Madame de (Anne-Louise-Germaine) Staël.

Ten years' exile; online

. (page 6 of 18)
Online LibraryMadame de (Anne-Louise-Germaine) StaëlTen years' exile; → online text (page 6 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


necessary to alarm the revolutionists as to the
danger to which their interests would be exposed,
and to propose to complete their security, by a



TEN years' exile. 89

final abandonment of their principles ; and so it
was done,

Pichegru was become a decided royalist, as he
had formerly been a republican ; his opinion had
been completely turned ; his character was supe-
rior to his understanding ; but the one was as lit-
tle calculated as the other to draw men after him.
George had more elasticity about him, but he was
not fitted either by nature or education for the
rank of chief. As soon as it was known that
these two were at Paris, Moreau was immediately
arrested, the barriers were shut, death was de-
nounced to any one who should give an asylum to
Pichegru or George, and all the measures of ja-
cobinism were put in force to protect the life of
one man. This man is not only of too much im-
portance in his own eyes to stick at any thing,
when his own interests are in question, but it like-
wise entered into his calculations to alarm men's
minds, to recall the days of terror, in short, to in-
spire the nation, if possible, with the desire of
throwing itself entirely upon him, in order to es-
cape the troubles whichit was the tendency of all
his measures to increase. The retreat of Piche-
gru was discovered, and George was arrested in a
cabriolet ; for, being unable to live longer in any
house, he, in this manner, traversed the streets
night and day, to keep himself out of sight of his
pursuers. The police agent who seized him, was
recompensed with the legion of honour, I ima-
gine that French soldiers would have wished him
any reward but that.

The Moniteur was filled with addresses to the
first consul, congratulating him on his escape from
this^ danger 5 this incessant repetition of the same

9



90 TEN years' EXIIE.

phrases, bursting from every corner of France, of-
fers such a concord in slavery as is perhaps unex-
ampled in the history.of any other people. You
may in turning over the Moniteur, find, according
to the different epochs, exercises upon liberty, up-
on despotism, upon philosophy, and upon religion,
in which the departments and good cities of France
strive to say the same thing in different terms ; and
one feels astonished that men so intelligent as the
French, should attach themselves entirely to suc-
cess in the style, and never once have had the de-
sire of exhibiting ideas of their own ; one might
say that the emulation of words was all that they
required. These hymns of dictation, however,
with the points of admiration which accompany
them, announced that France was completely tran-
quil, and that the small number of emissaries of
perfidious Albion were seized. One general, it is
true, amused himself with reporting, that the En-
glish had thrown baks of Levant cotton on the
coast of Normandy, to give France the plague ;
but these inventions of grave buffoonery were only
regarded as pieces of flattery addressed to the first
consul ; and the chiefs of the conspiracy, as well
as their agents, being in the power of the govern-
ment, there was reason for believing that calm was
restored in France ; but Bonaparte had not yet
attained his object.



CHAPTER XV.

Assassination of the Duke d'^Enghien.

I RESIDED at Berlin on the Spree Quay, and
my apartment was On the ground floor. One morn-
ing I was awoke at eight o'clock, and told that
Prince Louis-Ferdinand was on horseback under
my windows, and wished me to come and speak
to him. Much astonished at this early visit, I
hastened to get up and go to him. He was a sin-
gularly graceful horseman, and his emotion height-
ened the nobleness of his countenance. " Do you
know," said he to me, " that the Duke d'Enghien
has been carried ofi* from the Baden territory, de-
livered to a military commission, and shot within
twenty-fours after his arrival in Paris ?" " What
nonsense !" I answered, " don't you see that this
can only be a report spread by the enemies of
France .f"' In fact I confess that my hatred to Bo-
naparte, strong as it was, never went the length of
making me believe in the possibility of his com-
mitting such an atrocity. " As you doubt what I
tell you," replied Prince Louis, " I will send you
the Moniteur, in which you will read the sentence."
He left me at these words, and the expression of
his countenance was the presage of revenge or
death. A quarter of an hour afterwards, I had in
my hands this Moniteur of the 21st March, (30th
Piuviose,) which contained the sentence of death
pronounced by the military commission sitting at
Vincennes, against the person called Louis d^Eng-



