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Napoleon In Paris

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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 VI.

 

Napoleon's Return To Paris - The Egyptian Campaign - The 18th Brumaire

 

     In December, 1797, he returned to Paris.  His whole family were

collected there, forming a "Bonaparte colony," as the Parisians called it.

There were Joseph and his wife; Lucien, now married to Christine Boyer,

his old landlord's daughter, a marriage Napoleon never forgave; Eliza, now

Madame Bacciochi; Pauline, now Madame Leclerc.  Madame Letitia was in the

city, with Caroline; Louis and Jerome were still in school.  Josephine had

her daughter Hortense, a girl of thirteen, with her.  Her son Eugene,

though but fifteen years old, was away on a mission for Napoleon, who, in

spite of the boy's youth, had already taken him into his confidence.

According to Napoleon's express desire, all the family lived in great

simplicity.

 

     The return to Paris of the commander-in-chief of the Army of Italy

was the signal for a popular ovation.  The Directory gave him every honor,

changing the name of the street in which he lived to rue de la Victoire,

and making him a member of the Institute; but, conscious of its

feebleness, and inspired by that suspicion which since the Revolution

began had caused the ruin of so many men, it planned to get rid of him.

 

     Of the coalition against France, formed in 1793, one member alone

remained in arms - England.  Napoleon was to be sent against her.  An

invasion of the island was first discussed, and he made an examination of

the north coast.  His report was adverse, and he substituted a plan for

the invasion of Egypt - an old idea in the French government.

 

     The Directory gladly accepted the change, and Napoleon was made

commander-in-chief of the Army of Egypt.  On the 4th of May he left Paris

for Toulon.

 

     To Napoleon this expedition was a merciful escape.  He once said to

Madame Remusat:

 

     "In Paris, and Paris is France, they never can take the smallest

interest in things, if they do not take it in persons.  . . . The great

difficulty of the Directory was that no one cared about them, and that

people began to care too much about me.  This was why I conceived the

happy idea of going to Egypt."

 

     He was under the influence, too, of his imagination; the Orient had

always tempted him.  It is certain that he went away with gigantic

projects - nothing less than to conquer the whole of the East, and to

become its ruler and lawgiver.

 

     "I dreamed of all sorts of things, and I saw a way of carrying all my

projects into practical execution.  I would create a new religion.  I saw

myself in Asia, upon an elephant, wearing a turban, and holding in my hand

a new Koran which I had myself composed.  I would have united in my

enterprise the experiences of two hemispheres, exploring for my benefit

and instruction all history, attacking the power of England in the Indies,

and renewing, by their conquest, my relations with old Europe.  The time I

passed in Egypt was the most delightful period of my life, for it was the

most ideal."

 

     His friends, watching his irritation during the days before the

campaign had been decided upon, said: "A free flight in space is what such

wings demand.  He will die here.  He must go." He himself said: "Paris

weighs on me like a leaden mantle."

 

     Napoleon sailed from France on May 19, 1798; on June 9th he reached

Malta, and won for France "the strongest place in Europe." July 2d he

entered Alexandria.  On July 23d he entered Cairo, after the famous battle

of the Pyramids.

 

     The French fleet had remained in Aboukir Bay after landing the army,

and on August 1st was attacked by Nelson.  Napoleon had not realized,

before this battle, the power of the English on the sea.  He knew nothing

of Nelson's genius.  The destruction of his fleet, and the consciousness

that he and his army were prisoners in the Orient, opened his eyes to the

greatest weakness of France.

 

     The winter was spent in reorganizing the government of Egypt and in

scientific work.  Over one hundred scientists had been added to the Army

of Egypt, including some of the most eminent men of the day: Monge,

Geoffroy-St.-Hilaire, Berthollet, Fourier, and Denon.  From their arrival

every opportunity was given them to carry on their work.  To stimulate

them, Napoleon founded the Institute of Egypt, in which membership was

granted as a reward for services.

 

     These scientists went out in every direction, pushing their

investigations up the Nile as far as Philoe, tracing the bed of the old

canal from Suez to the Nile, unearthing ancient monuments, making

collections of the flora and fauna, examining in detail the arts and

industries of the people.  Everything, from the inscription on the Rosetta

Stone to the incubation of chickens, received their attention.  On the

return of the expedition, their researches were published in a magnificent

work called "Description de l'Egypte." The information gathered by the

French at this time gave a great impetus to the study of Egyptology, and

their investigations on the old Suez canal led directly to the modern

work.

