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Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte: Volume 2—1802-1813

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Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte: Volume 2—1802-1813
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Author(s): Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne
Date Published: 2012/04
Page Count: 528
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-825-5
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-824-8

The second volume of a three volume special edition of this famous memoir

Students interested in the age of Napoleon are aware of the writings of the diplomat, Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne, the author of these substantial and celebrated memoirs. Bourrienne’s texts have frequently been published in multi-volume editions in abridged and unabridged form. This Leonaur edition offers the entire work, unabridged, in an accessible three volumes, to enable students of the period to own Bourrienne’s work at a reasonable cost. All personal memoirs suffer from a subjectivity that tends to portray the author in a good light and often gloss over his worst qualities while seeking to deny or justify less admirable actions. In this Bourrienne’s work is no exception, for despite the book’s title Bourrienne’s activities feature prominently and many critics have focussed upon this aspect of his work. Nevertheless, Bourrienne knew Napoleon from the earliest days when they were students together. As young men they saw the rise of Revolutionary France and Bourrienne continued to be a close member of Napoleon’s court during his meteoric acquisition of power. Bourrienne’s knowledge of Napoleon throughout the greater part of his career is virtually without parallel and it is for this reason that these books are essential reading for all those interested in the life of this great and driven man.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

After the speech of M. Gauthier, the advocate of Coster St. Victor, the President inquired of the accused whether he had anything further to say in his defence, to which he replied, “I have only to add that the witnesses necessary to my exculpation have not yet appeared. I must besides express my surprise at the means which have been employed to lead astray public opinion, and to load with infamy not only the accused but also their intrepid defenders. I have read with pain in the journals of today that the proceedings—”<br>
Here the President interrupting, observed that “these were circumstances foreign to the case.”<br>
“Not in the least,” replied Coster St. Victor; “on the contrary, they bear very materially on the cause, since mangling and misrepresenting our defence is a practice assuredly calculated to ruin us in the estimation of the public. In the journals of today the speech of M. Gauthier is shamefully garbled, and I should be deficient in gratitude were I not here to bear testimony to the zeal and courage which he has displayed in my defence. I protest against the puerilities and absurdities which have been put into his mouth, and I entreat him not to relax in his generous efforts. It is not on his account that I make this observation; he does not require it at my hands; it is for myself, it is for the accused, whom such arts tend to injure in the estimation of the public.”<br>
Coster St. Victor had something chivalrous in his language and manners which spoke greatly in his favour; he conveyed no bad idea of one of the Fiesco conspirators, or of those leaders of the Fronde who intermingled gallantry with their politics.<br>
An anecdote to this effect was current about the period of the trial. Coster St. Victor, it is related, being unable any longer to find a secure asylum in Paris, sought refuge for a single night in the house of a beautiful actress, formerly in the good graces of the First Consul; and it is added that Bonaparte, on the same night, having secretly arrived on a visit to the lady, found himself unexpectedly in the presence of Coster St. Victor, who might have taken his life; but that only an interchange of courtesy took place betwixt the rival gallants.
<br>This ridiculous story was doubtless intended to throw additional odium on the First Consul, if Coster St. Victor should be condemned and not obtain a pardon, in which case malignity would not fail to attribute his execution to the vengeance of a jealous lover.<br>
I should blush to relate such stories, equally destitute of probability and truth, had they not obtained some credit at the time. Whilst I was with Bonaparte he never went abroad during the night; and it was not surely at a moment when the saying of Fouché, “The air is full of poniards,” was fully explained that he would have risked such nocturnal adventures.<br>
Wright was heard in the sixth sitting, on the 2nd of June, as the hundred and thirty-fourth witness in support of the prosecution. He, however, refused to answer any interrogatories put to him, declaring that, as a prisoner of war, he considered himself only amenable to his own government.<br>
