Life Of Napoleon Bonaparte With A Sketch Of Josephine
Book: Life Of Napoleon
Author: Tarbell, Ida
Disaster In Spain - Alexander And Napoleon In Council - Napoleon At Madrid
Napoleon amazed at this unexpected popular uprising in Spain, and
angry that the spell of invincibility under which his armies had fought,
was broken, resolved to undertake the Peninsular war himself. But before
a campaign in Spain could be entered upon, it was necessary to know that
all the inner and outer wheels of the great machine he had devised for
dividing the world and crushing England were revolving perfectly.
Since the treaty of Tilsit he had done much at home for this machine.
The finances were in splendid condition. Public works of great importance
were going on all over the kingdom; the court was luxurious and brilliant,
and the money it scattered, encouraged the commercial and manufacturing
classes. Never had fetes been more brilliant than those which welcomed
Napoleon back to Paris in 1807; never had the season at Fontainebleau been
gayer or more magnificent than it was that year.
All of those who had been instrumental in bringing prosperity and
order to France were rewarded in 1807 with splendid gifts from the
indemnities levied on the enemies. The marshals of the Grand Army
received from eighty thousand to two hundred thousand dollars apiece;
twenty-five generals were given forty thousand dollars each; the civil
functionaries were not forgotten; thus Monsieur de Segur received forty
thousand dollars as a sign of the emperor's gratification at the way he
had administered etiquette in the young court.
It was at this period that Napoleon founded a new nobility as a
further means of rewarding those who had rendered brilliant services to
France. This institution was designed, too, as a means of reconciling old
and new France. It created the title of prince, duke, count, baron, and
knight; and those receiving these titles were at the same time given
domains in the conquered provinces, sufficient to permit them to establish
themselves in good style.
The drawing up of the rules which were to govern this new order
occupied the gravest men of the country, Cambaceres, Saint-Martin,
Hauterive, Portalis, Pasquier. Among other duties they had to prepare the
armorial bearings. Napoleon refused to allow the crown to go on the new
escutcheons. He wished no one but himself to have a right to use that
symbol. A substitute was found in the panache, the number of plumes
showing the rank.
Napoleon used the new favors at his command freely, creating in all,
after 1807, forty-eight thousand knights, one thousand and ninety barons,
three hundred and eighty-eight counts, thirty-one dukes, and three
princes. All members of the old nobility who were supporting his
government were given titles, but not those which they formerly held.
Naturally this often led to great dissatisfaction, the bearers of ancient
names preferring a lower rank which had been their family's for centuries
to one higher, but unhallowed by time and tradition. Thus Madame de
Montmorency rebelled obstinately against being made a countess, - she had
been a baroness under the old regime, - and, as the Montmorencys claimed
the honor of being called the first Christian barons, she felt justly that
the old title was a far prouder one than any Napoleon could give her. But
a countess she had to remain.
In his efforts to win for himself the services of all those whom
blood and fortune had made his natural supporters, the emperor tried again
to reconcile Lucien. In November, 1807, Napoleon visited Italy, and at
Mantua a secret interview took place between the brothers. Lucien, in his
"Memoirs," gives a dramatic description of the way in which Napoleon
spread the kingdoms of half a world before him and offered him his choice.
"He struck a great blow with his hand in the middle of the immense
map of Europe which was extended on the table, by the side of which we
were standing. 'Yes, choose,' he said; "you see I am not talking in the
air. All this is mine, or will soon belong to me; I can dispose of it
already. Do you want Naples? I will take it from Joseph, who, by the by,
does not care for it; he prefers Mortefontaine. Italy - the most
beautiful jewel in my imperial crown? Eugene is but viceroy, and, far
from despising it, he hopes only that I shall give it to him, or, at
least, leave it to him if he survives me; he is likely to be disappointed
in waiting, for I shall live ninety years. I must, for the perfect
consolidation of my empire. Besides, Eugene will not suit me in Italy
after his mother is divorced. Spain? Do you not see it falling into the
hollow of my hand, thanks to the blunders of my dear Bourbons, and to the
follies of your friend, the Prince of Peace? Would you not be well
pleased to reign there, where you have been only ambassador? Once for
all, what do you want? Speak! Whatever you wish, or can wish, is yours,
if your divorce precedes mine.'"