92 TEN ¥4:ars' exile.

hien I It is thus that the French designated the de-
scendant of heroes, who were the glory of their
country. Even if they abjured all the prejudices
of illustrious birth, which the return of monarchical
forms would necessarily recall, could they blas-
pheme in this manner the recollection of the battles
of Lens and Tlocroi ? This Bonaparte who has
gained so many battles, does not even know how
10 respect them ; with him there is neither past nor
future ; his imperious and contemptuous soul will
recognize nothing for opinion to hold sacred ; he
admits only respect for the force v^'hich is in exis-
tence. Prince Louis wrote to me, beginning his
note in these words, " The person called Louis c''
Prussia begs to know of Madame de Stael, &;c."
He felt the insult offered to the royal blood from
which he sprung, to the recollection of the heroes,
in the roll of whom he burned to place his
name. How was it possible, after this horrible ac-
tion, for a single monarch in Europe to connect
himself with such a man ? Necessity, will it be
said f There is a sanctuary in the soul to which his
empire never ought to penetrate 5 if there were not,
what would virtue be upon this earth ? a mere li-
beral amusement which could only suit the peace-
ful leisure of private individuals.

A ladj of my acquaintance related to me, that
a few days after the death of the Duke d'Enghien,
she went to take a walk round the castle oT Vin-
cennes ; the ground, still fresh, marked the spot
where he had been burled ; some children were
playing with little quoits upon this mound of turf,
the only monument for the ashes of such a man.
An old invalid, with silvered locks^ was sitting at
a little distance, and remained some time lookiRg



at the

them a^v.

some tears,

beseech you."

that were paid to

Conde, and the earth .

pression of them. ..

For a moment, at least, pubho .; ;
to awaken in France, and indignation
ral. But when these generous flames wc
tinguished, despotism was but the more easily
established, from the vain efforts which had been
made to resist it. The first consul was for some
days rather uneasy at the disposition of men's
minds. Fouche himself blamed this action ; he
made use of this expression, so characteristic of
the present regime : " It is worse than a crime ;
it is a fault." There are many ideas in this short

hrase ; but fortunately we may reverse it with
truth, by affirming that the greatest of faults is
crime. Bonaparte asked an honest senator, what
was thought of the death of the Duke d'Enghien,
^* General,'*' replied he, " it has given great af-
fliction." " I am not astonished at it," said Bo-
naparte, " a house which has long reigned in a
country always interests •/' thus wishing to con-
nect with motives of party interest the most^na-
tural feeling that the human heart can experience.
Another time he put the same question to a tri-
bune, who, from the desire of pleasing him, an-
swered : " Well, general, if our enemies take-
measures against us, we are in the right to do the
same against them ;'' not perceiving that this was
tantamount to a confession that the deed was atro-

9^



jcted to consider this
^ns of state. One day,
a discussion with an intelli-
ue plays of Corneille, he said,
the public safety, or to express it
state necessity, has with the moderns
been substituted in the place of the fatality of the
ancients : there is, for instance, such a man, who
naturally would be incapable of a crime, but po-
litical circumstances impose it upon him as a law,
Corneille is the only one who has shown, in his
tragedies, an acqaintance with state necessity ;
on that account, if he had lived in my time, I
would have made him my prime minister." All
this appearance of good humour in the discussion
was intended to prove that there was nothing of
passion in the death of the Duke d'Enghien, and
that circumstances, meaning such as the head of
the state is exclusively the judge of, might cause
and justify every thing That there was nothing
of passion in his resolution about the Duke D'En-
ghien is perfectly true ; people would have it that
rage inspired the crime, — it had nothing to do
with it. By what could this rage have been pro-
voked? The Duke d'Enghien had in no way pro-
voked the first consul : JBonaparte hoped at first
to have got hold of the Duke de Berry, who, it was
said, was to have landed in Normandy, if Piche-
gru had given him notice that it was a proper time.
This prince is nearer the throne than the Duke
d'Enghien, and besides, he would by coming into
France have infringed the existing laws. It there-
fore suited Bonaparte in every way better to have
sacrificed him than the Duke d'Engliien; but as
he could not get at the first, he chose the second,



TEN years' exile. 05

in discussing the matter in cold blood. Between
the order for carrying him otf, and that for his
execution, more than eight days had elapsed, and
Bonaparte ordered the punishment of the Duke
d'Enghien long beforehand, as coolly, as he has
since sacrificed millions of men to the caprices of
his ambition.

