TEN YEARS' EXILE;
Memoirs of That Interesting Period of the Life of the Baroness De Stael-Holstein,
Written by Herself, during the Years 1810, 1811, 1812, and 1813, and Now First Published from the Original Manuscript, by Her Son.
Translated from the French
London: Printed for Treuttel and Wurtz, Treuttel Jun. and Richter, Foreign Booksellers to his Royal Highness Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coberg, 30, Soho Square.
Howlett & Brimmer, Printers, 10, Filth Street, Soho Square.
PREFACE BY THE EDITOR (Augustus, Baron de Stael-Holstein.)
The production which is now submitted to the reader, is not a complete work, and ought not to be criticized as such. It consists of Fragments of her Memoirs, which my mother had intended to complete at her leisure, and which would have probably undergone alterations, of the nature of which I am ignorant, if a longer life had been allowed her to revise and finish them.
This reflection was sufficient to make me examine most scrupulously if I was authorized to give them publicity. The fear of any sort of responsibility cannot be present to the mind, when our dearest affections are in question; but the heart is agitated by a painful anxiety when we are left to guess at those wishes, the declaration of which would have been a sacred and invariable rule. Nevertheless, after having seriously reflected on what duty required of me, I am satisfied that I have fulfilled my mother's intentions, in engaging to leave out in this edition of her works*, no production susceptible of being printed. My fidelity in adhering to this engagement gives me the right of disavowing beforehand, all which at any future period, persons might pretend to add to this collection, which, I repeat, contains every thing, of which my mother had not formally forbid the publication.
(* Les Oeuvres completes de Madame la Baronne de Stael, publiees par son Fils. Precedees d'une notice sur le caractere et les ecrits de Madame de Stael, par Madame Necker de Saussure. Paris, 17 vols. 8vo. and 17 vols. in 12mo.)
The title of TEN YEARS' EXILE, is that of which the authoress herself made choice; I have deemed it proper to retain it, although the work, being unfinished, comprises only a period of seven years. The narrative begins in 1800, two years previous to my mother's first exile, and stops at 1804, after the death of M. Necker. It recommences in 1810, and breaks off abruptly at her arrival in Sweden, in the autumn of 1812. Between the first and second part of these Memoirs there is therefore an interval of nearly six years. An explanation of this will be found in a faithful statement of the manner in which they were composed.
I will not anticipate my mother's narrative of the persecution to which she was subjected during the imperial government: that persecution, equally mean and cruel, forms the subject of the present publication, the interest of which I should only weaken. It will be sufficient for me to remind the reader, that after having exiled her from Paris, and subsequently sent her out of France, after having suppressed her work on Germany with the most arbitrary caprice, and made it impossible for her to publish anything, even on subjects wholly unconnected with politics; that government went so far as to make her almost a prisoner in her own residence, to forbid her all kind of travelling, and to deprive her of the pleasures of society and the consolations of friendship. It was while she was in this situation that my mother began her Memoirs, and one may readily conceive what must have been at that time the disposition of her mind.
During the composition of the work, the hope of one day giving it to the world scarcely presented itself in the most distant futurity. Europe was still bent to that degree under the yoke of Napoleon, that no independent voice could make itself be heard: on the Continent the press was completely chained, and the most rigorous measures excluded every work printed in England. My mother thought less, therefore, of composing a book, than of preserving the traces of her recollections and ideas. Along with the narrative of circumstances personal to herself, she incorporated with it various reflections which were suggested to her, from the beginning of Bonaparte's power, by the state of France, and the progress of events. But if the printing such a work would at that time have been an act of unheard of temerity, the mere act of writing it required a great deal of both courage and prudence, particularly in the position in which she was placed. My mother had every reason to believe that all her movements were narrowly watched by the police: the prefect who had replaced M. de Barante at Geneva, pretended to be acquainted with every thing that passed in her house, and the least pretence would have been sufficient to induce them to possess themselves of her papers. She was obliged therefore, to take the greatest precautions. Scarcely had she written a few pages, when she made one of her most intimate friends transcribe them, taking care to substitute for the proper names those of persons taken from the history of the English Revolution. Under this disguise she carried off her manuscript, when in 1812 she determined to withdraw herself by flight from the rigors of a constantly increasing persecution.
On her arrival in Sweden, after having travelled through Russia, and narrowly escaped the French armies advancing on Moscow, my mother employed herself in copying out fairly the first part of her Memoirs, which, as I have already mentioned, goes no farther than 1804. But prior to continuing them in the order of time, she wished to take advantage of the moment, during which her recollections were still strong, to give a narrative of the remarkable circumstances of her flight, and of the persecution which had rendered that step in a manner a duty. She resumed, therefore, the history of her life at the year 1810, the epoch of the suppression of her work on Germany, and continued it up to her arrival at Stockholm in 1812: from that was suggested the title of Ten Years' Exile. This explains also, why, in speaking of the imperial government, my mother expresses herself sometimes as living under its power, and at other times, as having escaped from it.
Finally, after she had conceived the plan of her Considerations on the French Revolution, she extracted from the first part of Ten Years Exile, the historical passages and general reflections which entered into her new design, reserving the individual details for the period when she calculated on finishing the memoirs of her life, and when she flattered herself with being able to name all the persons of whom she had received generous proofs of friendship, without being afraid of compromising them by the expressions of her gratitude.
The manuscript confided to my charge consisted therefore of two distinct parts: the first, the perusal of which necessarily offered less interest, contained several passages already incorporated in the Considerations on the French Revolution; the other formed a sort of journal, of which no part was yet known to the public. I have followed the plan traced by my mother, by striking out of the first part of the manuscript, all the passages which, with some modifications, have already found a place in her great political work. To this my labour as editor has been confined, and I have not allowed myself to make the slightest addition.
The second part I deliver to the public exactly as I found it, without the least alteration, and I have scarcely felt myself entitled to make slight corrections of the style, so important did it appear to me to preserve in this sketch the entire vividness of its original character. A perusal of the opinions which she pronounces upon the political conduct of Russia, will satisfy every one of my scrupulous respect for my mother's manuscript; but without taking into account the influence of gratitude on elevated minds, the reader will not fail to recollect, that at that time the sovereign of Russia was fighting in the cause of liberty and independence. Was it possible to foresee that so few years would elapse before the immense forces of that empire should become the instruments of the oppression of unhappy Europe?
If we compare the Ten Years' Exile with the Considerations on the French Revolution, it will perhaps be found that the reign of Napoleon is criticized in the first of these works with greater severity than in the other, and that he is there attacked with an eloquence not always exempt from bitterness. This difference may be easily explained: one of these works was written after the fall of the despot, with the calm and impartiality of the historian; the other was inspired by a courageous feeling of resistance to tyranny; and at the period of its composition, the imperial power was at its height.
I have not selected one moment in preference to another for the publication of Ten Years' Exile; the chronological order has been followed in this edition, and the posthumous works are naturally placed at the end of the collection. In other respects, I am not afraid of the charge of exhibiting a want of generosity, in publishing, after the fall of Napoleon, attacks directed against his power. She, whose talents were always devoted to the defence of the noblest of causes, she, whose house was successively the asylum of the oppressed of all parties, would have been too far above such a reproach. It could only be addressed, at all events, to the editor of the Ten Years' Exile; but I confess it would but very little affect me. It would certainly be assigning too fine a part to despotism, if, after having imposed the silence of terror during its triumph, it could call upon history to spare it after its destruction.
