Page One Youth

Napoleon In Paris

Out Of Work

The First Italian Campaign

The Egyptian Campaign

Statesman And Lawgiver

The Concordat

Code Napoleon

General Prosperity

Preparations For War With England

Sale Of Louisiana

Establishment Of The Empire

King of Italy

Campaign Of 1805-1806-1807

The Peace Of Tilsit

Napoleon's Empire

Family Affairs

The Berlin Decree

War In The Peninsula

Bonapartes On The Spanish Throne

Disaster In Spain

Alexander And Napoleon In Council

Napoleon At Madrid

Talleyrand's Treachery

The Campaign Of 1809


The Divorce

A New Wife

An Heir To The Crown

The Pope


Evasions Of Blockade

Tilsit Agreement Broken

The Russian Campaign

The Burning Of Moscow

A New Army

Campaign Of 1813

Campaign Of 1814


Ruler Of Island Of Elba

Return To Paris

Hundred Days

Second Abdication

Napoleon's Surrender

Sent To St. Helena

Life In Exile

Death Of Napoleon

Second Funeral Of Napoleon

Related Information

Wellington and Nelson

Napoleon and the French Revolution



Weekly Poll

Please Help Click Here


Life Of Napoleon Bonaparte With A Sketch Of Josephine

Book:        Life Of Napoleon

Author:      Tarbell, Ida







Life Of Napoleon Bonaparte With A Sketch Of Josephine

Book:        Life Of Napoleon

Author:      Tarbell, Ida


Chapter II.


Napoleon In Paris - Lieutenant Of Artillery - Literary Work - The Revolution


     It was in October, 1784, that Napoleon was placed in the Ecole

Militaire at Paris, the same school which still faces the Champ de Mars.

He was fifteen years old at the time, a thin-faced, awkward, countrified

boy, who stared open-mouthed at the Paris street sights and seemed

singularly out of place to those who saw him in the capital for the first



     Napoleon found his new associates even more distasteful than those at

Brienne had been.  The pupils of the Ecole Militaire were sons of soldiers

and provincial gentlemen, educated gratuitously, and rich young men who

paid for their privileges.  The practices of the school were luxurious.

There was a large staff of servants, costly stables, several courses at

meals.  Those who were rich spent freely; most of those who were poor ran

in debt.  Napoleon could not pay his share in the lunches and gifts which

his mates offered now and then to teachers and fellows.  He saw his sister

Eliza, who was at Madame de Maintenon's school at St. Cyr, weep one day

for the same reason.  He would not borrow.  "My mother has already too

many expenses, and I have no business to increase them by extravagances

which are simply imposed upon me by the stupid folly of my comrades." But

he did complain loudly to his friends.  The Permons, a Corsican family

living on the Quai Conti, who made Napoleon thoroughly at home, even

holding a room at his disposal, frequently discussed these complaints.

Was it vanity and envy, or a wounded pride and just indignation?  The

latter, said Monsieur Permon.  This feeling was so profound with Napoleon,

that, with his natural instinct for regulating whatever was displeasing to

him, he prepared a memorial to the government, full of good, practical

sense, on the useless luxury of the pupils.


     A year in Paris finished Napoleon's military education, and in

October, 1785, when sixteen years old, he received his appointment as

second lieutenant of the artillery in a regiment stationed at Valence.

Out of the fifty-eight pupils entitled that year to the promotion of

second lieutenant, but six went to the artillery; of these six Napoleon

was one.  His examiner said of him:


     "Reserved and studious, he prefers study to any amusement, and enjoys

reading the best authors; applies himself earnestly to the abstract

sciences; cares little for anything else.  He is silent and loves

solitude.  He is capricious, haughty, and excessively egotistical; talks

little, but is quick and energetic in his replies, prompt and severe in

his repartees; has great pride and ambitions, aspiring to anything.  The

young man is worthy of patronage."


     He left Paris at once, on money borrowed from a cloth merchant whom

his father had patronized, not sorry, probably, that his school-days were

over, though it is certain that all of those who had been friendly to him

in this period he never forgot in the future.  Several of his old teachers

at Brienne received pensions; one was made rector of the School of Fine

Arts established at Compiegne, another librarian at Malmaison, where the

porter was the former porter at Brienne.  The professors of the Ecole

Militaire were equally well taken care of, as well as many of his

schoolmates.  During the Consulate, learning that Madame de Montesson,

wife of the Duke of Orleans, was still living, he sent for her to come to

the Tuileries, and asked what he could do for her.  "But, General,"

protested Madame de Montesson, "I have no claim upon you."

