Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

his place of exile, loaded with the execrations of its inhabitants, and, even under the protection of his European conquerors, compelled to seek at times his personal safety by assuming the meanest disguises ; it could scarcely be, imagined that he would have ventured to trace back his steps through this country as a conqueror, and have seated himself in the capital of the south, had he not depended on other forces than those of his followers, and assured to himself other means of success than the riches his Elbean sovereignty afforded. Suspicions arose at Paris that there existed some strange neglect in certain departments of the administrations of government. It was observed that not only the southern depôt of Grenoble had furnished the invader with every implement of war, and that its garrison had shewn a singular alacrity in declaring themselves traitors, but that Lyons had been left without defence, or the arms necessary for the national guard. It seemed strange also that the fleet at Toulon had remained in the harbour, and that, were it merely to exercise the sailors, no cruize had taken place in the space that reaches from the Isle of Elba to the shores of Provence. It is certain that the conspiracy had been carried on during some months, with more good fortune than address. The discovery of one part of the plot was accidental, or, to borrow the pious ejaculation of the new minister of war, seemed to have been made by the miraculous interposition of Providence.

• Marshal Mortier, Duke of Treviso, 'who commanded the troops -stationed in the north, had left Paris to return to bis head-quarters at Lisle, when he met on the indirect road he had taken, a body of troops, consisting of about ten thousand men, on their march to - Paris. The astonished Marshal demanded where they were going, and found that they had received orders to march upon Paris, to save the city from pillage, and rescue the king from the hands of the populace. He examined the orders, saw they were forgeries, and ordered his soldiers to march back instantly to their quarters.

• The town of La Fère, in Picardy, was a northern military depôt, under the command of M. D'Aboville. The General Lefèbre De.. Rouettes had entered this town with troops drawn from the garrison of Cambray, under the command of General Lallemand and his brother, demanding military accommodation for two thousand men. The commander of La Fère observed that there was somewhat singular in this march; and having soon obtained proofs of the traitorous intentions of these generals, he put his garrison, at an early hour, in order of battle, and answered the invitation of joining Bonaparte, by the cry of “ Vive le Roi!" in which he was joined by his troops. The rebel generals sought their safety in flight, but were soon after taken.

• Tbus Bonaparte's project was neither rash, nor ill-concerted, While he advanced by rapid marches to Lyons, for which due preparations had been made by the removal of all obstacles, and while the garrison of Grenoble assisted his arrival, his partizans in the north were to furnish him with arms, lead on the troops under their command, and take possession of Paris. The accidental meeting of a powerful detachment of the northern army by Marshal Mortier, and the firmness of D’Aboville at La Fère, disconcerted this part of the plan, but at the same time convinced the government that the conspiracy was not confined to the south, and to the troops that accompanied Bonaparte.' pp. 27—32.

· Thus,' remarks our Author, did this daring soldier in the space of three short wecks, transfer the seat of empire ' from his rocky exile to the palace of the Tuileries. As the rapidity of his marchi, she adds, may appear a prodigy unexampled in history, so his pacific triumph might seem to bear the stamp of the general assent of the nation.

• Such conclusions would, however, be most erroneous. There was nothing miraculous in his journey. He was quietly conveyed to Paris in his calèche, drawn by four post-horses, which he found prepared at every relay; and it required but ordinary courage to advance through a country where all that was hostile to his purpose was defenceless and unarmed, and all that could have opposed his progress hailed him with acclamations of transport. But if the triumphal march of Napoleon Bonaparte, from the coast of Provence to the capital of France, presents, when investigated in its details, no marvel to the imagination, it teaches, at least,' a most tremendous lesson to mankind; it adds a new page of instruction on the danger of military influence; it shews us that no other ties are so powerful as those which bind the soldier to his chief. What the French army would have called rebellion, was resistance to the voice of their general. The military ravagers of other countries can never become the civic defenders of their own. Their bosoms beat bigh with the unextinguishable hope of what mankind, in its hour of madness, has agreed to call by the name of glory. They had acquired under Bonaparte that fatal ascendant which led them to consider even their own country as their conquest. Careless of its miseries, forming a class apart from their fellow citizens, like the Janizaries of the east, or the Pretorian bands of the Roman empire, they consulted only their own triumph, and disposed of crowns and sceptres at their will. The land which gave them birth, and which they were destined to defend, they have covered with desolation, and have opened an abyss to France from which the heart recoils, and where the eye fears to penetrate.' pp. 46-48.