We now ask, what were the motives of this
horrible action, and I believe it is very easy to
penetrate them. First, Bonaparte wished to se-
cure the revolutionary party, by contracting with
it an alliance of blood. An old jacobin, when he
heard the news, exclaimed, " So much the better!
General Bonaparte is now become one of the
convention." For a long time the jacobins would
only have a man who had voted for the death of
the king, for the first magistrate of the republic ;
that was what they termed, giving pledges tt
the revolution. Bonaparte fulfilled this condi-
tion of crime, substituted for that of property re-
quired in other countries ; he thus afforded the
certainty that he would never serve the Bour-
bons ; and thus such of that parly as atta'Ched
themselves to his, burnt their vessels, never to
return.

On the eve of causing himself to be crowned by
the same men who had proscribed royaby, and of
re-establishing, a noblesse composed of the parti-
sans of equality, he believed it necessary to sa-
tisfy them by the horrible guarantee of the assas-
sination of a Bourbon, In the conspiracy of Piche-
gru and Moreau, Bonaparte knew that the repub-
licans and royalists had united against him ; this
strange coalition, of which the hatred he inspired
was the sole bond, had astonished him. Several



96 TEN YEARS EXILE.

persons who held places under him, were marked
out for the service of that revolution which was to
break his power, and it was of consequence to
him that henceforward all his agents should con-
sider themselves ruined beyond redemption, if
their master was overturned ; and, finally, above
all, he wished at the moment of his seizing the
crown to inspire such terror, that no one in fu-
ture should think of resisting him. Every thing
was violated in this single action : the European
law of nations, the constitution such as it then
existed, public shame, humanity, and religion.
Nothing could go beyond it ; every thing was
therefore to be dreaded from the man who had
committed it, it was thought for some time in
France, that the murder of the Duke d'Enghien
was the signal of a new system of revolution, and
that the scaffolds were about to be re-erected.
But Bonaparte only wished to teach the French
one thing, and that was, that he dared to do every
thing; in order that they might give him credit
for the evil he abstained from, as others get it for
the good they do. His clemency was praised
when he allowed a man to live ; it had been seen
how easy it was for him to cause one (o perish,
Russia, Sweden, and, above all, England, com-
plained of this violation of the Germanic empire;
the German princes themselves were silent, and
the weak sovereign on whose territory the out-
rage had been committed, requested in a diplo-
matic note, that nothing more should be said of
the evfnt that had happened. Did not this gen-
tle and veiled expression, applied to such an act,
characterize the meanness of those princes, who



TEN years' exile. 97

made their sovereignty consist only in their reve-
nues, and treated a state as a capital, of which
they must get the interest paid as quietly as they
could ?



CHAPTER XVI.

Illness and death of M, Necker,

My father lived long enough to hear of the
assassination of the Duke d'Enghien, and the last
lines which I received, that were traced by his
own hand, expressed his indignation at this
atrocity.

In the midst of the most complete security, I
found one day upon my table two letters, announ-
cing to me that my father was dangerously ill.
The courier who brought them was concealed
from me, as well as the news of his death. I set
out immediately with the strongest hope, which I
preserved in spite of all the circumstances which
ought to have extinguished it. When the real
truth became known to me at Weimar, I was sei-
zed with a mingled sensation of inexpressible ter-
ror and despair. 1 saw myself without support
in the world, and compelled to rely entirely on
myself for sustaining my soul against misfortune.
Many objects of attachment still remained to me ;
but the sentiment of affectionate admiration which
1 felt for my father, exercised a sway over me
with which no other couM come in competition.
Grief, which is the truest of prophets, predicted
to me that I should never more be happy at heart,
as I had been, whilst this man of all-powerful
sensibility watched over my fate ; and not a sin-
gle day has elapsed since the month of April, 1 804,
in which I have not connected all my troubles



TEN years' exile. 99

with his loss. So long as my father lived, I suffer-
ed only from imagination; for in the affairs of real
life, he always found means to be of service to
me; after I lost him, I came in direct communi-
cation with destiny. It is nevertheless still to the
hope that he is praying for me in heaven, that I
am indebted for the fortitude I retain. It is not
merely the affection of a daughter, but the most
intimate knowledge of his character, which makes
me affirm that I have never seen human nature
carried nearer to perfection than it was in his
soul; if I was not convinced of the truth of a fu-
ture state, I should become mad with the idea
that such a being could have ceased to exist.
There was so much of immortality in his thoughts
and feelings, that it happens to me a hundred
times, whenever I feel emotions that elevate me
above myself, I believe I still hear him.