The recollections of the last government have no doubt afforded a pretence for a great deal of persecution; no doubt men of integrity have revolted at the cowardly invectives which are still permitted against those, who having enjoyed the favors of that government, have had sufficient dignity not to disavow their past conduct;
Finally, there is no doubt but fallen grandeur captivates the imagination. But it is not merely the personal character of Napoleon that is here in question; it is not he who can now be an object of animadversion to generous minds; no more can it be those who, under his reign, have usefully served their country in the different branches of the public administration; but that which we can never brand with too severe a stigma, is the system of selfishness and oppression of which Bonaparte is the author. But is not this deplorable system still in full sway in Europe? and have not the powerful of the earth carefully gathered up the shameful inheritance of him whom they have overthrown? And if we turn our eyes towards our own country, how many of these instruments of Napoleon do we not see, who, after having fatigued him with their servile complaisance, have come to offer to a new power the tribute of their petty machiavelism? Now, as then, is it not upon the basis of vanity and corruption that the whole edifice of their paltry science rests, and is it not from the traditions of the imperial government that the counsels of their wisdom are extracted?
In painting in stronger colours, therefore, this fatal government, we are not insulting over a fallen enemy, but attacking a still powerful adversary; and if, as I hope, the Ten Years' Exile are destined to increase the horror of arbitrary governments, I may venture to indulge the pleasing idea, that by their publication I shall be rendering a service to the sacred cause to which my mother never ceased to be faithful.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Preface, by the Editor
Part The First
Chapter 1. Causes of Bonaparte's animosity against me
Chapter 2. Commencement of opposition in the Tribunate.—My first Persecution on that account.—Fouche
Chapter 3. System of Fusion adopted by Bonaparte.—Publication of my Work on Literature
Chapter 4. Conversation of my Father with Bonaparte.—Campaign of Marengo
Chapter 5. The Infernal Machine.—Peace of Luneville
Chapter 6. Corps diplomatique during the Consulate.—Death of the Emperor Paul
Chapter 7. Paris in 1801
Chapter 8. Journey to Coppet.—Preliminaries of Peace with England
Chapter 9. Paris in 1802.—Bonaparte President of the Italian Republic.—My return to Coppet
Chapter 10. New symptoms of Bonaparte's ill will to my Father and Myself.—Affairs of Switzerland
Chapter 11. Rupture with England.—Commencement of my Exile
Chapter 12. Departure for Germany.—Arrival at Weimar
Chapter 13. Berlin.—Prince Louis-Ferdinand
Chapter 14. Conspiracy of Moreau and Pichegru
Chapter 15. Assassination of the Duke d'Enghien
Chapter 16. Illness and Death of M. Necker
Chapter 17. Trial of Moreau
Chapter 18. Commencement of the Empire
Part the Second
Chapter 1. Suppression of my Work on Germany.—Banishment from France
Chapter 2. Return to Coppet—Different Persecutions.
Chapter 3. Journey in Switzerland with M. de Montmorency
Chapter 4. Exile of M. de Montmorency and Madame Recamier.—New Persecutions
Chapter 5. Departure from Coppet
Chapter 6. Passage through Austria;—1812
Chapter 7. Residence at Vienna
Chapter 8. Departure from Vienna
Chapter 9. Passage through Poland
Chapter 10. Arrival in Russia
Chapter 11. Kiow
Chapter 12. Road from Kiow to Moscow
Chapter 13. Appearance of the Country—Character of the Russians
Chapter 14. Moscow
Chapter 15. Road from Moscow to Petersburg
Chapter 16. St. Petersburg
Chapter 17. The Imperial Family
Chapter 18. Manners of the great Russian Nobility
Chapter 19. Establishments for Public Education.—Institute of St. Catherine
Chapter 20. Departure for Sweden.—Passage through Finland
TEN YEARS' EXILE
Part The First
Causes of Bonaparte's animosity against me.
It is not with the view of occupying the public attention with what relates to myself, that I have determined to relate the circumstances of my ten years' exile; the miseries which I have endured, however bitterly I may have felt them, are so trifling in the midst of the public calamities of which we are witnesses, that I should be ashamed to speak of myself if the events which concern me were not in some degree connected with the great cause of threatened humanity. The Emperor Napoleon, whose character exhibits itself entire in every action of his life, has persecuted me with a minute anxiety, with an ever increasing activity, with an inflexible rudeness; and my connections with him contributed to make him known to me, long before Europe had discovered the key of the enigma.
I shall not here enter into a detail of the events that preceded the appearance of Bonaparte upon the political stage of Europe; if I accomplish the design I have of writing the life of my father, I will there relate what I have witnessed of the early part of the revolution, whose influence has changed the fate of the whole world. My object at present is only to retrace what relates to myself in this vast picture; in casting from that narrow point of view some general surveys over the whole, I flatter myself with being frequently overlooked, in relating my own history.
The greatest grievance which the Emperor Napoleon has against me, is the respect which I have always entertained for real liberty. These sentiments have been in a manner transmitted to me as an inheritance, and adopted as my own, ever since I have been able to reflect on the lofty ideas from which they are derived, and the noble actions which they inspire. The cruel scenes which have dishonored the French revolution, proceeding only from tyranny under popular forms, could not, it appears to me, do any injury to the cause of liberty: at the most, we could only feel discouraged with respect to France; but if that country had the misfortune not to know how to possess that noblest of blessings, it ought not on that account to be proscribed from the face of the earth. When the sun disappears from the horizon of the Northern regions, the inhabitants of those countries do not curse his rays, because they are still shining upon others more favored by heaven.
Shortly after the 18th Brumaire, Bonaparte had heard that I had been speaking strongly in my own parties, against that dawning oppression, whose progress I foresaw as clearly as if the future had been revealed to me. Joseph Bonaparte, whose understanding and conversation I liked very much, came to see me, and told me, "My brother complains of you. Why, said he to me yesterday, why does not Madame de Stael attach herself to my government? what is it she wants? the payment of the deposit of her father? I will give orders for it: a residence in Paris? I will allow it her. In short, what is it she wishes?" "Good God!" replied I, "it is not what I wish, but what I think, that is in question." I know not if this answer was reported to him, but if it was, I am certain that he attached no meaning to it; for he believes in the sincerity of no one's opinions; he considers every kind of morality as nothing more than a form, to which no more meaning is attached than to the conclusion of a letter; and as the having assured any one that you are his most humble servant would not entitle him to ask any thing of you, so if any one says that he is a lover of liberty,—that he believes in God,—that he prefers his conscience to his interest, Bonaparte considers such professions only as an adherence to custom, or as the regular means of forwarding ambitious views or selfish calculations. The only class of human beings whom he cannot well comprehend, are those who are sincerely attached to an opinion, whatever be the consequences of it: such persons Bonaparte looks upon as boobies, or as traders who outstand their market, that is to say, who would sell themselves too dear. Thus, as we shall see in the sequel, has he never been deceived in his calculations but by integrity, encountered either in individuals or nations.
Commencement of opposition in the Tribunate—My first persecution on that account—Fouche.
Some of the tribunes, who attached a real meaning to the constitution, were desirous of establishing in their assembly an opposition analogous to that of England; as if the rights, which that constitution professed to secure, had anything of reality in them, and the pretended division of the bodies of the state were anything more than a mere affair of etiquette, a distinction between the different anti-chambers of the first consul, in which magistrates under different names could hold together, I confess that I saw with pleasure the aversion entertained by a small number of the tribunes, to rival the counsellors of state in servility. I had especially a strong belief that those who had previously allowed themselves to be carried too far in their love for the republic would continue faithful to their opinions, when they became the weakest, and the most threatened.