The Procureur-Général requested the President to order the examinations of Captain Wright on the 21st of May and at a later period to be read over to him; which being done, the witness replied, that it was omitted to be stated that on these occasions the questions had been accompanied with the threat of transferring him to a military tribunal, in order to be shot, if he did not betray the secrets of his country.<br>
In the course of the trial the most lively interest was felt for MM. de Polignac, Charles d’Hozier, and de Rivière. So short a period had elapsed since the proscription of the nobility that, independently of every feeling of humanity, it was certainly impolitic to exhibit before the public the heirs of an illustrious name, endowed with that devoted heroism which could not fail to extort admiration even from those who condemned their opinions and principles.<br>
The prisoners were all young, and their situation create universal sympathy. The greatest number of them disdained to have recourse to a denial, and seemed less anxious for the preservation of their own lives than for the honour of the cause in which they had embarked, not with the view of assassination, as had been demonstrated, but for the purpose of ascertaining the true state of the public feeling, which had been represented by some factious intriguers as favourable to the Bourbons. Even when the sword of the law was suspended over their heads the faithful adherents of the Bourbons displayed on every occasion their attachment and fidelity to the royal cause. I recollect that the court was dissolved in tears when the President adduced as a proof of the guilt of M. de Rivière his having worn a medal of the Comte d’Artois, which the prisoner requested to examine; and, on its being handed to him by an officer, M. de Rivière pressed it to his lips and his heart, then returning it, he said that he only wished to render homage to the prince whom he loved.<br>
The court was still more deeply affected on witnessing the generous fraternal struggle which took place during the last sitting between the two De Polignacs. The emotion was general when the eldest of the brothers, after having observed that his always going out alone and during the day did not look like a conspirator anxious for concealment, added these remarkable words which will remain indelibly engraven on my memory: “I have now only one wish, which is that, as the sword is suspended over our heads, and threatens to cut short the existence of several of the accused, you would, in consideration of his youth if not of his innocence, spare my brother, and shower down upon me the whole weight of your vengeance.” It was during the last sitting but one, on Friday the 8th of June, that M. Armand de Polignac made the above affecting appeal in favour of his brother.<br>
The following day, before the fatal sentence was pronounced, M. Jules de Polignac addressed the judges, saying, “I was so deeply affected yesterday, while my brother was speaking, as not fully to have attended to what I read in my own defence: but being now perfectly tranquil, I entreat, gentlemen, that you will not regard what he urged in my behalf. I repeat, on the contrary, and with most justice, if one of us must fall a sacrifice, if there be yet time, save him, restore him to the tears of his wife; I have no tie like him, I can meet death unappalled;—too young to have tasted the pleasures of the world, I cannot regret their loss.”<br>
“No, no,” exclaimed his brother, “you are still in the outset of your career; it is I who ought to fall.”<br>
At eight in the morning the members of the Tribunal withdrew to the council-chamber. Since the commencement of the proceedings the crowd, far from diminishing, seemed each day to increase; this morning it was immense, and, though the sentence was not expected to be pronounced till a late hour, no one quitted the Court for fear of not being able to find a place when the Tribunal should resume its sitting.<br>
Sentence of death was passed upon Georges Caudoudal, Bouvet de Lozier, Rusillon, Rochelle, Armand de Polignac, Charles d’Hozier, De Rivière, Louis Ducorps, Picot, Lajolais, Roger, Coster St. Victor, Deville, Gaillard, Joyaut, Burban, Lemercier, Jean Cadudol, Lelan, and Merille; while Jules de Polignac, Leridant, General Moreau, Rolland, and Hisay were only condemned to two years’ imprisonment.<br>
This decree was heard with consternation by the assembly, and soon spread throughout Paris. I may well affirm it to have been a day of public mourning; even though it was Sunday every place of amusement was nearly deserted. To the horror inspired by a sentence of death passed so wantonly, and of which the greater number of the victims belonged to the most distinguished class of society, was joined the ridicule inspired by the condemnation of Moreau; of the absurdity of which no one seemed more sensible than Bonaparte himself, and respecting which he expressed himself in the most pointed terms. I am persuaded that everyone who narrowly watched the proceedings of this celebrated trial must have been convinced that all means were resorted to in order that Moreau, once accused, should not appear entirely free from guilt.