During my melancholy journey from Weimar
to Coppet, I could not help envying the existence
of every object that circulated in nature, even the
birds and insects which were flying round me; I
asked only a day, a single day, to talk to him once
more, to excite his compassion; I envied those
forest trees whose existence is prolonged for cen-
turies; but the inexorable silence of the grave
has something in it which confounds the human
intellect; and although it is the truth of all others
the best known to us, the strength of the impres-
sion it leaves can never be effaced. As I approach-
ed my father's residence, one of my friends point-
ed out to me on the mountain some clouds which
bore the resemblance of an immense human figure,
which would disappear toward the evening : it
seemed to me that the heavens thus offered me



100 TEN years' exile.

the symbol of the loss I had just sustained. He
was a man truly great: a mian, who in no circum-
stances of his life ever preferred the most import-
ant of his interests to the least of his duties; — a
man, whose virtues were inspired to that degree
by his goodness, that he could have dispensed
with principles, and whose principles were so
strict that he might have dispensed with goodness.
On my arrival at Coppet, I learned that my
father, during the illness of nine days which had
deprived me of him, had been continually and
anxiously occupying himself about my fate. He
reproached himself for his last book, as the cause
of my exile ; and with a trembling hand he wrote,
during his fever, a letter to the first consul, in
which he assured him that I had nothing whatever
to do with the publication of his last work, but
that on the contrary, 1 had desired that it should
not be printed. This voice of a dying man bad so
much solemnity ! this last prayer of a man who
had played so important a part in France, asking
as an only favour, the return of his children to the
place of their birth, and an act of oblivion to the
imprudences which a daughter, then young, might
have committed, — all this appeared to me irresis-
tible ; and well as I ought to have known the cha-
racter of the man, that happened to me, which I
believe is in the nature of all who ardently desire
the cessation of a great affliction;— I hoped con-
trary to all expectation. The first consul recei-
ved this letter, and doubtless must have thought
me an extreme simpleton to flatter myself for a
moment that he would be in the least moved by
it. Certainly, 1 am in that point quite of his
opinion.



CHAPTER XVIL

Trial ofMoreau.

The trial of Moreau still proceeded, and al-
though the journals preserved the most profound
silence on the subject, the publicity of the plead-
ings was sufficient to rouse the minds, and nevei*
did the public opinion in Paris show itself so
strongly against Bonaparte as it did at that period.
The French have more need than any other peo-
ple of a certain degree of liberty of the press ;
they require to think and to feel in common ; the
electricity of the emotions of their neighbours is
necessary to make them experience the shock in
their turn, r,^d their enthusiasm never displays it-
self in an isolated manner. Whoever wishes to
become their tyrant, therefore, does well to al-
low no kind of manifestation to public opinion ;
Bonaparte joins to this idea, which is common to
all despots, an artifice peculiar to the present
time— to wit, the art of proclaiming some factitious
opinion in journals which have the appearance of
being free, they make so many phrases in the
sense which they are ordered. It must be con*
fessed that our French writers are the only ones
who can in this manner every morning embellish
the same sophism, and who hug themselves in the
very superfluity of servitude. While the instruct
tion of this famous affair was in progress, the
journals informed Europe that Pichegru had
strangled himself in the temple ; all the gazettes