     "You do not know, then," replied the First Consul, "that I received

my first crown from you.  You went to Brienne with the Duke of Orleans to

distribute the prizes, and in placing a laurel wreath on my head, you said

'May it bring you happiness.' They say I am a fatalist, Madame, so it is

quite plain that I could not forget what you no longer remember;" and the

First Consul caused the sixty thousand francs of yearly income left Madame

de Montesson by the Duke of Orleans, but confiscated in the Revolution, to

be returned.  Later, at her request, he raised one of her relatives to the

rank of senator.  In 1805, when emperor, Napoleon gave a life pension of

six thousand francs to the son of his former protector, the Count de

Marboeuf, and with it went his assurance of interest and good will in all

the circumstances of the young man's life.  Generous, forbearing, even

tender remembrance of all who had been associated with him in his early

years, was one of Napoleon's marked characteristics.


[See Napoleon When First Consul]


     His new position at Valence was not brilliant.  He had an annual

income of two hundred and twenty-four dollars, and there was much hard

work.  It was independence, however, and life opened gayly to the young

officer.  He made many acquaintances, and for the first time saw something

of society and women.  Madame Colombier, whose salon was the leading one

of the town, received him, introduced him to powerful friends, and,

indeed, prophesied a great future for him.


     The sixteen-year-old officer, in spite of his shabby clothes and big

boots, became a favorite.  He talked brilliantly and freely, began to find

that he could please, and, for the first time, made love a little - to

Mademoiselle Colombier - a frolicking boy-and-girl love, the object of

whose stolen rendezvous was to eat cherries together.  Mademoiselle Mion-

Desplaces, a pretty Corsican girl in Valence, also received some attention

from him.  Encouraged by his good beginning, and ambitious for future

success, he even began to take dancing lessons.


     Had there been no one but himself to think of, everything would have

gone easily, but the care of his family was upon him.  His father had died

a few months before, February, 1785, and left his affairs in a sad tangle.

Joseph, now nearly eighteen years of age, who had gone to Autun in 1779

with Napoleon, had remained there until 1785.  The intention was to make

him a priest; suddenly he declared that he would not be anything but a

soldier.  It was to undo all that had been done for him; but his father

made an effort to get him into a military school.  Before the arrangements

were complete Charles Bonaparte died, and Joseph was obliged to return to

Corsica, where he was powerless to do anything for his mother and for the

four young children at home: Louis, aged nine; Pauline, seven; Caroline,

five; Jerome, three.


     Lucien, now nearly eleven years old, was at Brienne, refusing to

become a soldier, as his family desired, and giving his time to

literature; but he was not a free pupil, and the six hundred francs a year

needful for him was a heavy tax.  Eliza alone was provided for.  She had

entered St. Cyr in 1784 as one of the two hundred and fifty pupils

supported there by his Majesty, and to be a demoiselle de St. Cyr was to

be fed, taught, and clothed from seven to twenty, and, on leaving, to

receive a dowry of three thousand francs, a trousseau, and one hundred and

fifty francs for travelling expenses home.

     Napoleon regarded his family's situation more seriously than did his

brothers.  Indeed, when at Brienne he had shown an interest, a sense of

responsibility, and a good judgment about the future of his brothers and

sisters, quite amazing in so young a boy.  When he was fifteen years old,

he wrote a letter to his uncle, which, for its keen analysis, would do

credit to the father of a family.  The subject was his brother Joseph's

desire to abandon the Church and go into the king's service.  Napoleon is

summing up the pros and cons:


     "First.  As father says, he has not the courage to face the perils of

an action; his health is feeble, and will not allow him to support the

fatigues of a campaign; and my brother looks on the military profession

only from a garrison point of view.  He would make a good garrison

officer.  He is well made, light-minded, knows how to pay compliments, and

with these talents he will always get on well in society.