One of these tribunes, a friend of liberty, and endowed with one of the most remarkable understandings ever bestowed upon man, M. Benjamin Constant, consulted me upon a speech which he purposed to deliver, for the purpose of signalizing the dawn of tyranny: I encouraged him in it with all the strength of my conviction. However, as it was well known that he was one of my intimate friends, I could not help dreading what might happen to me in consequence. I was vulnerable in my taste for society. Montaigne said formerly, I am a Frenchman through Paris: and if he thought so three centuries ago, what must it be now, when we see so many persons of extraordinary intellect collected in one city, and so many accustomed to employ that intellect in adding to the pleasures of conversation. The demon of ennui has always pursued me; by the terror with which he inspires me, I could alone have been capable of bending the knee to tyranny, if the example of my father, and his blood which flows in my veins, had not enabled me to triumph over this weakness. Be that as it may, Bonaparte knew this foible of mine perfectly: he discerns quickly the weak side of any one; for it is by their weaknesses that he subjugates people to his sway. To the power with which he threatens, to the treasures with which he dazzles, he joins the dispensation of ennui, and that is a source of real terror to the French. A residence at forty leagues from the capital, contrasted with the advantages collected in the most agreeable city in the world, fails not in the long run to shake the greater part of exiles, habituated from their infancy to the charms of a Parisian life.
On the eve of the day when Benjamin Constant was to deliver his speech, I had a party, among whom were Lucien Bonaparte, MM. —— and general others, whose conversation in different degrees possesses that constant novelty of interest which is produced by the strength of ideas and the grace of expression. Every one of these persons, with the exception of Lucien, tired of being proscribed by the directory, was preparing to serve the new government, requiring only to be well rewarded for their devotion to its power. Benjamin Constant came up and whispered to me, "Your drawing room is now filled with persons with whom you are pleased: if I speak, tomorrow it will be deserted:—think well of it." "We must follow our conviction," said I to him. This reply was dictated by enthusiasm; but, I confess, if I had foreseen what I have suffered since that day, I should not have had the firmness to refuse M. Constant's offer of renouncing his project, in order not to compromise me.
At present, so far as opinion is affected, it is nothing to incur the disgrace of Bonaparte: he may make you perish, but he cannot deprive you of respect. Then, on the contrary, France was not enlightened as to his tyrannical views, and as all who had suffered from the revolution expected to obtain from him the return of a brother, or a friend, or the restoration of property, any one who was bold enough to resist him was branded with the name of Jacobin, and you were deprived of good society along with the countenance of the government: an intolerable situation, particularly for a woman, and of which no one can know the misery without having experienced it.
On the day when the signal of opposition was exhibited in the tribunate by my friend, I had invited several persons whose society I was fond of, but all of whom were attached to the new government. At five o'clock I had received ten notes of apology; the first and second I bore tolerably well, but as they succeeded each other rapidly, I began to be alarmed. In vain did I appeal to my conscience, which advised me to renounce all the pleasures attached to the favour of Bonaparte: I was blamed by so many honorable people, that I knew not how to support myself on my own way of thinking. Bonaparte had as yet done nothing exactly culpable; many asserted that he preserved France from anarchy: in short, if at that moment he had signified to me any wish of reconciliation, I should have been delighted: but a step of that sort he will never take without exacting a degradation, and, to induce that degradation, he generally enters into such passions of authority, as terrify into yielding every thing. I do not wish by that to say that Bonaparte is not really passionate: what is not calculation in him is hatred, and hatred generally expresses itself in rage: but calculation is in him so much the strongest, that he never goes beyond what it is convenient for him to show, according to circumstances and persons. One day a friend of mine saw him storming at a commissary of war, who had not done his duty; scarcely had the poor man retired, trembling with apprehension, when Bonaparte turned round to one of his aides-du-camp, and said to him, laughing, I hope I have given him a fine fright; and yet the moment before, you would have believed that he was no longer master of himself.
When it suited the first consul to exhibit his ill-humour against me, he publicly reproached his brother Joseph for continuing to visit me. Joseph felt it necessary in consequence to absent himself from my house for several weeks, and his example was followed by three fourths of my acquaintance. Those who had been proscribed on the 18th Fructidor, pretended that at that period, I had been guilty of recommending M. de Talleyrand to Barras, for the ministry of foreign affairs: and yet, these people were then continually about that same Talleyrand, whom they accused me of having served. All those who behaved ill to me, were cautious in concealing that they did so for fear of incurring the displeasure of the first consul. Every day, however, they invented some new pretext to injure me, thus exerting all the energy of their political opinions against a defenceless and persecuted woman, and prostrating themselves at the feet of the vilest Jacobins, the moment the first consul had regenerated them by the baptism of his favor.
Fouche, the minister of police, sent for me to say, that the first consul suspected me of having excited my friend who had spoken in the tribunate. I replied to him, which was certainly the truth, that M. Constant was a man of too superior an understanding to make his opinions matter of reproach to a woman, and that besides, the speech in question contained absolutely nothing but reflections on the independence which every deliberative assembly ought to possess, and that there was not a word in it which could be construed into a personal reflection on the first consul. The minister admitted as much. I ventured to add some words on the respect due to the liberty of opinions in a legislative body; but I could easily perceive that he took no interest in these general considerations; he already knew perfectly well, that under the authority of the man whom he wished to serve, principles were out of the question, and he shaped his conduct accordingly. But as he is a man of transcendant understanding in matters of revolution, he had already laid it down as a system to do the least evil possible, the necessity of the object admitted. His preceding conduct certainly exhibited little feeling of morality, and he was frequently in the habit of talking of virtue as an old woman's story. A remarkable sagacity, however, always led him to choose the good as a reasonable thing, and his intelligence made him occasionally do what conscience would have dictated to others. He advised me to go into the country, and assured me, that in a few days, all would be quieted. But at my return, I was very far from finding it so.
System of Fusion adopted by Bonaparte—Publication of my work on Literature.
While we have seen the Christian kings take two confessors to examine their consciences more narrowly, Bonaparte chose two ministers one of the old and the other of the new regime, whose business it was to place at his disposal the Machiavelian means of two opposite systems. In all his nominations, Bonaparte followed nearly the same rule, of taking, as it may be said, now from the right, and now from the left, that is to say, choosing alternately his officers among the aristocrats, and among the jacobins: the middle party, that of the friends of liberty, pleased him less than all the others, composed as it was of the small numbers of persons, who in France, had an opinion of their own. He liked much better to have to do with persons who were attached to royalist interests, or who had become stigmatized by popular excesses. He even went so far as to wish to name as a counsellor of state a conventionalist sullied with the vilest crimes of the days of terror; but he was diverted from it by the shuddering of those who would have had to sit along with him. Bonaparte would have been delighted to have given that shining proof that he could regenerate, as well as confound, every thing.
What particularly characterizes the government of Bonaparte, is his profound contempt for the intellectual riches of human nature; virtue, mental dignity, religion, enthusiasm, these, these are in his eyes, the eternal enemies of the continent, to make use of his favorite expression; he would reduce man to force and cunning, and designate every thing else as folly or stupidity. The English particularly irritate him, as they have found the means of being honest, as well as successful, a thing which Bonaparte would have us regard as impossible. This shining point of the world has dazzled his eyes from the very first days of his reign.