Until midnight the two brothers wrestled with the question between
them. Neither would abandon his position; and when Lucien finally went
away, his face was wet with tears. To Meneval, who conducted him to his
inn in the town, he said, in bidding him carry his farewell to the
emperor, "It may be forever." It was not. Seven years later the brothers
met again, but the map of Europe was forever rolled up for Napoleon.
The essential point in carrying out the Tilsit plan was, the fidelity
of Alexander; and Napoleon resolved, before going into the Spanish war, to
meet the Emperor of Russia. This was the more needful, because Austria
had begun to show signs of hostility.
The meeting took place in September, 1807, at Erfurt, in Saxony, and
lasted a month. Napoleon acted as host, and prepared a splendid
entertainment for his guests. The company he had gathered was most
brilliant. Beside the Russian and French emperors, with ambassadors and
suites, were the Kings of Saxony, Bavaria, and Wurtemberg, the Prince
Primate, the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Baden, the Dukes of Saxony,
and the Princes of the Confederation of the Rhine.
The palaces where the emperors were entertained, were furnished with
articles from the Garde-Meuble of France. The leading actors of the
Theatre Francais gave the best French tragedies to a house where there
was, as Napoleon had promised Talma, a "parterre full of kings." There was
a hare hunt on the battle-field of Jena, to which even Prince William of
Prussia was invited, and where the party breakfasted on the spot where
Napoleon had bivouacked in 1806, the night before the battle. There were
balls where Alexander danced, "but not I," wrote the emperor to Josephine;
"forty years are forty years." Goethe and Wieland were both presented to
Napoleon at Erfurt, and the emperor had long conversations with them.
In spite of these gayeties Napoleon and Alexander found time to renew
their Tilsit agreement. They were to make war and peace together.
Alexander was to uphold Napoleon in giving Joseph the throne of Spain, and
to keep the continent tranquil during the Peninsular war. Napoleon was to
support Alexander in getting possession of Finland, Moldavia, and
Wallachia. The two emperors were to write and sign a letter inviting
England to join them in peace negotiations.
This was done promptly; but when England insisted that
representatives of the government which was acting in Spain in the name of
Ferdinand VII. should be admitted to the proposed meeting, the peace
negotiations abruptly ended. Under the circumstances Napoleon could not
recognize that government.
The emperor was ready to conduct the Spanish war. His first move was
to send into the country a large body of veterans from Germany. Before
this time the army had been made up of young recruits upon whom the
Spanish looked with contempt. The men, inexperienced and demoralized by
the kind of guerrilla warfare which was waged against them, had become
discouraged. The worst feature of their case was that they did not
believe in the war. That brave story-teller Marbot relates frankly how he
"As a soldier I was bound to fight any one who attacked the French
army, but I could not help recognizing in my inmost conscience that our
cause was a bad one, and that the Spaniards were quite right in trying to
drive out strangers who, after coming among them in the guise of friends,
were wishing to dethrone their sovereign and take forcible possession of
the kingdom. This war, therefore, seemed to me wicked; but I was a
soldier, and I must march or be charged with cowardice. The greater part
of the army thought as I did, and, like me, obeyed orders all the same."
The appearance of the veterans and the presence of the emperor at
once put a new face on the war; the morale of the army was raised, and the
respect of the Spaniards inspired.
The emperor speedily made his way to Madrid, though he had to fight
three battles to get there, and began at once a work of reorganization.