 

     The peaceful work of science and law-giving which Napoleon was

conducting in Egypt was interrupted by the news that the Porte had

declared war against France, and that two Turkish armies were on their way

to Egypt.  In March he set off to Syria to meet the first.

 

     This Syrian expedition was a failure, ending in a retreat made

horrible not only by the enemy in the rear, but by pestilence and heat.

 

     The disaster was a terrible disillusion for Napoleon.  It ended his

dream of an Oriental realm for himself, of a kingdom embracing the whole

Mediterranean for France.  "I missed my fortune at St. Jean d'Acre," he

told his brother Lucien afterward; and again, "I think my imagination died

at St. Jean d'Acre." The words are those of the man whose discouragement

at a failure was as profound as his hope at success was high.

 

     As Napoleon entered Egypt from Syria, he learned that the second

Turkish army was near the Bay of Aboukir.  He turned against it and

defeated it completely.  In the exchange of prisoners made after the

battle, a bundle of French papers fell into his hands.  It was the first

news he had had for ten months from France, and sad news it was: Italy

lost, an invasion of Austrians and Russians threatening, the Directory

discredited and tottering.

 

     If the Oriental empire of his imagination had fallen, might it not be

that in Europe a kingdom awaited him?  He decided to leave Egypt at once,

and with the greatest secrecy prepared for his departure.  The army was

turned over to Kleber, and with four small vessels he sailed for France on

the night of August 22, 1799.  On October 16th he was in Paris.

 

     For a long time nothing had been heard of Napoleon in France.  The

people said he had been exiled by the jealous Directory.  His

disappearance into the Orient had all the mystery and fascination of an

Eastern tale.  His sudden reappearance had something of the heroic in it.

He came like a god from Olympus, unheralded, but at the critical moment.

 

     The joy of the people, who at that day certainly preferred a hero to

suffrage, was spontaneous and sincere.  His journey from the coast to

Paris was a triumphal march.  Le retour du heros was the word in

everybody's mouth.  On every side the people cried: "You alone can save

the country.  It is perishing without you.  Take the reins of government."

 

     At Paris he found the government waiting to be overthrown.  "A brain

and a sword" was all that was needed to carry out a coup d'etat organized

while he was still in Africa.  Everybody recognized him as the man for the

hour.  A large part of the military force in Paris was devoted to him.

His two brothers, Lucien and Joseph, were in positions of influence, the

former president of the Five Hundred, as one of the two chambers was

called.  All that was most distinguished in the political, military,

legal, and artistic circles of Paris rallied to him.  Among the men who

supported him were Talleyrand, Sieyes, Chenier, Roederer, Monge,

Cambaceres, Moreau, Berthier, Murat.

 

     On the 18th Brumaire (the 9th of November), 1799, the plot

culminated, and Napoleon was recognized as the temporary Dictator of

France.

 

     The private sorrow to which Napoleon returned, was as great as the

public glory.  During the campaign in Egypt he had learned beyond a doubt

that Josephine's coquetry had become open folly, and that a young officer,

Hippolyte Charles, whom he had dismissed from the Army of Italy two years

before, was installed at Malmaison.  The liaison was so scandalous that

Gohier, the president of the Directory, advised Josephine to get a divorce

from Napoleon and marry Charles.

 

     These rumors reached Egypt, and Napoleon, in despair, even talked

them over with Eugene de Beauharnais.  The boy defended his mother, and

for a time succeeded in quieting Napoleon's resentment.  At last, however,

he learned in a talk with Junot that the gossip was true.  He lost all

control of himself, and declared he would have a divorce.  The idea was

abandoned, but the love and reverence he had given Josephine were dead.

From that time she had no empire over his heart, no power to inspire him

to action or to enthusiasm.

     When he landed in France from Egypt, Josephine, foreseeing a storm,

started out to meet him at Lyons.  Unfortunately she took one road and

Napoleon another, and when he reached Paris at six o'clock in the morning

he found no one at home.  When Josephine arrived Napoleon refused to see

her, and it was three days before he relented.  Then his forgiveness was

due to the intercession of Hortense and Eugene, to both of whom he was

warmly attached.