I do not believe, that when Bonaparte put himself at the head of affairs, he had formed the plan of universal monarchy: but I believe that his system was, what he himself described it a few days after the 18th Brumaire to one of my friends: "Something new must be done every three months, to captivate the imagination of the French Nation; with them, whoever stands still is ruined." He flattered himself with being able to make daily encroachments on the liberty of France, and the independence of Europe: but, without losing sight of the end, he knew how to accommodate himself to circumstances; when the obstacle was too great, he passed by it, and stopped short when the contrary wind blew too strongly. This man, at bottom so impatient, has the faculty of remaining immoveable when necessary; he derives that from the Italians, who know how to restrain themselves in order to attain the object of their passion, as if they were perfectly cool in the choice of that object. It is by the alternate employment of cunning and force, that he has subjugated Europe; but, to be sure, Europe is but a word of great sound. In what did it then consist? In a few ministers, not one of whom had as much understanding as many men taken at hap-hazard from the nation which they governed.
Towards the spring of 1800, I published my work on Literature, and the success it met with restored me completely to favor with society; my drawing room became again filled, and I had once more the pleasure of conversing, and conversing in Paris, which, I confess has always been to me the most fascinating of all pleasures. There was not a word about Bonaparte in my book, and the most liberal sentiments were, I believe, forcibly expressed in it. But the press was then far from being enslaved as it is at present; the government exercised a censorship upon newspapers, but not upon books; a distinction which might be supported, if the censorship had been used with moderation: for newspapers exert a popular influence, while books, for the greater part, are only read by well informed people, and may enlighten, but not inflame opinion. At a later period, there were established in the senate, I believe in derision, a committee for the liberty of the press, and another for personal liberty, the members of which are still renewed every three months. Certainly the bishopricks in partibus, and the sinecures in England afford more employment than these committees.
Since my work on Literature, I have published Delphine, Corinne, and finally my work on Germany, which was suppressed at the moment it was about to make its appearance. But although this last work has occasioned me the most bitter persecution, literature does not appear to me to be less a source of enjoyment and respect, even for a female. What I have suffered in life, I attribute to the circumstances which associated me, almost at my entry into the world, with the interests of liberty, which were supported by my father and his friends; but the kind of talent which has made me talked of as a writer, has always been to me a source of greater pleasure than pain. The criticisms of which one's works are the objects, can be very easily borne, when one is possessed of some elevation of soul, and when one is more attached to noble ideas for themselves, than for the success which their promulgation can procure us. Besides, the public, at the end of a certain time, appears to me always equitable; self-love must accustom itself to do credit to praise; for in due time, we obtain as much of that as we deserve. Finally, if we should have even to complain long of injustice, I conceive no better asylum against it than philosophical meditation, and the emotion of eloquence. These faculties place at our disposal a whole world of truths and sentiments, in which we can breathe at perfect freedom.
Conversation of my father with Bonaparte.—Campaign of Marengo.
Bonaparte set out in the spring of 1800, to make the campaign of Italy, which was distinguished by the battle of Marengo. He went by Geneva, and as he expressed a desire to see M. Necker, my father waited upon him, more with the hope of serving me, than from any other motive. Bonaparte received him extremely well, and talked to him of his plans of the moment, with that sort of confidence which is in his character, or rather in his calculation; for it is thus we must always style his character. My father, at first seeing him, experienced nothing of the impression which I did; he felt no restraint in his presence, and found nothing extraordinary in his conversation. I have endeavoured to account to myself for this difference in our opinions of the same person; and, I believe, that it arose, first, because the simple and unaffected dignity of my father's manners ensured him the respect of all who conversed with him; and second, because the kind of superiority attached to Bonaparte proceeding more from ability in evil action, than from the elevation of good thoughts, his conversation cannot make us conceive what distinguishes him; he neither could nor would explain his own Machiavelian instinct. My father uttered not a word to him of his two millions deposited in the public treasury; he did not wish to appear interested but for me, and said to him, among other things, that as the first consul loved to surround himself with illustrious names, he ought to feel equal pleasure in encouraging persons of celebrated talent, as the ornament of his power. Bonaparte replied to him very obligingly, and the result of this conversation ensured me, at least for some time longer, a residence in France. This was the last occasion when my father's protecting hand was extended over my existence; he has not been a witness of the cruel persecution I have since endured, and which would have irritated him even more than myself.
Bonaparte repaired to Lausanne to prepare the expedition of Mount St. Bernard; the old Austrian general could not believe in the possibility of so bold an enterprise, and in consequence made inadequate preparations to oppose it. It was said, that a small body of troops would have been sufficient to destroy the whole French army in the midst of the mountainous passes, through which Bonaparte led it; but in this, as well as in several other instances, the following verses of J. B. Rousseau might be very well applied to the triumphs of Bonaparte:
L'experience indecile Du compagnon de Paul Emile, Fit tout le succes d'Annibal.
(The unruly inexperience of the colleague of Paulus Emilius, was the cause of all the victories of Hannibal).
I arrived in Switzerland to pass the summer according to custom with my father, nearly about the time when the French army was crossing the Alps. Large bodies of troops were seen continually passing through these peaceful countries, which the majestic boundary of the Alps ought to shelter from political storms. In these beautiful summer evenings, on the borders of the lake of Geneva, I was almost ashamed, in the presence of that beautiful sky and pure water, of the disquietude I felt respecting the affairs of this world: but it was impossible for me to overcome my internal agitation: I could not help wishing that Bonaparte might be beaten, as that seemed the only means of stopping the progress of his tyranny. I durst not, however, avow this wish, and the prefect of the Leman, M. Eymar (an old deputy to the Constituent Assembly), recollecting the period when we cherished together the hope of liberty, was continually sending me couriers to inform me of the progress of the French in Italy. It would have been difficult for me to make M. Eymar (who was in other respects a most interesting character,) comprehend that the happiness of France required that her army should then meet with reverses, and I received the supposed good news which he sent me, with a degree of restraint which was very little in unison with my character. Was it necessary since that to be continually hearing of the triumphs of him who made his successes fall indiscriminately upon the heads of all? and out of so many victories, has there ever arisen a single gleam of happiness for poor France?
The battle of Marengo was lost for a couple of hours: the negligence of General Melas, who trusted too much to the advantages he had gained, and the audacity of General Desaix, restored the victory to the French arms. While the fate of the battle was almost desperate, Bonaparte rode about slowly on horseback, pensive, and looking downward, more courageous against danger than misfortune, attempting nothing, but waiting the turn of the wheel. He has behaved several times in a similar way, and has found his advantage in it. But I cannot help always thinking, that if Bonaparte had fairly encountered among his adversaries a man of character and probity, he would have been stopped short in his career. His great talent lies in terrifying the feeble, and availing himself of unprincipled characters. When he encounters honour any where, it may be said that his artifices are disconcerted, as evil spirits are conjured by the sign of the cross.
The armistice which was the result of the battle of Marengo, the conditions of which included the cession of all the strong places in the North of Italy, was most disadvantageous to Austria. Bonaparte could not have gained more by a succession of victories. But it might be said that the continental powers appeared to consider it honorable to give up what would have been worth still more if they had allowed them to be taken. They made haste to sanction the injustice of Napoleon, and to legitimate his conquests, while they ought, if they could not conquer, at least not to have seconded him. This certainly was not asking too much of the old cabinets of Europe; but they knew not how to conduct themselves in so novel a situation, and Bonaparte confounded them so much by the union of promises and threats, that in giving up, they believed they were gaining, and rejoiced at the word peace, as much as if this word had preserved its old signification. The illuminations, the reverences, the dinners, and firing of cannon to celebrate this peace, were exactly the same as formerly: but far from cicatrizing the wounds, it introduced into the government which signed it a most certain and effectual principle of dissolution.