     Second.  He has received an ecclesiastical education, and it is very

late to undo that.  Monseignor the Bishop of Autun would have given him a

fat living, and he would have been sure to become a bishop.  What an

advantage for the family!  Monseignor of Autun has done all he could to

encourage him to persevere, promising that he should never repent.  Should

he persist, in wishing to be a soldier, I must praise him, provided he has

a decided taste for his profession, the finest of all, and the great

motive power of human affairs. . . . He wishes to be a military man.  That

is all very well; but in what corps?  Is it the marine?  First: He knows

nothing of mathematics; it would take him two years to learn.  Second: His

health is incompatible with the sea.  Is it the engineers?  He would

require four or five years to learn what is necessary, and at the end of

that time he would be only a cadet.  Besides, working all day long would

not suit him.  The same reasons which apply to the engineers apply to the

artillery, with this exception; that he would have to work eighteen months

to become a cadet, and eighteen months more to become an officer. . . . No

doubt he wishes to join the infantry. . . . And what is the slender

infantry officer?  Three-fourths of the time a scapegrace. . . . A last

effort will be made to persuade him to enter the Church, in default of

which, father will take him to Corsica, where he will be under his eye."


     It was not strange that Charles Bonaparte considered the advice of a

son who could write so clear-headed a letter as the one just quoted, or

that the boy's uncle Lucien said, before dying: "Remember, that if Joseph

is the older, Napoleon is the real head of the house."


     Now that young Bonaparte was in an independent position, he felt

still more keenly his responsibility, and it was for this reason, as well

as because of ill-health, that he left his regiment in February, 1787, on

a leave which he extended to nearly fifteen months, and which he spent in

energetic efforts to better his family's situation, working to reestablish

salt works and a mulberry plantation in which they were concerned, to

secure the nomination of Lucien to the college at Aix, and to place Louis

at a French military school.


     When he went back to his regiment, now stationed at Auxonne, he

denied himself to send money home, and spent his leisure in desperate

work, sleeping but six hours, eating but one meal a day, dressing once in

the week.  Like all the young men of the country who had been animated by

the philosophers and encyclopedists, he had attempted literature, and at

this moment was finishing a history of Corsica, a portion of which he had

written at Valence and submitted to the Abbe Raynal, who had encouraged

him to go on.  The manuscript was completed and ready for publication in

1788, and the author made heroic efforts to find some one who would accept

a dedication, as well as some one who would publish it.  Before he had

succeeded, events had crowded the work out of sight, and other ambitions

occupied his forces.  Napoleon had many literary projects on hand at this

time.  He had been a prodigious reader, and was never so happy as when he

could save a few cents with which to buy second-hand books.  From

everything he read he made long extracts, and kept a book of "thoughts."

Most curious are some of these fragments, reflections on the beginning of

society, on love, on nature.  They show that he was passionately absorbed

in forming ideas on the great questions of life and its relations.


     Besides his history of Corsica, he had already written several

fragments, among them an historical drama called the "Count of Essex," and

a story, the "Masque Prophete." He undertook, too, to write a sentimental

journey in the style of Sterne, describing a trip from Valence to Mont-

Cenis.  Later he competed for a prize offered by the Academy of Lyons on

the subject: "To determine what truths and feelings should be inculcated

in men for their happiness." He failed in the contest; indeed, the essay

was severely criticised for its incoherency and poor style.


     The Revolution of 1789 turned Napoleon's mind to an ambition greater

than that of writing the history of Corsica - he would free Corsica.  The

National Assembly had lifted the island from its inferior relation and

made it a department of France, but sentiment was much divided, and the

ferment was similar to that which agitated the mainland.  Napoleon, deeply

interested in the progress of the new liberal ideas, and seeing, too, the

opportunity for a soldier and an agitator among his countrymen, hastened

home, where he spent some twenty-five months out of the next two and a

half years.  That the young officer spent five-sixths of his time in

Corsica, instead of in service, and that he in more than one instance

pleaded reasons for leaves of absence which one would have to be

exceedingly unsophisticated not to see were trumped up for the occasion,

cannot be attributed merely to duplicity of character and contempt for

authority.  He was doing only what he had learned to do at the military

schools of Brienne and Paris, and what he saw practised about him in the

army.  Indeed, the whole French army at that period made a business of

shirking duty.  Every minister of war in the period complains of the

incessant desertions among the common soldiers.  Among the officers it was

no better.  True, they did not desert; they held their places and - did

nothing.  "Those who were rich and well born had no need to work," says

the Marshal Duc de Broglie.  "They were promoted by favoritism.  Those who

were poor and from the provinces had no need to work either.  It did them

no good if they did, for, not having patronage, they could not advance."