 

     But if he consented to pardon, he could never give again the

passionate affection which he once had felt for her.  He ceased to be a

lover, and became a commonplace, tolerant, indulgent, bourgeois husband,

upon whom his wife, in matters of importance, had no influence.  Josephine

was hereafter the suppliant, but she never regained the noble kingdom she

had despised.

 

     Napoleon's domestic sorrow weakened in no way his activity and vigor

in public affairs.  He realized that, if he would keep his place in the

hearts and confidence of the people, he must do something to show his

strength, and peace was the gift he proposed to make to the nation.  When

he returned he found a civil war raging in La Vendee.  Before February he

had ended it.  All over France brigandage had made life and property

uncertain.  It was stopped by his new regime.

 

     Two foreign enemies only remained at war with France - Austria and

England.  He offered them peace.  It was refused.  Nothing remained but to

compel it.  The Austrians were first engaged.  They had two armies in the

field; one on the Rhine, against which Moreau was sent, the other in Italy

- now lost to France - besieging the French shut up in Genoa.

 

     Moreau conducted the campaign in the Rhine countries with skill,

fighting two successful battles, and driving his opponent from Ulm.

 

     Napoleon decided that he would himself carry on the Italian campaign,

but of that he said nothing in Paris.  His army was quietly brought

together as a reserve force; then suddenly, on May 6, 1800, he left Paris

for Geneva.  Immediately his plan became evident.  It was nothing else

than to cross the Alps and fall upon the rear of the Austrians, then

besieging Genoa.

 

     Such an undertaking was a veritable coup de theatre.  Its

accomplishment was not less brilliant than its conception.  Three

principal passes lead from Switzerland into Italy: Mont Cenis, the Great

Saint Bernard, and the Mount Saint Gothard.  The last was already held by

the Austrians.  The first is the westernmost, and here Napoleon directed

the attention of General Melas, the Austrian commander.  The central, or

Mount Saint Bernard, Pass was left almost defenceless, and here the French

army was led across, a passage surrounded by enormous difficulties,

particularly for the artillery, which had to be taken to pieces and

carried or dragged by the men.

 

     Save the delay which the enemy caused the French at Fort Bard, where

five hundred men stopped the entire army, Napoleon met with no serious

resistance in entering Italy.  Indeed, the Austrians treated the force

with contempt, declaring that it was not the First Consul who led it, but

an adventurer, and that the army was not made up of French, but of refugee

Italians.

 

     This rumor was soon known to be false.  On June 2d Napoleon entered

Milan.  It was evident that a conflict was imminent, and to prepare his

soldiers Bonaparte addressed them:

 

     "Soldiers, one of our departments was in the power of the enemy;

consternation was in the south of France; the greatest part of the

Ligurian territory, the most faithful friends of the Republic, had been

invaded.  The Cisalpine Republic had again become the grotesque plaything

of the feudal regime.  Soldiers, you march - and already the French

territory is delivered!  Joy and hope have succeeded in your country to

consternation and fear.

 

     "You give back liberty and independence to the people of Genoa.  You

have delivered them from their eternal enemies.  You are in the capital of

the Cisalpine.  The enemy, terrified, no longer hopes for anything, except

to regain its frontiers.  You have taken possession of its hospitals, its

magazines, its resources.

 

     "The first act of the campaign is terminated.  Every day you hear

millions of men thanking you for your deeds.

 

     "But shall it be said that French territory has been violated with

impunity?  Shall we allow an army which has carried fear into our families

to return to its firesides?  Will you run with your arms?  Very well,

march to the battle; forbid their retreat; tear from them the laurels of

which they have taken possession; and so teach the world that the curse of

destiny is on the rash who dare insult the territory of the Great People.

The result of all our efforts will be spotless glory, solid peace."

 

     Melas, the Austrian commander, had lost much time; but finally

convinced that it was really Bonaparte who had invaded Italy, and that he

had actually reached Milan, he advanced into the plain of Marengo.  He had

with him an army of from fifty to sixty thousand men well supplied with

artillery.