The most remarkable circumstance in the fortune of Napoleon is the sovereigns whom he found upon the throne. Paul I. particularly did him incalculable service; he had the same enthusiasm for him that his father had felt for Frederic the Second, and he abandoned Austria at the moment when she was still attempting to struggle. Bonaparte persuaded him that the whole of Europe would be pacified for centuries, if the two great empires of the East and West were agreed; and Paul, who had something chivalrous in his disposition, allowed himself to be entrapped by these fallacies. It was an extraordinary piece of good fortune in Bonaparte to meet with a crowned head so easily duped, and who united violence and weakness in such equal degrees: no one therefore regretted Paul more than he did, for no one was it so important to him to deceive.
Lucien, the minister of the interior, who was perfectly acquainted with his brother's schemes, caused a pamphlet to be published, with the view of preparing men's minds for the establishment of a new dynasty. This publication was premature, and had a bad effect; Fouche availed himself of it to ruin Lucien. He persuaded Bonaparte that the secret was revealed too soon, and told the republican party, that Bonaparte disavowed what his brother had done. In consequence Lucien was then sent ambassador to Spain. The system of Bonaparte was to advance gradually in the road to power; he was constantly spreading rumours of the plans he had in agitation, in order to feel the public opinion. Generally even he was anxious to have his projects exaggerated, in order that the thing itself, when it took place, might be a softening of the apprehension which had circulated in public. The vivacity of Lucien on this occasion carried him too far, and Bonaparte judged it advisable to sacrifice him to appearances for some time.
The infernal machine.—Peace of Luneville.
I returned to Paris in the month of November 1800. Peace was not yet made, although Moreau by his victories had rendered it more and more necessary to the allied powers. Has he not since regretted the laurels of Stockach and Hohenlinden, when France has not been less enslaved than Europe, over which he made her triumph? Moreau recognized only his country in the orders of the first consul; but such a man ought to have formed his opinion of the government which employed him, and to have acted under such circumstances, upon his own view of the real interests of his country. Still, it must be allowed that at the period of the most brilliant victories of Moreau, that is to say, in the autumn of 1800, there were but few persons who had penetrated the secret projects of Bonaparte; what was evident at a distance, was the improvement of the finances, and the restoration of order in several branches of the administration. Napoleon was obliged to begin by the good to arrive at the bad; he was obliged to increase the French army, before he could employ it for the purposes of his personal ambition.
One evening when I was conversing with some friends, we heard a very loud explosion, but supposing it to be merely the firing of some cannon by way of exercise, we paid no attention to it, and continued our conversation. We learned a few hours afterwards that in going to the opera, the first consul had narrowly escaped being destroyed by the explosion of what has been called the infernal machine. As he escaped, the most lively interest was expressed towards him: philosophers proposed the re-establishment of fire and the wheel for the punishment of the authors of this outrage; and he could see on all sides a nation presenting its neck to the yoke. He discussed very coolly at his own house the same evening what would have happened if he had perished. Some persons said that Moreau would have replaced him: Bonaparte pretended that it would have been General Bernadotte. "Like Antony," said he, "he would have presented to the inflamed populace the bloody robe of Caesar." I know not if he really believed that France would have then called Bernadotte to the head of affairs, but what I am quite sure of is, that he said so for the purpose of exciting envy against that general.
If the infernal machine had been contrived by the jacobins, the first consul might have immediately redoubled his tyranny; public opinion would have seconded him: but as this plot proceeded from the royalist party, he could not derive much advantage from it. He endeavoured rather to stifle, than avail himself of it, as he wished the nation to believe that his enemies were only the enemies of order, and not the friends of another order, that is to say, of the old dynasty. What is very remarkable, is, that on the occasion of a royalist conspiracy, Bonaparte caused, by a senatus consultum, one hundred and thirty jacobins to be transported to the island of Madagascar, or rather to the bottom of the sea, for they have never been heard of since. This list was made in the most arbitrary manner possible; names were put upon it, or erased, according to the recommendations of counsellors of state, who proposed, and of senators, who sanctioned it. Respectable people said, when the manner in which this list had been made was complained of, that it was composed of great criminals; that might be very true, but it is the right and not the fact which constitutes the legality of actions. When the arbitrary transportation of one hundred and thirty citizens is submitted to, there is nothing to prevent, as we have since seen, the application of the same treatment to the most respectable persons.—Public opinion, it is said, will prevent this, Opinion! what is it without the authority of law? what is it without independent organs to express it? Opinion was in favor of the Duke d'Enghien, in favor of Moreau, in favor of Pichegru:—was it able to save them? There will be neither liberty, dignity, nor security in a country where proper names are discussed when injustice is about to be committed. Every man is innocent until condemned by a legal tribunal; and the fate of even the greatest of criminals, if he is withdrawn from the law, ought to make good people tremble in common, with others. But, as is the custom in the English House of Commons, when an opposition member goes out, he requests a ministerial member to pair off with him, not to alter the strength of either party, Bonaparte never struck the jacobins or the royalists without dividing his blows equally between them: he thus made friends of all those whose vengeance he served, We shall see in the sequel that he always reckoned on the gratification of this passion to consolidate his government: for he knows that it is much more to be depended on than affection. After a revolution, the spirit of party is so bitter, that a new chief can subdue it more by serving its vengeance, than by supporting its interests: all abandon, if necessary, those who think like themselves, provided they can sacrifice those who think differently.
The peace of Luneville was proclaimed: Austria only lost in this first peace the republic of Venice, which she had formerly received as an indemnity for Belgium; and this ancient mistress of the Adriatic, once so haughty and powerful, again passed from one master to the other.
Corps diplomatique during the Consulate.—Death of the Emperor Paul.
I passed that winter in Paris very tranquilly. I never went to the first consul's—I never saw M. de Talleyrand. I knew Bonaparte did not like me: but he had not yet reached the degree of tyranny which he has since displayed. Foreigners treated me with distinction,—the corps diplomatique were my constant visitors,—and this European atmosphere served me as a safeguard.
A minister just arrived from Prussia fancied that the republic still existed, and began by putting forward some of the philosophical notions he had acquired in his intercourse with Frederick the Great: it was hinted to him that he had quite mistaken his ground, and that he must rather avail himself of his knowledge of courts. He took the hint very quickly, for he is a man whose distinguished powers are in the service of a character particularly supple. He ends the sentence you begin, and begins that which he thinks you will end; and it is only in turning the conversation upon the transactions of former ages, on ancient literature, or upon subjects unconnected with persons or things of the present day, that you discover the superiority of his understanding.
The Austrian Ambassador was a courtier of a totally different stamp, but not less desirous of pleasing the higher powers. The one had all the information of a literary character; the other knew nothing of literature beyond the French plays, in which he had acted the parts of Crispin and Chrysalde. It is a known fact, that when ambassador to Catherine II, he once received despatches from his court, when he happened to be dressed as an old woman; and it was with difficulty that the courier could be made to recognize his ambassador in that costume. M. de C. was an extremely common-place character; he said the same things to almost every one he met in a drawing room: he spoke to every person with a kind of cordiality in which sentiments and ideas had no part. His manners were engaging, and his conversation pretty well formed by the world; but to send such a man to negotiate * with the revolutionary strength and roughness that surrounded Bonaparte, was a most pitiable spectacle. An aide-de-camp of Bonaparte complained of the familiarity of M. de C.; he was displeased that one of the first noblemen of the Austrian monarchy should squeeze his hand without ceremony. These new debutans in politeness could not conceive that ease was in good taste. In truth, if they had been at their ease, they would have committed strange inconsistencies, and arrogant stiffness was much better suited to them in the new part they wished to play. Joseph Bonaparte, who negociated the peace of Luneville, invited M. de C. to his charming country seat of Morfontaine, where I happened to meet him. Joseph was extremely fond of rural occupation, and would walk with ease and pleasure in his gardens for eight hours in succession. M. de C. tried to follow him, more out of breath than the Duke of Mayenne, whom Henry IV. amused himself with making walk about, notwithstanding his corpulence. The poor man talked very much of fishing, among the pleasures of the country, because it allowed him to sit down; he absolutely warmed in speaking of the innocent pleasure of catching some little fish with the line.
