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Such was the influence of the various causes which I have endeavoured to detail, that the reception of the insinuations of the conspirators, particularly in the army, exceeded their wishes, and that their plot nearly broke out before the time proposed. It is at least pretty certain that their zeal outwent the discretion of their principal, and that Napoleon more than once declined the invitations which he received to return from Elba. The co-operation of Murat was a point of extreme moment; and until a Neapolitan army could approach the north of Italy, Bonaparte's situation must have been desperate, supposing him to have received a check in the south of France at the outset of his expedition. A series of dark intrigues, therefore, commenced between the principal conspirators and King Joachim, which ended in his winding up his courage to the perilous achievement which they recommended. In the north of Italy were many officers and soldiers who had formerly served under Eugene Beauharnois. And it was reasonably believed, considering the weak state of the Austrians, that Murat's army, Neapolitans as they were, might have at least made their way so far as to have recruited their ranks by the union of these
Internally the conspiracy proceeded with the most surprising secrecy and success. The meetings of the chief leaders were held under the auspices of Madame Maret, Duchess of Bassano. But subordinate agents were to be found everywhere, and more especially among the coffeehouses and brothels of the Palais Royal, those assemblages of every thing that is desperate and profligate. "Bonaparte," said a Royalist to me the other day, "had with him all the rouge-men and all the rouge-women, and in our country, their numbers are nineteen out of twenty." One of these places of nocturnal rendezvous, called the Café Montansier, was distinguished for the audacity with which its frequenters discussed national politics, and the vociferous violence with which they espoused the cause of the dethroned emperor. That the police, whose surveillance, in Bonaparte's reign, extended to the fireside and bedchamber of every citizen, should have either overlooked, or observed with supine indifference, those indications of treason in places open for public rendezvous, argues the incapacity of the superior directors, and the treachery of those who were employed under them. Even the partial discovery of Excelman's correspondence with Murat served but to show the imbecility of a government, who could not, or durst not, bring him to punishment. The wellknown symbol of the Violet, by which Bonaparte's friends intimated his return to France with the reappearance of that flower in spring, was generally known and adopted, at least two months before the period of his landing, yet attracted no attention on the part of the police. Indeed, so gross was their negligence, that a Frenchman, finding his
friend ignorant of some well-known piece of news, observed, in reply, "Vous êtes apparemment de la police?" as if to belong to that body inferred a necessary ignorance of every thing of importance that was going forward in the kingdom.
With so much activity on the one side, and such supine negligence on the other, joined to a state of public feeling so favourable to his enterprise, one is scarcely surprised at Napoleon's wonderful success. The mass of the army went over to him as one man; and the superior officers, who found their influence too feeble to check the progress of the invader, took, with a few distinguished exceptions, the resolution to swim along with the stream which they could not oppose. But, however discontented with the government of the Bourbons, the middling ranks in civil life were alarmed as with a clap of thunder by this momentous event. They beheld themselves once more engaged in a war with all Europe, and heard once more the Prussian trumpets at the gates of the metropolis. To dispel these alarms, Napoleon, with a versatile address, which could hardly have succeeded anywhere save in France, endeavoured to put such a colour upon his own views as best suited those whom he was immediately addressing. To the army, his proclamation, issued at Lyons, held forth immediate war, conquest, and the re-establishment of the military fame of France. But, when he reached Paris, he seemed anxious to modify this declaration. He appealed to the Treaty of Paris, by which he pretended to abide, and he expressed himself contented that the rights and boundaries of France should be limited according to the wishes of the allied powers as there expressed. He did more; he even alleged that his enterprise was executed with their connivance. With the assurance of a shameless charlatan, as one author expresses it, he asserted, that his escape was countenanced by England, otherwise, as he reasoned with apparent force, how was he permitted to leave Elba? and that his restoration had the approbation of Austria would be made manifest, he pretended, by the immediate return of Maria Louisa and her son to the French territory. He even carried the farce so far as to prepare and send away state carriages to meet those valued pledges of his fatherin-law's amity, conscious that the success of this gross imposition would serve his cause during the moments of general doubt and indecision, though certain to be discovered in a very few days. Meanwhile, an attempt was actually made to carry off his son from the city of Vienna, and defeated only by the want of presence of mind in one of the conspirators, who, being arrested by the police, imprudently offered a handful of gold to obtain his escape, which excited the attention and suspicion of the officers who had seized him. No doubt, had the attempt succeeded, the restoration of the child would have been represented as the effects of the favour of Austria towards the father.
The declarations of the allied powers soon removed the hopes of peace, by which those who were pacifically disposed had been, for a short time, flattered. A war, of a kind altogether new, with respect to the extent of the military preparations, was now approaching and imminent, and the address of Chatterton's Sir Charles Baldwin to the English might have been well applied to the people of France,
"Say, were ye tired of godly peace,
Ah! fickle people, ruin'd land,
Thou wilt know peace no moe;
But there remained comfort to the more peaceable part of the community in the confidence of assured victory, so warmly expressed by the soldiers; and then they hoped that the short and successful war would conclude so soon as France should be restored to, what they were pleased to term, her natural boundaries. Paix au-delà du Rhin was the general wish-the soldiers affected to aim at no more remote conquest-the citizen was willing to face the burdens of a war for an object so limited, and for the re-establishment of la gloire nationale. And thus were the versatile people of Paris induced to look with an eye of hope, instead of terror, upon the approaching storm.