The Comte de Saint-Germain said in regard to the officers: "There is not

one who is in active service; they one and all amuse themselves and look

out for their own affairs."


[See Napoleon]


     Napoleon, tormented by the desire to help his family, goaded by his

ambition and by an imperative inborn need of action and achievement, still

divided in his allegiance between France and Corsica, could not have been

expected, in his environment, to take nothing more than the leaves allowed

by law.


     Revolutionary agitation did not absorb all the time he was in

Corsica.  Never did he work harder for his family.  The portion of this

two and a half years which he spent in France, he was accompanied by

Louis, whose tutor he had become, and he suffered every deprivation to

help him.  Napoleon's income at that time was sixty-five cents a day.

This meant that he must live in wretched rooms, prepare himself the broth

on which he and his brother dined, never go to a cafe, brush his own

clothes, give Louis lessons.  He did it bravely.  "I breakfasted off dry

bread, but I bolted my door on my poverty," he said once to a young

officer complaining of the economies he must make on two hundred dollars a



     Economy and privation were always more supportable to him than

borrowing.  He detested irregularities in financial matters.  "Your

finances are deplorably conducted, apparently on metaphysical principles.

Believe me, money is a very physical thing," he once said to Joseph, when

the latter, as King of Naples, could not make both ends meet.  He put

Jerome to sea largely to stop his reckless expenditures.  (At fifteen that

young man paid three thousand two hundred dollars for a shaving case

"containing everything except the beard to enable its owner to use it.")

Some of the most furious scenes which occurred between Napoleon and

Josephine were because she was continually in debt.  After the divorce he

frequently cautioned her to be watchful of her money.  "Think what a bad

opinion I should have of you if I knew you were in debt with an income of

six hundred thousand dollars a year," he wrote her in 1813.


     The methodical habits of Marie Louise were a constant satisfaction to

Napoleon.  "She settles all her accounts once a week, deprives herself of

new gowns if necessary, and imposes privations upon herself in order to

keep out of debt," he said proudly.  A bill of sixty-two francs and

thirty-two centimes was once sent to him for window blinds placed in the

salon of the Princess Borghese.  "As I did not order this expenditure,

which ought not to be charged to my budget, the princess will pay it," he

wrote on the margin.


     It was not parsimony.  It was the man's sense of order.  No one was

more generous in gifts, pensions, salaries; but it irritated him to see

money wasted or managed carelessly.


     Through his long absence in Corsica, and the complaints which the

conservatives of the island had made to the French government of the way

he had handled his battalion of National Guards in a riot at Ajaccio,

Napoleon lost his place in the French army.  He came to Paris in the

spring of 1792, hoping to regain it.  But in the confused condition of

public affairs little attention was given to such cases, and he was

obliged to wait.


     Almost penniless, he dined on six-cent dishes in cheap restaurants,

pawned his watch, and with Bourrienne devised schemes for making a

fortune.  One was to rent some new houses going up in the city and to sub-

let them.  While he waited he saw the famous days of the "Second

Revolution" - the 20th of June, when the mob surrounded the Tuileries,

overran the palace, put the bonnet rouge on Louis XVI.'s head, did

everything but strike, as the agitators had intended.  Napoleon and

Bourrienne, loitering on the outskirts, saw the outrages, and he said, in



     "Che coglione, why did they allow these brutes to come in?  They

ought to have shot down five or six hundred of them with cannon, and the

rest would soon have run."


     He saw the 10th of August, when the king was deposed.  He was still

in Paris when the horrible September massacres began - those massacres in

which, to "save the country," the fanatical and terrified populace

resolved to put "rivers of blood" between Paris and the emigres.  All

these excesses filled him with disgust.  He began to understand that the

Revolution he admired so much needed a head.


     In August Napoleon was restored to the army.  The following June

found him with his regiment in the south of France.  In the interval spent

in Corsica, he had abandoned Paoli and the cause of Corsican independence.

His old hero had been dragged, in spite of himself, into a movement for

separating the island from France.  Napoleon had taken the position that

the French government, whatever its excesses, was the only advocate in

Europe of liberty and equality, and that Corsica would better remain with

France rather than seek English aid, as it must if it revolted.  But he

and his party were defeated, and he with his family was obliged to flee.