When he was ambassador at Petersburg, Paul I. had treated him with the greatest indignity. He and I were playing at backgammon in the drawing room at Morfontaine, when one of my friends came in and informed us of the sudden death of that Sovereign. M. de C. immediately began making the most official lamentations possible on this event. "Although I had reason to complain of him," said he, "I shall always acknowledge the excellent qualities of this prince, and I cannot help regretting his loss." He thought rightly that the death of Paul was a fortunate event for Austria, and for Europe, but he had in his conversation, a court mourning, that was really quite intolerable. It is to be hoped, that the progress of time will rid the world of the courtier spirit, the most insipid of all others, to say nothing more.
Bonaparte was extremely alarmed at the death of Paul, and it is said, that on that occasion he uttered the first—Ah, my God! that was ever heard to proceed from his lips. He had no reason, however, to disturb himself; for the French were then more disposed to endure tyranny than the Russians.
I was invited to general Berthier's one day, when the first consul was to be of the party; and as I knew that he expressed himself very unfavourably about me, it struck me that he might perhaps accost me with some of those rude expressions, which he often took pleasure in addressing to females, even to those who paid their court to him; I wrote down therefore as they occured to me, before I went to the entertainment, a variety of tart and piquant replies which I might make to what I supposed he might say to me. I did not wish to be taken by surprise, if he allowed himself to insult me, for that would have been to show a want both of character and understanding; and as no person could promise themselves not to be confused in the presence of such a man, I prepared myself before hand to brave him. Fortunately the precaution was unnecessary; he only addressed the most common questions possible to me; and the same thing happened to all of his opponents, to whom he attributed the possibility of replying to him: at all times, however, he never attacks, but when he feels himself much the strongest. During supper, the first consul stood behind the chair of Madame Bonaparte, and balanced himself sometimes on one leg, and sometimes on the other, in the manner of the princes of the house of Bourbon. I made my neighbour remark this vocation for royalty, already so decided.
Paris in 1801
The opposition in the tribunate still continued; that is to say, about twenty members out of a hundred, tried to speak out against the measures of every kind, with which tyranny was preparing. A grand question arose, in the law which gave to the government the fatal power of creating special tribunals to try persons accused of state crimes; as if the handing over a man to these extraordinary tribunals, was not already prejudging the question, that is to say, if he is a criminal, and a criminal of state; and as if, of all crimes, political crimes were not those which required the greatest precaution and independence in the manner of examining them, as the government is in such causes almost always a party interested.
We have since seen what are the military commissions to try crimes of state; and the death of the Duke d'Eughien marks to all the horror which that hypocritical power ought to inspire, which covers murder with the mantle of the law.
The resistance of the tribunate, feeble as it was, displeased the first consul; not that it was any obstacle to his designs, but it kept up the habit of thinking in the nation, which he wished to stifle entirely. He put into the journals among other things, an absurd argument against the opposition. Nothing is so simple or so proper, was it there said, as an opposition in England, because the king is the enemy of the people; but in a country, where the executive government is itself named by the people, it is opposing the nation to oppose its representative. What a number of phrases of this kind have the scribes of Napoleon deluged the public with for ten years! In England or America the meanest peasant would laugh in your face at a sophism of this nature; in France, all that is desired, is to have a phrase ready, with which to give to one's interest the appearance of conviction.
Very few persons showed themselves strangers to the desire of having places; a great number were ruined, and the interest of their wives and children, or of their nephews and nieces, if they had no children, or of their cousins, if they had no nephews, obliged them, they said, to seek employment from the government. The great strength of the heads of the state in France, is the prodigious taste that the people have for places; vanity even makes them more sought for, than the emolument attached to them. Bonaparte received thousands of petitions for every office, from the highest to the lowest. If he had not had naturally a profound contempt for the human race, he would have conceived it in running over petitions, signed by names illustrious from their ancestry, or celebrated by revolutionary actions in complete opposition to the new functions they were ambitious of fulfilling.
The winter of 1801 at Paris was made extremely agreeable to me, by the readiness with which Fouche granted the applications I made to him for the return of different emigrants: in this way he left me, in the midst of my disgrace, the pleasure of being useful, and I retain a most grateful recollection to him for it. It must be confessed, that in the actions of women, there is always a little coquetry, and that the greater part of their very virtues are mixed with the desire of pleasing, and of being surrounded by friends, whose attachment to them is heightened by the feeling of obligation. In this point of view only, can our sex be pardoned for being fond of influence: but there are occasions when we ought even to sacrifice the pleasure of obliging to preserve our dignity: for we may do every thing for the sake of others, excepting to degrade our character. Our own conscience is as it were the treasure of the Almighty, which we are not permitted to make use of for the advantage of others.
Bonaparte was still at some expense on account of the Institute, upon which he piqued himself so much when he was in Egypt: but there was among the men of letters, and the savants, a petty philosophical opposition, unfortunately of a very bad description, which was entirely directed against the re-establishment of religion. By a fatal caprice, the enlightened spirits in France wished to console themselves for the slavery of this world, by endeavouring to destroy the hopes of a better: this singular inconsistency would not have happened under the protestant religion; but the catholic clergy had enemies, whom their courage and misfortunes had not yet disarmed; and perhaps, it is really difficult to make the authority of the pope, and of priests subject to the pope, harmonize with the independence of a state. Be that as it may, the Institute exhibited for religion, independant of its ministers, none of that profound respect, inseparable from a lofty combination of mind and genius; and Bonaparte was left to support, against men of more value than himself, opinions which were of more value than them.
In this year (1801), the first consul ordered the king of Spain to make war upon Portugal, and the feeble monarch of that illustrious nation condemned his army to this expedition, equally servile and unjust, against a neighbour, who had no hostile intentions, and whose only offence was his alliance with that England, which has since shewn itself so true a friend to Spain: and all this in obedience to the man who was preparing to deprive him of his very existence. When we have seen these same Spaniards giving with so much energy the signal of the resurrection of the world, we learn to know what nations are, and what are the consequences of refusing them a legal means of expressing their opinion, and regulating their own destiny.
Towards the spring of 1801, the first consul took it into his head to make a king, and a king of the house of Bourbon: he bestowed Tuscany upon him, designating it by the classical name of Etruria, for the purpose of commencing the grand masquerade of Europe. This infanta of Spain was ordered to Paris for the purpose of exhibiting to the French the spectacle of a prince of the ancient dynasty humbled before the first consul; more humbled by his gifts than he ever could have been by his persecution. Bonaparte tried upon this royal lamb the experiment of making a king wait in his antechamber: he allowed himself to be applauded at the theatre, upon the recitation of this verse:
"J'ai fait des rois, madame, et n'ai pas voulu l'etre:"
(I have made kings, madam, and have not wished to be one:) promising himself to be more than a king, when the opportunity should offer. Every day Some fresh blunder of this poor king of Etruria was the subject of conversation: he was taken to the Museum, to the Cabinet of Natural History, and some of his questions about quadrupeds and fishes, which a well educated child of twelve years old would have been ashamed to put, were quoted as proofs of intelligence. In the evening, he was conducted to entertainments, where the female opera dancers came and mixed with the ladies of the new court; the little monarch, in spite of his devotion, preferred dancing with them, and in return sent them next day presents of elegant and good books for their instruction. This period of transition from revolutionary habits to monarchical pretensions in France, was a most singular one; as there was as little independence in the one, as dignity in the other, their absurdities harmonised perfectly together; each of them in their own way formed a group round the parti-coloured potentate, who at the same time employed the forcible means of both regimes.