10



102 TEN years' exile.

were filled with a surgical report, which appear-
ed V^erj improbable, notwithstanding the care
with which it was drawn up. If it is true that
Pichegru had perished the victim of assassination,
let us figure to ourselves the situation of a brave
general, surprised by cowards in the bottom of
his dungeon, — defenceless, — condemned for se-
veral days to that prison solitude which sinks the
courage of the soul, — ignorant even if his friends
will ever know in what manner he perished, — if
his death will be revenged, — if his memory will
not be outraged ! Pichegru had, in his first in-
terrogatory, exhibited a great deal of courage,
and threatened, it was said, to exhibit proofs of
the promises which Bonaparte had made to the
Vendeans of effecting the return of the Bourbons.
Some persons pretend that he had been subject-
ed to the torture, as well as two other conspira-
tors, (one of whom, named Picot, showed hip mu-
tilated hands at the tribunal,) and that they dared
not expose to the «yes of the French people one
of its ©Id defenders subjected to the torture of
slaves. I give no credit to this conjecture ; we
must always, in the actions of Bonaparte, look
for the calculation which has dictated them, and
we shall find none in this latter supposition: while
it is, perhaps, true, that the appearance of Mo-
reau and Pichegru together at the bar of a tribu-
nal would have inflamed public opinion to its
highest pitch. Already the crowd in the tribunes
was immense^ several officers, at the head of
whom was a loyal man, General Lecourbe, exhi-
bited the most lively and courageous interest for
General Moreau. When he repaired to the tri-
bunal, the gendarmes, who guarded him always.



TEir years' exile. 1^3

respectfully presented arms to him. Already it
had begun to be felt that honour was on the side
of the persecuted; but Bonaparte, by his all at
once making himself be declared emperor, in the
midst of this fermentation, entirely diverted
men's minds by this new perspective, and con-
cealed his progress better in the midst of the
storm by which he was surrounded, than he could
have done in the calm.

General Moreau pronounced before the tribunal
one of the best speeches which history presents to
us ; he recalled, with perfect modesty, the battles
wliich he had gained since Bonaparte governed
France; he excused himself for having frequently
expressed himself, perhaps with too much freedom,
and contrasted in an indirect manner the charac-
ter of a Breton with that of a Corsican ; in short, he
exhibited at once a great deal of mind, and the most
perfect presence of mind, at a moment so critical,
Regnier at that time united the ministry of police
whh that of justice, in the room of Fouche, who
had been disgraced. He repaired to Saint Cloud
on leaving the tribunal. The emperor asked him
what sort of speech Moreau had made : " Contemp-
tible,'' said he. " In that case," said the emperor,
" let it be printed, and distributed all over Paris."
When Bonaparte found afterwards how much his
minister had been mistaken, he returned at last to
Fouche, the only man who could really second
him, from his carrying, unfortunately for the world,
a sort of skilful moderation into a system that had
no limits.

An old jacobin, one of Banaparte's condemned
spirits, was employed to speak to the judges, to
induce them to condemn Moreau to death. " That



104 TEN years' exile.

is necessary'' said he to them, " to the considera-
tion due to the emperor, who caused him to be
arrested ; but you ought to make the less scruple
in consenting to it, as the emperor is resolved to
pardon him." " And who will enable us to par-
don ourselves, if we cover ourselves wifh such in-
famy ?" replied one of the judges,* whose name I
am not at liberty to mention, for fear of exposing
him. General Moreau was condemned to two
years' imprisonment; George and several others of
his friends to death ; one of the MM. de Polignac
to two, and the other to four years' imprisonment :
and both of them are still confined, as well as seve-
ral others, of whom the police laid hold, when the
period of their sentence had expired. Moreau re-
quested to have his imprisonment commuted for
perpetual banishment ; perpetual in this instance
should be called for life, for the misery of the
world is placed on the head of one man. Bona-
parte readily consented to this banishment, which
suited his views in all respects. Frequently, oa
Moreau's passage to the place where he was to
embark, the mayors of the towns, whose business
it was to viser his passport of banishment, showed
him the most respectful attention. "Gentlemen,"
said one of them to his audience, " make way for
General Moreau," and he made an obeisance to
him as he would have done to the emperor. There was
still a France in the hearts of men, but the idea of act-
ing according to one's opinion had already ceased
to exist, and at present it is difficult to know if
there remains any, it has been so long stifled.
When he arrived at Cadiz, these same Spaniards^

*M. Clavier.



TEN tears' exile. 1Q5

who were a few years after destined to give so great
an example^ paid every possible homage to a vic-
tim of tyranny. When Moreau passed through
the English fleet, their vessels saluted him as if he
had been the commander of an allied army. Thus
the supposed enemies of France took upon them


1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryMadame de (Anne-Louise-Germaine) StaëlTen years' exile; → online text (page 6 of 18)