Page images

would bind them to his fortunes, and that wherever they were to be found they would be auxiliaries to second his projects.'

The labours of the commission were by no means fruitless, though scarcely noticed by French historians. A synod of rabbis was assembled, and valuable information was procured on most of the subjects referred for inquiry. As the rabbis, however, did not possess authority to bind the Jewish people, Napoleon consented to convene a grand Sanhedrim of the race of Israel, a kind of ecumenical Jewish council, which was to pronounce upon the questions at issue, and to settle the relations of the Jews with the Empire. The Sanhedrim, composed of learned men and sages collected from every part of Christendom, actually met in Paris in the spring of 1807, and it seemed for a time probable that an alliance between the children of the nation scattered by Titus and the crowned master of revolutionary France would become ere long an accomplished fact. Napoleon, however, had been displeased at the conduct of the Jews in Poland and Germany; he dissolved the Sanhedrim before Friedland was fought, and he never recurred to his Jewish policy amidst the engrossing toils of the later years of his reign. Pasquier and his colleagues, however, did some useful work. Molé, it may be observed, was much less liberal than the other members of the commission:

'We succeeded, nevertheless, in obtaining the sanction of law, without alteration, to the arrangements which we had with difficulty secured the adoption of, for the organisation of the Jewish religion, and for its internal regulation throughout the French Empire and the kingdom of Italy.'

The events that led to the invasion of Spain are briefly described in this volume, but Pasquier has added nothing to what is already known. He insists that Talleyrand was the chief adviser of this iniquitous and disastrous enterprise, and Talleyrand's Memoirs really confirm this view. Napoleon, over and over again, has said the same thing:

'Talleyrand from this time forward no doubt employed in the Imperial presence a line of argument which he loved to pursue, for I have often heard him dwell on it. "The crown of Spain has belonged since Louis XIV. to the family reigning in France, and it cannot be a subject of regret that the succession of Philip V. cost blood and treasure, for it has secured the preponderance of France in Europe. It is one of the finest parts of the inheritance of the Great King, and the Emperor must make the entire of this inheritance his own, he must not give up a fraction of it."

Pasquier, too, declares that Talleyrand played false with Napoleon in the celebrated negotiations that took place at Erfurt, and, not to speak of the revelations of Vitrolles,* this can be collected also from Talleyrand's Memoirs. The additional charge of corruption is made by Pasquier :

'Talleyrand was desirous, above all things, I have said so already, to become again necessary and indispensable, and for this purpose it was expedient that every means of resistance to the projects of invasion and to the ideas of domination in Germany entertained by his master should not be overcome. Besides, M. de Talleyrand served his turn in a most advantageous way in his dealings with Austria; the treaties that paid him best were those he negotiated with that Power; he owed to them the greatest part of his fortune, for the Cabinet of Vienna knew, as well as any other, how to make the sacrifices required.'

This volume scarcely alludes to the invasion of Spain, conducted by Napoleon in person, after Vimeiro and the disaster of Baylen. The return of the Emperor to France, after the pursuit of Moore, was due not only to Austrian armaments, but to the intrigues of secret enemies at home, who distracted and wished to subvert his government. Thiers, like almost every other historian, passes lightly over these underhand plots; but they were, perhaps, more formidable than has been commonly supposed. Fouché and Talleyrand, hostile to each other for years, had become reconciled for a common object; and Pasquier asserts that they had made overtures to Murat to fill Napoleon's throne, should the Emperor's life be cut short in Spain—an event considered likely to happen :

'The two new friends cast their eyes on Murat, who had just been made King of Naples, and whose silly vanity had not been satisfied by this lofty promotion, for he had reckoned on obtaining the throne of Spain, the only one which he thought he should occupy, and to which he conceived he had a title after his energetic conduct at Madrid during the proceedings at Bayonne. . . . As to Madame Murat, the sister of the Emperor, her ambition was so extravagant that she could be brought to accept anything. This she sufficiently proved at a later period.' The sudden return of Napoleon put an end to these schemes; the vials of Imperial wrath were discharged on Talleyrand, who was summarily dismissed from his high place at Court. Thiers tones down the violence of the Emperor's language; Pasquier gives it in its more genuine crudeness:


'You are a thief, a coward, a faithless creature-you do not believe in

[ocr errors][merged small]

God. All your life you have set your duty at nought, have deceived and betrayed everyone; nothing is sacred for you: you would sell your own father. I have lavished benefits on you, but you would do anything to annoy me. During the last ten months you have had the impudence to give people to understand that you have always condemned my policy as regards Spain, because, rightly or wrongly, you had taken it into your head that my affairs there were in a bad way, and yet it was you who gave me the first suggestion, you who steadily pushed me onward. And as for that unhappy man (the Duc d'Enghien), who gave me information of the spot where he was living? Who urged me to take vengeance on him? What are your plots? What do you want? What do you expect? Speak out if you dare! You deserve to be broken like a piece of glass; you deserve it, but I despise you too heartily to take the trouble.'

Talleyrand probably never forgave this outrage, whitelivered and supple courtier as he was; but he remained one of the leading men of the Empire, and repeatedly gave Napoleon advice on the most difficult questions of policy. It must be added-a proof of his treacherous nature, one of the most odious vices of the revolutionary age-that he had been congratulating Napoleon a few weeks before on the success of his triumphant advance on Madrid :

'Napoleon had no reason to suspect Talleyrand's change of conduct, for there was nothing in the correspondence between M. de Talleyrand and himself which could induce him to foresee it; the letters contain no indication of blame or even of warning. So far from that being the case, I have lately seen-I speak of 1829- -a letter of M. de Talleyrand, written after the news of the affair of the Somo Sierra Pass, and probably received by Napoleon on his arrival at Madrid; the letter was full of felicitous anticipation, and expressed a conviction that the approaching entry of the Emperor into the capital of Spain would, after so many brilliant victories, cause the Spaniards to lay down their arms, and secure the establishment of the Napoleonic dynasty on the throne of Spain.'