For the last time, the 14th of July, the anniversary of the revolution, was celebrated this year, and a pompous proclamation was put forth to remind the people of the advantages resulting from that day, not one of which advantages the first consul had not made up his mind to destroy. Of all the collections that were ever made, that of the proclamations of this man is the most singular: it is a complete encyclopedia of contradictions; and if chaos itself were employed to instruct the earth, it would doubtless, in a similar way, throw at the heads of mankind, eulogiums of peace and war, of knowledge and prejudices, of liberty and despotism, praises and insults upon all governments and all religions.
It was at this period that Bonaparte sent General Leclerc to Saint Domingo, and designated him in his decree our brother-in-law. This first royal we, which associated the French with the prosperity of this family, was a most bitter pill to me. He obliged his beautiful sister to accompany her husband to Saint Domingo, where her health was completely ruined: a singular act of despotism for a man who is not accustomed to great severity of principles in those about his person; but he makes use of morality only to harass some and dazzle others. A peace was in the sequel concluded with the chief of the negroes, Toussaint-Louverture. This man was, no doubt, a great criminal, but Bonaparte had signed conditions with him, in complete violation of which Toussaint was conducted to a prison in France, where he ended his days in the most miserable manner. Perhaps Bonaparte himself hardly recollects this crime, because he has been less reproached with it than others.
In a great forge, we see with astonishment the violence of the machines which are set in motion by a single will: these hammers, those flatteners seem so many persons, or rather devouring animals. Should you attempt to resist their force, they would annihilate you; notwithstanding, all this apparent fury is calculated beforehand, and a single mover gives action to these springs. The tyranny of Bonaparte is represented to my eyes by this image; he makes thousands of men perish, as these wheels beat the iron, and his agents are the greater part of them equally insensible; the invisible impulse of these human machines proceeds from a will at once violent and methodical, which transforms moral life into its servile instrument. Finally, to complete the comparison, it is sufficient to seize the mover to restore every thing to a state of repose.
Journey to Coppet.—Preliminaries of peace with England.
I went, according to my usual happy custom, to spend the summer with my father. I found him extremely indignant at the state of affairs; and as he had all his life been as much attached to real liberty as he detested popular anarchy, he felt inclined to draw his pen against the tyranny of one, after having so long fought against that of the many. My father was fond of glory, and however prudent his character, hazards of every kind did not displease him, when the public esteem was to be deserved by incurring them, I was quite sensible of the danger to which any work of his which should displease the first consul, would expose myself; but I could not resolve to stifle this song of the swan, who wished to make himself heard once more on the tomb of French liberty. I encouraged him therefore in his design, but we deferred to the following year the question whether what he wrote should be published.
The news of the signature of the preliminaries of peace between England and France, came to put the crown to Bonaparte's good fortune. When I learned that England had recognised his power, it seemed to me that I had been wrong in hating it; but circumstances were not long in relieving me from this scruple. The most remarkable article of these preliminaries was the complete evacuation of Egypt: that expedition therefore had had no other result than to make Bonaparte talked of. Several publications written in places beyond the reach of Bonaparte's power, accuse him of having made Kleber be assassinated in Egypt, because he was jealous of his influence; and I have been assured by persons worthy of credit, that the duel in which General D'Estaing was killed by General Regnier was provoked by a discussion on this point. It appears to me, however, scarcely credible that Bonaparte should have had the means of arming a Turk against the life of a French general, at a moment when he was far removed from the theatre of the crime. Nothing ought to be said against him of which there are not proofs; the discovery of a single error of this kind among the most notorious truths would tarnish their lustre. We must not fight Bonaparte with any of his own weapons.
I delayed my return to Paris to avoid being present at the great fete in honour of the peace. I know no sensation more painful than these public rejoicings in which the heart refuses to participate. We feel a sort of contempt for this booby people which comes to celebrate the yoke preparing for it: these dull victims dancing before the palace of their sacrificer: this first consul designated the father of the nation which he was about to devour: this mixture of stupidity on one side, and cunning on the other: the stale hypocrisy of the courtiers throwing a veil over the arrogance of the master: all inspired me with an insurmountable disgust. It was necessary however to constrain one's feelings, and during these solemnities you were exposed to meet with official congratulations, which at other times it was more easy to avoid.
Bonaparte then proclaimed that peace was the first want of the world: every day he signed some new treaty, therein resembling the care with which Polyphemus counted the sheep as he drove them into his den. The United States of America also made peace with France, and sent as their plenipotentiary, a man who did not know a word of French, apparently ignorant that the most complete acquaintance with the language was barely sufficient to penetrate the truth, in a government which knew so well how to conceal it.
The first consul, on the presentation of Mr. Livingston, complimented him, through an interpreter, on the purity of manners in America, and added "the old world is very corrupt;" then turning round to M. de ——, he repeated twice, "explain to him that the old world is very corrupt: you know something of it, don't you?" This was one of the most agreeable speeches he ever addressed in public to this courtier, who was possessed of better taste than his fellows, and wished to preserve some dignity in his manners, although he sacrificed that of the mind to his ambition.
Meantime, however, monarchical institutions were rapidly advancing under the shadow of the republic. A pretorian guard was organized: the crown diamonds were made use of to ornament the sword of the first consul, and there was observable in his dress, as well as in the political situation of the day, a mixture of the old and new regime: he had his dresses covered with gold, and his hair cropped, a little body, and a large head, an indescribable air of awkwardness and arrogance, of disdain and embarrassment, which altogether formed a combination of the bad graces of a parvenu, with all the audacity of a tyrant. His smile has been cried up as agreeable; my own opinion is, that in any other person it would have been found unpleasant; for this smile, breaking out from a confirmed serious mood, rather resembled an involuntary twitch than a natural movement, and the expression of his eyes was never in unison with that of his mouth; but as his smile had the effect of encouraging those who were about him, the relief which it gave them made it be taken for a charm. I recollect once being told very gravely by a member of the Institute, a counsellor of state, that Bonaparte's nails were perfectly well made. Another time a courtier exclaimed, "The first consul's hand is beautiful!" "Ah! for heaven's sake, Sir," replied a young nobleman of the ancient noblesse, who was not then a chamberlain, "don't let us talk politics." The same courtier, speaking affectionately of the first consul, said, "He frequently displays the most infantine sweetness." Certainly, in his own family, he amused himself sometimes with innocent games; he has been seen to dance with his generals; it is even said that at Munich, in the palace of the king and queen of Bavaria, to whom no doubt this gaiety appeared very odd, he assumed one evening the Spanish costume of the Emperor Charles VII. and began dancing an old French country dance, la Monaco.
Paris in 1802.—Bonaparte President of the Italian republic.—My return to Coppet.