 

     Bonaparte, ignorant that so large a force was at Marengo, advanced

into the plain with only a portion of his army.  On June 14th Melas

attacked him.  Before noon the French saw that they had to do with the

entire Austrian army.  For hours the battle was waged furiously, but with

constant loss on the side of the French.  In spite of the most intrepid

fighting the army gave way.  "At four o'clock in the afternoon," says a

soldier who was present, "there remained in a radius of two leagues not

over six thousand infantry, a thousand horse, and six pieces of cannon.  A

third of our army was not in condition for battle.  The lack of carriages

to transport the sick made another third necessary for this painful task.

Hunger, thirst, fatigue, had forced a great number to withdraw.  The sharp

shooters for the most part had lost the direction of their regiments."

 

     "He who in these frightful circumstances would have said, 'In two

hours we shall have gained the battle, made ten thousand prisoners, taken

several generals, fifteen flags, forty cannons; the enemy shall have

delivered to us eleven fortified places and all the territory of beautiful

Italy; they will soon defile shamefaced before our ranks; an armistice

will suspend the plague of war and bring back peace into our country,' -

he, I say, who would have said that, would have seemed to insult our

desperate situation."

 

     The battle was won finally by the French through the fortunate

arrival of Desaix with reenforcements and the imperturbable courage of the

commander-in-chief.  Bonaparte's coolness was the marvel of those who

surrounded him.

 

     "At the moment when the dead and the dying covered the earth, the

Consul was constantly braving death.  He gave his orders with his

accustomed coolness, and saw the storm approach without seeming to fear

it.  Those who saw him, forgetting the danger that menaced them, said:

'What if he should be killed?  Why does he not go back?' It is said that

General Berthier begged him to do so.

 

     "Once General Berthier came to him to tell him that the army was

giving way and that the retreat had commenced.  Bonaparte said to him:

'General, you do not tell me that with sufficient coolness'.' This

greatness of soul, this firmness, did not leave him in the greatest

dangers.  When the Fifty-ninth Brigade reached the battle-field the action

was the hottest.  The First Consul advanced toward them and cried: 'Come,

my brave soldiers, spread your banners; the moment has come to distinguish

yourselves.  I count on your courage to avenge your comrades." At the

moment that he pronounced these words, five men were struck down near him.

He turned with a tranquil air towards the enemy, and said: 'Come, my

friends, charge them.'

 

     "I had curiosity enough to listen attentively to his voice, to

examine his features.  The most courageous man, the hero the most eager

for glory, might have been overcome in his situation without any one

blaming him.  But he was not.  In these frightful moments, when fortune

seemed to desert him, he was still the Bonaparte of Arcola and Aboukir."

 

     When Desaix came up with his division, Bonaparte took an hour to

arrange for the final charge.  During this time the Austrian artillery was

thundering upon the army, each volley carrying away whole lines.  The men

received death without moving from their places, and the ranks closed over

the bodies of their comrades.  This deadly artillery even reached the

cavalry, drawn up behind, as well as a large number of infantry who,

encouraged by Desaix's arrival, had hastened back to the field of honor.

In spite of the horror of this preparation Bonaparte did not falter.  When

he was ready he led his army in an impetuous charge which overwhelmed the

Austrians completely, though it cost the French one of their bravest

generals, Desaix.  It was a frightful struggle, but the perfection with

which the final attack was planned, won the battle of Marengo and drove

the Austrians from Italy.

 

     The Parisians were dazzled by the campaign.  Of the passage of the

Alps they said, "It is an achievement greater than Hannibal's;" and they

repeated how "the First Consul had pointed his finger at the frozen

summits, and they had bowed their heads." At the news of Marengo the

streets were lit with "joy fires," and from wall to wall rang the cries of

Vive la republique!  Vive le premier consul!  Vive l'armee!

 

     The campaign against the Austrians was finished December 3, 1800, by

the battle of Hohenlinden, won by Moreau, and in February the treaty of

Luneville established peace.  England was slower in coming to terms, it

not being until March, 1802, that she signed the treaty of Amiens.

 

     At last France was at peace with all the world.  She hailed Napoleon

as her savior, and ordered that the 18th Brumaire be celebrated throughout

the republic as a solemn fete in his honor.

 

     The country saw in him something greater than a peacemaker.  She was

discovering that he was to be her law giver, for, while ending the wars,

he had begun to bring order into the interior chaos which had so long

tormented the French people, to reestablish the finances, the laws, the

industries, to restore public works, to encourage the arts and sciences,

even to harmonize the interests of rich and poor, of church and state.

 

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