of the conduct of the Prince of Moskwa, Miss W. speaks in the strongest terms of reprobation. Whatever allowances may be made for many, in such times of vicissitude, 'no ' morality however lax, no charity however lenient, can forbear stigmatizing, with eternal ignominy, the conduct of certain

actors in this turbulent drama;' at the head of which, in point of guilt, she places Marshal Ney : and she atfirms, that "un

availing execrations against his black perfidy, hung upon every ‘lip. Yet even Marshal Ney has found his apologists in this country.

The auxiliaries that the conspirators found in other classes of the community, are thus characterized.

There still existed the remains of a party in France which had during a short time wielded the sceptre as despotically as Bonaparte himself. This was the faction of the Jacobins; once no less powerful with the insignia of the red-cap, than Napoleon with his imperial crown, of whom some one, seeing him pass in pomp through the streets of Paris, observed, “ C'est Robespierre à cheval.". The Jacobins had long been reduced to such death-like silence, that the race was deemed extinct. Bonaparte had received the first rų, diment of his political knowledge in their school, and been denominated, by high authority, their child and champion. On his first entrance into power, he adopted the system of fusion, and employed such of the chiefs of the faction as had escaped the scaffold. He was, however, too prudent not to keep the party in proper subjection while he continued to practise their favourite maxim, the secret of all their

power, “ that of daring.The exile of some of the most turbulent leaders among the populace of the Fauxbourgs, by Bonaparte's orders, had reduced the rest to silence; and though they murmured at his injustice, they dreaded and worshipped his power.

• This class was at present too obscure to excite any apprehension in the government; with the exception of a few chiefs, they were to be found only in the poorest of the labouring tribe. They had, however, been useful on some occasions, and in revolutions no means of power ought to be neglected, Subsidies were necessary to raise these dormant allies into action ; and subsidies were found by the relations and friends of Bonaparte, and largely distributed by their emissaries. pp. 38-40.

Our Author's account of the state of opinion, during Bonaparte's second imperial reign, with respect to his new pro· fessions of political faith, is in striking contrast with the assurances of certain of his partisans, and tends most cruelly to derogate from the majesty of his character. Few,' she says, liad been the dupes of this pretended conversion, but it was generally supposed, that the consideration of the perilous situation in which he had placed himself, might lead

him to act his part in the comedy of patriotism, till he was · firmly seated on his throne by the assembly of the Field of May.' “He might then,' she adds, more easily seize the

' 'occasion of wielding unrestrained his old imperial sceptre.'

Every one beheld Bonaparte smiling, under his air of penitence, at the toil and trouble of these new constitution-makers, bidding them good speed till they had again confirmed him in the possession of his throne, and then, like another Sampson, whose locks had escaped their shears, and laughing loud at their credulity, he would probably snap at once all the chains of popular sovereignty, laws, eqqality, and rights of man, and brandishing his imperial eagle,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

would rally his troops around him, and perhaps send his council of state to dig his iron mines at Elba.' p. 90.

The following anecdotes, if Miss W. can vouch for their truth, arc of a decisive nature on this point.

• It was still thought expedient to keep up the semblance of concord and popularity at the 'l'uileries, although the council-chamber was often the arena of the bitterest contention. Many an angry discussion took place, but no one was so frequently called to order as the emperor himself. In the heat of debate he sometimes forgot that he was not emperor at home. But the execution of his threat of ordering a minister to be shot, was adjourned by that minister's assurance, that the emperor himself would not survive an hour after.