     The Corsican period of his life was over; the French had opened.  He

began it as a thorough republican.  The evolution of his enthusiasm for

the Revolution had been natural enough.  He had been a devoted believer in

Rousseau's principles.  The year 1789 had struck down the abuses which

galled him in French society and government.  After the flight of the king

in 1791 he had taken the oath:


     "I swear to employ the arms placed in my hands for the defence of the

country, and to maintain against all her enemies, both from within and

from without, the Constitution as declared by the National Assembly; to

die rather than to suffer the invasion of the French territory by foreign

troops, and to obey orders given in accordance with the decree of the

National Assembly."


     "The nation is now the paramount object," he wrote; "my natural

inclinations are now in harmony with my duties."


     The efforts of the court and the emigres to overthrow the new

government had increased his devotion to France.  "My southern blood leaps

in my veins with the rapidity of the Rhone," he said, when the question of

the preservation of the Constitution was brought up.  The months spent at

Paris in 1792 had only intensified his radical notions.  Now that he had

abandoned his country, rather than assist it to fight the Revolution, he

was better prepared than ever to become a Frenchman.  It seemed the only

way to repair his and his family's fortune.


     The condition of the Bonapartes on arriving in France after their

expulsion from Corsica was abject.  Their property "pillaged, sacked, and

burned," they had escaped penniless - were, in fact, refugees dependent

upon French bounty.  They wandered from place to place, but at last found

a good friend in Monsieur Clary of Marseilles, a soap-boiler, with two

pretty daughters, Julie and Desiree, and Joseph and Napoleon became

inmates of his house.


     It was not as a soldier but as a writer that Napoleon first

distinguished himself in this new period of his life.  An insurrection

against the government had arisen in Marseilles.  In an imaginary

conversation called le souper de Beaucaire, Napoleon discussed the

situation so clearly and justly that Salicetti, Gasparin, and Robespierre

the younger, the deputies who were looking after the South, ordered the

paper published at public expense, and distributed it as a campaign

document.  More, they promised to favor the author when they had an



     It soon came.  Toulon had opened its doors to the English and joined

Marseilles in a counter-revolution.  Napoleon was in the force sent

against the town, and he was soon promoted to the command of the Second

Regiment of artillery.  His energy and skill won him favorable attention.

He saw at once that the important point was not besieging the town, as the

general in command was doing and the Convention had ordered, but in

forcing the allied fleet from the harbor, when the town must fall of

itself.  But the commander-in-chief was slow, and it was not until the

command was changed and an officer of experience and wisdom put in charge

that Napoleon's plans were listened to.  The new general saw at once their

value, and hastened to carry them out.  The result was the withdrawal of

the allies in December, 1793, and the fall of Toulon.  Bonaparte was

mentioned by the general-in-chief as "one of those who have most

distinguished themselves in aiding me," and in February, 1794, was made

general of brigade.


     It is interesting to note that it was at Toulon that Napoleon first

came in contact with the English.  Here he made the acquaintance of Junot,

Marmont, and Duroc.  Barras, too, had his attention drawn to him at the

same time.


     The circumstances which brought Junot and Napoleon together at Toulon

were especially heroic.  Some one was needed to carry an order to an

exposed point.  Napoleon asked for an under officer, audacious and

intelligent.  Junot, then a sergeant, was sent.  "Take off your uniform

and carry this order there," said Napoleon, indicating the point.


     Junot blushed and his eyes flashed. "I am not a spy," he answered;

"find some one beside me to execute such an order."


     "You refuse to obey?" said Napoleon.


     "I am ready to obey," answered Junot, "but I will go in my uniform or

not go at all.  It is honor enough then for these - Englishmen."


     The officer smiled and let him go, but he took pains to find out his



     A few days later Napoleon called for some one in the ranks who wrote

a good hand to come to him.  Junot offered himself, and sat down close to

the battery to write the letter.  He had scarcely finished when a bomb

thrown by the English burst near by and covered him and his letter with



     "Good," said Junot, laughing, "I shall not need any sand to dry the



     Bonaparte looked at the young man, who had not even trembled at the

danger.  From that time the young sergeant remained with the commander of



Main Page

World History Project