We need not follow the campaign of Essling and Wagram, the last, and a doubtful, triumph of the now declining Empire. Nor shall we dwell on the divorce of Joséphine, or on the deliberations of the Imperial Council convened to examine the grave question of the future consort of the lord of the Continent. Talleyrand was present at it, disgraced as he had been, and spoke strongly in favour of Marie Louise. Pasquier describes the bearing of Joséphine on the last occasion when she held state at the Tuileries:

'I shall never forget the last evening on which the devoted Empress did the honours of her Court. It was the day before the dissolution of her marriage was to be pronounced. There was a large assemblage;

supper, as usual, was served in the Galerie de Diane upon a great number of little tables. Joséphine was seated at the centre table, and men surrounded her, seeking the courteous bow she made to those with whom she was acquainted. I was for a few minutes near her, and I could not help being struck with the perfect propriety of her manner in the presence of the Court which still bore her homage, and yet could not but know it was for the last time-that in an hour or so she would descend from the throne, and would leave the palace not to enter it again. It is a gift of women only to overcome the difficulties of such a situation; but I question if another woman could be found that could emerge from it with such perfect grace and dignity; the attitude of Napoleon was not equal to that of his victim.'

During these events Pasquier had risen by degrees to a distinguished place in the Conseil d'Etat. He had been charged with more than one important mission, and he was made a kind of secretary to a committee, with Cambacérès at its head, to regulate the armorial bearings of the noblesse of the Empire. This new creation, as everyone knows, failed to establish an aristocracy in a real sense in France. This was inevitable from the nature of things; but it facilitated the establishment of the Chamber of Peers on the restoration of the Bourbon Monarchy. Napoleon, it appears, would not bestow coronets on the nobles on whom he had conferred titles:

'We had to prepare the forms and arrangements of the coats of arms. I only refer to this to mention a trait of singular littleness of mind in such a man as Napoleon. He would never permit that, according to European usage, the escutcheons should have the addition of coronets differing according to the degree of the titles. He seemed to think that there was a usurpation of his rights in the possession and use of these insignia. His susceptibility in this matter could never be overcome; and instead of coronets we had to adopt plumed crests, varying in the number of plumes from one to seven, according to the various titles.'

The following is characteristic of the rude wit of the Emperor in his address to women :

'Madame de Montmorency had been made a countess, and she asked to be a baroness only, the title which she bore in 1789, and which had always been preferred by the elder sons of the house of Montmorency, eager to maintain the designation of first barons of Christendom, that had been theirs from time immemorial. Napoleon steadily opposed her request, and alluding to instances of her light conduct in youth, "You are not," he said, "good Christian enough to have a claim to this honour."

In 1810 Pasquier was made president of a commission appointed to examine the evils done to the old Dutch

Republic by the Continental system; it was now the brandnew kingdom of Louis Bonaparte. He gives an account, somewhat different from that of Thiers, of the negotiations with Labouchere, and the intrigues of Fouché as regards their proposals of peace with England; but this does not require our notice. He was struck with the obstinacy of King Louis in resisting the will of his all-powerful brother, and dwells on this characteristic of the House of Bonaparte, as well as on their curious Imperial instincts, a quality attested by many writers:

The Bonapartes, it must be acknowledged, are of no ordinary type; their excellences and defects, their virtues and vices were not of the vulgar kind, and have distinctive features of their own. Their special peculiarity was obstinacy of will and inflexibility of resolve.

There was another striking feature in their natures. The moment any one of them had entered the course that led to the rank of sovereign, their most intimate friends never saw them give up for an instant their fixed purpose to reach the most elevated positions; they thought that that was their destiny. They had the instinct of greatness.'

Napoleon's sisters are less known than his brothers; the following sketch is in the main accurate :

"The eldest of the three sisters has almost reigned in Tuscany, with the title of Grand Duchess; she made herself popular; this fortunate country owed to her a consideration not accorded to the other States annexed to France. Her memory is still held in esteem, notwithstanding the disorders of her private life, which were not sufficiently kept out of sight. The Princess Pauline, wife of Prince Borghese, was perhaps the most beautiful woman of the day; this was the one advantage she turned to account. . . . Caroline, wife of Murat, and Queen of Naples, was very like the Emperor. Though her charms were very seductive, she was not so lovely as Pauline; but, if as free from scruple as her sisters, she had much more respect for appearances; besides ambition was her master passion. . . . She was mad enough to imagine that her fortune could survive the catastrophe of that of Napoleon. In that extraordinary race, the most sacred obligations and the warmest affections were disregarded for the sake of the combinations of politics; nevertheless, they had all strong family feelings.'

Pasquier beheld the carnival of the Austrian marriage, the abyss of flowers' of Napoleon's fortunes; and tells us how, in the enthusiasm of the hour, even Metternich nearly went supperless to bed :

'He seemed as if he had sadly made up his mind to do without his dinner when M. Regnaud invited him to take his chance with us. . . . He was in excellent spirits, and, as he was leaving the table, filled his glass, walked to a window overlooking the gallery that separated us from the crowds in the gardens, and drank to the health of "the King of Rome.""

« PreviousContinue »