These controversies in the cabinet of the Tuileries were not al. together unknown to the Parisians, and were even sometiines rehearsed before the mob, hired to cry “ Vive l'Empereur !” Accla. mations were at first purchased at the rate of five livres a day; but the price was now reduced; no effort of the lungs was paid higher than thirty or forty sous, and the enthusiasm of the populace diminished in proportion to its current value, and even their respect was measured by their salary: An animated discussion between Bonaparte and his arch-chancellor happening to take place at the window of hi- apartment in the Tuileries, the emperor, accustomed to ill-treat his ministers, seized him by the collar. This scene was witnessed by the mob, who related to their fellows the scuffle between Père la Violette and his comrade, in the same manner as they would have recounted one of the battles which take place for their amusement, between the puppet-show actors, on the Bou. levards.' pp. 107–8.

Miss Williams further affirms, that nothing surprised the French more, during the reign of Napoleon, than to hear • the declamations of some English visitors in his favour.'

• It required the whole stock of French courtesy to suppress, on these occasions, the feelings of resentment, and which were the more difficult to stifle from the novelty of the provocation. It must be observed, that for some years past no person in France ever praised the emperor, except in speeches to the throne. No minister, senator, or counsellor of state, would have ventured to outrage the feelings of society by saying one word in his favour in a private salon. These personages talked of Napoleon, with quite as little ceremony as others, among their friends; in mixed company they were silent on this subject, which was considered as an etiquette be. longing to their places, and was therefore admitted; but it was well understood that no attempt would be made to speak in his defence. Judge then how the French were astounded when they heard some distinguished Englishmen extolling Napoleon the Great, which they did in the French language, but sometimes in English phraseology; and the Parisians who like better to laugh than to be angry, occasionally avenged themselves by citing pleasantly, p. 257.

[ocr errors]

different companies, these neologisms in their English idiom.' pp. 255—6.

* Ht the time of Napolecn's return from Moscow, after the first burst of their indignation had subsided, one of the amusements of society was inventing or imagining caricatures, which no one dared to trace, but which were described in company as if they really existed. I remember one represented the entry of the French army at Moscow. They were seen advancing towards the gate, which was thrown open, and where stood a Cossack to give them admission, as if it had been the door of a spectacle. The Cossack had a label on his breast, on which was written, “ Entrez, entrez, Messieurs-on ne payera qu'en sortant."

There is a choice morceau at page 281, for craniologists. A celebrated physiologist, who, like Lord Burleigh in “ The Critic,” used to sbake his head and say nothing, when any new enormity of the Emperor became the subject of conversation, told Miss Williams, that when he saw Bonaparte ten years before in Italy, he augured ill of his destiny.- His head partakes,' he said, “ too much of the organization of the

, . tiger and the peacock; it is cruel and climbing.'

Our Author ridicules the idea that Napoleon's abolition of the Slave Trade originated in a sense of humanity,— a com• pact of philanthropy between Napoleon Bonaparte, Wilber

force, and Clarkson !' She attributes this measure to the politic desire of making himself popular with the people of England. But one of the most important passages in the volume, relates to that sole point in Bonaparte's policy, which exbibits him to apparent advantage, in contrast with the Bourbons. It were an impressive inference could it be considered as altogether a just one, that the policy of an infidel despot is wiser, and in some respects more beneficial, than the principles of popery.

• Bonaparte had signalized himself as a warrior, but he did not too highly deem of descending to posterity with military fame alone. He had observed that nothing of the most celebrated destroyers of mankind, called warriors, exists but their names; while its great institutors are not merely held in remembrance, but continue to live in their disciples ;-all that remained of Alexander, of Cæsar, of Charles XII. was their names; but the laws instituted more than four thousand years since by Moses, were yet obeyed throughout the world, by the numerous and disseminated posterity of his race;- that Zoroaster and Mahomet had subdued, by their principles, a great portion of the earth, and that their names are still invoked with veneration by innumerable followers; while the heroes of Greece and Rome fade on the memory; that, in modern times, Luther and (alvin had given their names to the most enlightened portion of the people of Europe ; and that he also, Napoleon the Great, by seizing some favourable epocha for a new

« AnteriorContinuar »