Every step of the first consul announced more and more openly his boundless ambition. While the peace with England was negotiating at Amiens, he assembled at Lyons the Cisalpine Consulta, consisting of the deputies from Lombardy and the adjacent states, which had been formed into a republic under the directory, and who now inquired what new form of government they were to assume. As people were not yet accustomed to the idea of the unity of the French republic being transformed into the unity of one man, no one ever dreamt of the same person uniting on his own head the first consulship of France and the presidency of Italy; it was expected therefore that Count Melzi would be nominated to the office, as the person most distinguished by his knowledge, his illustrious birth, and the respect of his fellow citizens. All of a sudden the report got abroad that Bonaparte was to get himself nominated; and at this news a moment of life seemed still perceptible in the public feeling. It was said that the French constitution deprived of the right of citizenship whoever accepted employment in a foreign country; but was he a Frenchman, who only wanted to make use of the great nation for the oppression of Europe, and vice versa? Bonaparte juggled the nomination of president out of all these Italians, who only learned a few hours before proceeding to the scrutiny, that they must appoint him. They were told to join the name of Count Melzi, as vice-president, to that of Bonaparte. They were assured that they would only be governed by the former, who would always reside among them, and that the latter was merely ambitious of an honorary title. Bonaparte said to them himself in his usual emphatic manner, "Cisalpines, I shall preserve only the great idea of your interests." But the great idea meant the complete power. The day after this election, they were seriously occupied in making a constitution, as if any one could exist by the side of this iron hand. The nation was divided into three classes; the possidenti, the dotti, and the commerrianti. The landholders, to be taxed; the literary men, to be silenced; and the merchants, to have all the ports shut against them. These sounding words in Italian are even better adapted to the purposes of quackery than the corresponding French.
Bonaparte had changed the name of Cisalpine republic into that of Italian republic, thereby giving Europe an anticipation of his future conquests in the rest of Italy. Such a step was every thing but pacific, and yet it did not prevent the signature of the treaty of Amiens; so much did Europe, and even England itself, then desire peace! I was at the English ambassador's at the moment of his receiving the terms of this treaty. He read them aloud to the persons who were dining with him, and it is impossible for me to express the astonishment I felt at every article. England restored all 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 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 Napoleon, by a senatus-consultum, annexed Piedmont to France. During the twelve months the peace lasted, everyday was marked by some new proclamation, provoking to a breach of the treaty. The motives of this conduct it is easy to penetrate; Bonaparte 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 usurpation. The newspapers, which were instructed to boast of the advantages of peace in the spring of 1802, said then "We are approaching the moment when systems of politics will become of no effect." 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 constantly increasing power of the first consul; but they had not then the advantage of being seconded by public opinion. The greater number of the opposition tribunes were every way deserving of esteem: but there were three or four persons who acted along with them, who had been guilty of revolutionary excesses, and the government took especial care to throw upon all, the blame which could only attach to a few. It is certain, however, that men collected in a public 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 candidate for the senate, Daunou, an honest and enlightened republican, but certainly not a man to be dreaded. This was sufficient, however, to determine 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, devoted to the government. The eighty who remained, were each year to undergo the same operation by fourths. A lesson was in this manner 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 mutilated assembly, which might serve for two or three years more as a popular mask to his tyrannical acts.
Among the proscribed tribunes were several of my friends; but my opinion was in this instance altogether independent of my attachments. Perhaps, 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 sarcastic remarks on this hypocritical method of interpreting the unfortunate constitution, into which 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 deliberation 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 negociation 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. Bonaparte 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 reached 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 Bernadotte. There was every appearance of his being resolved to punish me; but he paused at the idea of sacrificing general Bernadotte; either because his military talents were necessary to him; restrained by the family ties which connected them; 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 difficult even to Bonaparte to become entirely his enemy. 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; but that trifle was totally independant of him, and was sufficient to make him resolve to crush me.
In this year, 1802, the affair of the princes, who had possessions in Germany was settled. The whole of that negociation 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 extremities.
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 what 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 nothing.
A nation singularly proud, the English, was not at this time altogether exempt from a degree of curiosity about the person of the first consul, approaching to homage. The ministerial party regarded him in his proper light; but the opposition, which ought to have a greater hatred of tyranny, 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 admiration, and the tenderest emotion, committed the error of shewing too much attention to Bonaparte, 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.
New symptoms of Bonaparte's ill will to my father and myself. —Affairs of Switzerland.
At the beginning of the winter 1802-3, when I saw by the papers that so many illustrious Englishmen, and so many of the most intelligent persons in France were collected in Paris, I felt, I confess, 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 I meet the generation which had known my father, and the friends who had with us passed through the horrors 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 enjoyments of intellect with the affections of the heart, and the habits of imagination. French conversation exists nowhere but 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, that my reason could not support itself against it. I was then in the full vivacity of life, and it is precisely the want of animated enjoyment, which leads most frequently to despair, 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 the first consul had said in the midst of his circle, that I would do well not to return; and he was already 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 displeased, if the submissive subject had not in obedience to the hint, bought a rope and prepared the gallows. Another proof of his ill will to me, was the manner in which the French journals criticized my romance of Delphine, which appeared at this time; they thought proper to denounce it as immoral, and the work which had received my father's approbation was condemned by these courtier criticks. 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 direct 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 scaffolding 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 residence that I had. I was extremely sorrowful at being separated from my friends, and at being unable to give my children that taste for the fine arts, which is acquired with difficulty in the country; and as there was no positive prohibition of my return 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 banishment would not fail to excite. My father, who condescended 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 favor. I confess, that at first I consented to accept this proof of my father's attachment; 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 fortunately for me, I reflected that these very advantages were only more likely to excite in the first consul a stronger desire of humbling their possessor. Assuredly he would have found means, at least in appearance, of accomplishing that desire; as power in France has many allies, and if the spirit of opposition has been frequently displayed, it has only been because the weakness of the government has offered it an easy victory. It cannot be too often repeated, that what the French love above all things, is success, and that with them, power easily succeeds in making misfortune ridiculous. Finally, thank God! I awoke from the illusion to which I had given myself up, and positively refused the noble 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.
* This letter is the same which is spoken of in the 4th part of the Considerations on the French revolution, chap. 7. Editor.
It was also during the winter of 1802-3, that Switzerland took arms against the unitarian constitution which had been imposed upon her. Singular mania of the French revolutionists to compel 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 Cantonss? 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 importance 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 offered to him, and drew up a form of constitution which conciliated sufficiently well the ancient habits with the modern pretensions, and in causing himself to be named Mediator of the Swiss 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 9th 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-establishing the democratic cantons in their former state, pronouncing on this occasion some declamations 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 reasons he had for mistrusting the aristocratic cantons. He insisted strongly on the importance of Switzerland to France. These were his words, as they are given in a narrative of this conference: "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 Luneville: Austria cared not the least for it. At Amiens I wished to do the same, and England refused it: but England has nothing to do with Switzerland. If she had expressed the least apprehension that I wished to be declared your Landamann, I would have been so. It has been said that England encouraged the last insurrection; if the English cabinet had taken a single official step, or if there had been a syllable said about it in the London Gazette, I 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 most heroic efforts, and maintained it for five centuries by wisdom and moderation, this existence would have been annihilated by a movement of spleen which the least accident might have excited in a being so capricious. Bonaparte added in this same conference, that it was unpleasant to him to have a constitution to make, because it exposed him to be hissed, which he had no partiality for. This expression (etre siffle) bears the stamp of the deceitfully affable vulgarity in which he frequently took pleasure in indulging. 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 better treated by Napoleon than the rest of Europe, although both in a political and military point of view more completely dependent upon him; consequently it will remain tranquil in the general insurrection. The people of Europe were disposed to such a degree of patience that it has required a Bonaparte to exhaust it.