat. I had calculated according to my own
wishes ; but I was not yet thoroughly acquainted
with the character of the man who was to domineer

TEN years' exile. 7 J

over Europe. Far from wishing to keep upon
terms with persons who had distinguished them-
selves in whatever line that was, he wished to make
all such merely a pedestal for his own statue, either
by treading them under foot, or by making them
subservient to his designs. ^

I arrived at a little country seat I had at ten
eaguesfrom Pans with the project of establish-
ing myself during the winter in this retreat, as Ions
as the system of tyranny lasted. I only wished to
see my friends there, and to go occasionally to the
theatre, and to the museum. This was all the
residence I wished in Paris, in the state of distrust
and espiomge ^vhlch had begun to be established,
and 1 confess I cannot see what inconsistency there
would have been in the first consul allowin/me to
remain in this state of voluntary exile. I had been
there peaceably for a month, when a female, of that
description which is so numerous, endeavouring to
make herself of consequence at the expense of an-
other female, more distinguished than herself, went
and told the first consul that the roads were cover-
ed with people going to visit me. Nothing certain-
ly could be more false. The exiles whom the
world went to see, were those who, in the eiX
teenth century, were almost as powerful as The
monarchs who banished them; but when power is
resisted, it is because it is not tyrannical ; for it
can only be so by the general submission. Be that
as it may, Bonaparte immediately seized the pretext
or the motive that was given him, to banish me
and 1 was apprized by one of my friends, that a
gendarme would be with me in a few days with an
rrder for me to depart. One has no idea, in coun'
tr^s where routine at least ' secures individuals
Ircm any act of injustice, of the terror which the


sudden news of arbitrary acts of this nature inspires.
It is besides extremely easy to shake me 5 my im-
agination more readily lays hold of trouble than
hope, and although I have often found my cha-
grin dissipated by the occurrence of novel circum-
stances, it always appears to me, when it does
come, that nothing can deliver me from it. In fact it
is very easy to be unhappy, especially when we as*
pire to the privileged lots of existence.

I withdrew immediately on receiving the above
intimation, to the house of a most excellent and
intelHgent lady,* to whom I ought to acknowledge
I was recommended by a person who held an im-
portant office in the government;! I shall never
forget the courage with which he offered me an
asylum himself: but he would have the same good
intentions at present, when he could not act in that
manner without completely endangering his exist-
ence. In proportion as tyranny is allowed to ad-
vance, it grows, as we look at it, like a phantom,
but it seizes widi the strength of a real being. 1
arrived then, at the country seat ©fa person whom
I scarcely knew, in the midst of a society to w.-sich
I was an entire stranger, and bearing in my heart
the most cutting chagrin which I made every effort
to disguise. During the night, when alone with a
female who had been for several years devoted to
my service, I sat listening at the window, in ex-
pectation of hearing every moment ihe steps of a
horse gendarme ; during the day I endeavoured to
make myself agreeable, in order to conceal my si-
tuation. 1 wrote a letter from this place to Joseph

* Madame de LatoUr.

■\ Regnault de Saint- Jean-d*Angely.

1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryMadame de (Anne-Louise-Germaine) StaëlTen years' exile; → online text (page 4 of 18)