Those who were attached to the parties of the Liberalists and Royalists saw Bonaparte's successful progress with other eyes. But the Liberalists, severed from the family of Bourbon by the opinions and incidents which I have already detailed to you, were, in a manner, forced into the service of the new emperor, although, doubtless, their wishes were to substitute a government of a more popular construction for that of the restored monarch. Their chiefs, too, the philosophical Carnot, and the patriotic Fouché, did not disdain to accept, from the hand of the restored heir of the Revolution, the power, dignities, and emoluments which he artfully held out to them. And, in becoming a part of his administration, they were supposed to warrant to him the attachment of their followers; while Napoleon, by professing to embrace the constitution with some stipulations in favour of general freedom, was presumed to give a sufficient pledge that henceforth he was to regard himself only as the head of a limited monarchy. How far this good understanding would have survived his return to Paris with victory, it is scarce necessary to enquire; for not even the adhesion of Carnot and Fouché prevented symptoms of open feud between their party and the Imperialists, evinced in many lart debates in the Lower Chamber of Representatives, from which it is evident, that they
regarded each other with aversion and suspicion, and that their union was not likely to survive the circumstances which occasioned it.
In the meanwhile, they were embarked in a common cause; and it does not appear that the Liberalists were slack in affording assistance to Bonaparte in his preparations for external war. Like the factions in Jerusalem, during her final siege, they suspended their mutual dissensions until they should have repulsed the common enemy. There is, nevertheless, a rumour, which is at least countenanced by the favour which Fouché for some time held at the court of Louis XVIII., that even while the king was at Ghent, the wily chief of the Liberalists maintained a correspondence with his ex-monarch. But, in general, that party, comprehending the various classes of Liberalists, from the Constitutionalist to the Jacobin, may be considered as having identified themselves with the Imperialists, and undertaken the same chance of battle to which the adherents of Bonaparte had made their solemn appeal.
There was a third party in France, and a powerful one, if its real force could have been mustered and called into action. For, notwithstanding all that I have said of the various causes which divided the opinions of the nation, it must necessarily be supposed that the Bourbon family had, in many provinces, an equal, and in some a predominating interest. Unfortunately, the Royalists, being taken at unawares, remained altogether stupified and paralysed by the sudden and unanimous defection of the army. The premature, or ill-conducted attempts of resistance at Marseilles and Bourdeaux, were so easily subdued, as to discredit and discountenance all farther opposition. In la Vendée only there was an open military resistance to Bonaparte under the banners of the king, and there it was speedily brought to an end by the exertions of the Imperial General, who has since received just credit for employing more mild means for that purpose than were authorized by his instructions.
The Royalists, in the other provinces, contented themselves with opposing a sort of vis inertia to the efforts which Napoleon made for calling forth the national force, and awaited with anxiety, but without any active exertion, the expected progress of the allies. This passive resistance was particularly remarkable in the departments of the North, several of which would render Napoleon no assistance, either in recruits or money, and where entreaties, threats, and even attempts at force, could not put in motion a single battalion of the National Guard.
On the other hand, the Eastern departments which bordered on Germany, met the wishes of Bonaparte in their utmost extent. They remembered the invasion of the preceding year with all the feelings of irritation which such recollections naturally produce. Accordingly,
they formed free corps of volunteers-laboured at fortifying towns and passes-constructed tétes-de-pont-and multiplied all means of defence which the face of the country afforded. Thus it happened, fortunately for Bonaparte, that the part of the kingdom whose inhabitants were most disposed to consider the war as a national quarrel, was that of which the territory was most immediately open to invasion.
I shall continue this statement, my dear Peter, in a letter to the Major, to whose department the military details properly belong; and, in the meanwhile, am ever yours, PAUL.
PAUL TO THE MAJOR.
Promptitude of Napoleon-Military Preparations-Defeat of Murat-Dispositions of the French Army-Artillery-Cavalry-Cuirassiers Infantry-Bonaparte's Plan for opening the Campaign-Proposed Advance into Belgium-Self-importance of the Soldiery-their Feuds-The Army assembled Bonaparte's Address.
I PRESUME, my dear Major, that our political friend has communicated to you my last epistle. My next enters upon high matters, which I have some scruple to treat of to you, for who would willingly read lectures upon the art of war before Alexander the Great? But, after all, as Waterloo was a battle very different from that of Bunker'shill, and from two or three other later actions, with the details of which you often regale us, I conceive that even a bungling account of it from a tactician so wretched as I am, may afford some matter for your military commentaries. At any rate, active investigation has not been wanting; as I have surveyed the fields of action, and conversed familiarly with many of the distinguished officers, who there laid a claim to the eternal gratitude of their country. Your kindness will excuse my blunders, and your ingenuity will be applied to detect and supply my deficiencies.
No part of Napoleon's political life, marked as it has always been by the most rapid and extraordinary promptitude in military preparation, affords such a display of activity, as the brief interval which occurred between his resuming the imperial sceptre, and resigning it, it is to be presumed, for ever. Although the conciliating the Liberalists, and paralyzing the Royalists, occupied some time; and although it was necessary to sacrifice several days to show, and to the national love of fanfaronade, he was never an instant diverted from his purpose.