Decree followed decree. Feudal rights were abolished, the inquisition was
ended, the number of convents was reduced, the custom-houses between the
various provinces were done away with, a political and military programme
was made out for King Joseph. Many bulletins were sent to the Spanish
people. In all of them they were told that it was the English who were
their enemies, not their allies; that they came to the Peninsular not to
help, but to inspire to false confidence, and to lead them astray.
Napoleon's plan and purpose could not be mistaken.
"Spaniards [he proclaimed at Madrid], your destinies are in my hands.
Reject the poison which the English have spread among you; let your king
be certain of your love and your confidence, and you will be more powerful
and happier than ever. I have destroyed all that was opposed to your
prosperity and greatness; I have broken the fetters which weighed upon the
people; a liberal constitution gives you, instead of an absolute, a
tempered and constitutional monarchy. It depends upon you that this
constitution shall become law. But if all my efforts prove useless, and
if you do not respond to my confidence, it will only remain for me to
treat you as conquered provinces, and to find my brother another throne.
I shall then place the crown of Spain on my own head, and I shall know how
to make the wicked tremble; for God has given me the power and the will
necessary to surmount all obstacles."
But a flame had been kindled in Spain which no number of Napoleonic
bulletins could quench - a fanatical frenzy inspired by the priests, a
blind passion of patriotism. The Spaniards wanted their own, even if it
was feudal and oppressive. A constitution which they had been forced to
accept, seemed to them odious and shameful, if liberal.
The obstinacy and horror of their resistance was nowhere so tragic
and so heroic as at the siege of Saragossa, going on at the time Napoleon,
at Madrid, was issuing his decrees and proclamations. Saragossa had been
fortified when the insurrection against King Joseph broke out. The town
was surrounded by convents, which were turned into forts. Men, women, and
children took up arms, and the priests, cross in hand, and dagger at the
belt, led them. No word of surrender was tolerated within the walls. At
the beginning Napoleon regarded the defence of Saragossa as a small
affair, and wished to try persuasion on the people. There was at Paris a
well-known Aragon noble whom he urged to go to Saragossa and calm the
popular excitement. The man accepted the mission. When he arrived in the
town the people hurried forth to meet him, supposing he had come to aid in
the resistance. At the first word of submission he spoke he was assailed
by the mob, and for nearly a year lay in a dungeon.
The peasants of the vicinity of Saragossa were quartered in the town,
each family being given a house to defend. Nothing could drive them from
their posts. They took an oath to resist until death, and regarded the
probable destruction of themselves and their families with stoical
indifference. The priests had so aroused their religious exultation, and
were able to sustain it at such a pitch, that they never wavered before
the daily horrors they endured.
The French at first tried to drive them from their posts by sallies
made into the town, but the inhabitants rained such a murderous fire upon
them from towers, roofs, windows, even the cellars, that they were obliged
to retire. Exasperated by this stubborn resistance they resolved to blow
up the town, inch by inch. The siege was begun in the most terrible and
destructive manner, but the people were unmoved by the danger. "While a
house was being mined, and the dull sound of the rammers warned them that
death was at hand, not one left the house which he had sworn to defend,
and we could hear them singing litanies. Then, at the moment the walls
flew into the air and fell back with a crash, crushing the greater part of
them, those who had escaped would collect about the ruins, and sheltering
themselves behind the slightest cover, would recommence their
Marshal Lannes commanded before Saragossa. Touched by the devotion
and the heroism of the defenders, he proposed an honorable capitulation.
The besieged scorned the proposition, and the awful process of undermining
went on until the town was practically blown to pieces.
For such resistance there was no end but extermination. For the
first time in his career Napoleon had met sublime popular patriotism, a
passion before which diplomacy, flattery, love of gain, force, lose their
It was for but a short time that the emperor could give his personal
attention to the Spanish war. Certain wheels in his great machine were
not revolving smoothly. In his own capital, Paris, there was friction
among certain influential persons. The peace of the Continent, necessary
to the Peninsular war, and which Alexander had guaranteed, was threatened.
Under these circumstances it was impossible to remain in Spain.