Newspaper Accounts of the Trial and Execution of Marshal Michel Ney: Preliminary Events
By Susan Howard
These articles are taken from the archives of the The Times of London of 1815. They are mainly translations from the French newspapers with some private correspondence and leader articles. The articles were printed uncensored, though possibly shortened. There are places where the translation is clumsy: they were usually translated and printed within 24 hours of the papers being received from France. Some of the print quality is poor and I have had to guess at some words; where I have been unable to do this, I have marked them [illegible]. I have preserved the archaic punctuation and inconsistent spelling but have altered the layout to make it easier to read - the original was compressed into narrow columns. Any notes of mine are in italics in square brackets: all other italics are in the text.
Leader Article - extract.
....... At Boulogne it was believed, that the Duke of Wellington had offered to reconfirm the treaty of Fontainebleau, provided Buonaparte was given up to him. At Dunkirk, however, it was understood that His Grace had given a list of the most criminal individuals, and insisted upon their being put at his disposal, as a condition for his sparing Paris. The latter conjecture is undoubtedly the more reasonable; but we conclude it is only conjecture. As to accepting again the treaty of Fontainebleau, which we have experienced to be so lamentably deficient in security to ourselves and the world, it would be the height of folly, not to say criminality, to make such an arrangement.
The traitors in France seem to entertain an idea that they may plunge Europe in blood at their pleasure. As Philip of Macedon said of the Athenians after the battle of Cheronea, "they think war is a game which they may begin for their amusement, and break off at their convenience." But all Europe is indignant at the impunity which these wretches have so long enjoyed: it is indignant, that so many thousands of valuable lives should have been sacrificed, merely because France could not, or would not, restrain these unprincipled villains. They must, therefore, be brought under the strong hand of the law. France must be saved in spite of herself. The French monarchy must be strengthened and secured for our own sakes; for we have certainly as much right to compel the coercion of these dangerous and desperate men, as a private individual has to oblige his neighbour to chain up a mad dog. Let any one but contemplate the savege ferocity of character which is displayed by all those men in France who boastingly call themselves les braves - that is to say, by the veteran soldiers of Buonaparte, who have been taught to consider bravery as an exemption from every social principle , and from every moral duty. Let any one reflect on the atrocious infamy of a Ney or a Labedoyere........
Since my last letter the utmost tranquillity has prevailed, and the cause of loyalty, of liberty, and of justice becomes more triumphant every day. I announced to you the suicide of Brune, and the arrest of Ney. Both these facts are confirmed by official intelligence.
The latter conspirator was discovered in the canton of Figeac, in the department of Lot, and has been conducted to the town of Aurillac, which is about 127 leagues south of Paris. he will soon be brought to justice. The notoriety of his crimes renders all comment unnecessary; but there is one fact in the history of his treason which may not be generally known in England. During the operation of the plot for Buonaparte's return such large sums were distributed, that at last the conspirators found their supplies exhausted. Money, however, must be procured; and Ney (will posterity credit such consummate baseness?) applied to the king himself for the means of overthrowing him. The unsuspecting Monarch yielded to his request, and the traitor actually received a million on his departure for Lyons, with which he endeavoured to corrupt every officer in whom the least confidence was reposed. Such has been the complicated perfidy of this villain, for whose punishment no sign of pity will be shewn: the enormity of his guilt suppresses every kind of emotion of the heart.
Ordinance of the King
Louis by the Grace of God King of France and Navarre, to all, &c.
Taking into consideration our Decrees of the 24th of July and 2d of August, in virtue of which Marshal Ney is ordered before the Court Martial of the 1st military division, sitting at Paris (department of the Seine) :
Taking into consideration the order of the 21st of August, by which our minister, secretary of state for the war department, has nominated the members which are to compose this Court-martial :
Considering that by the terms of that appointment, and in virtue of the 5th art. of the law of the 4th Fructidor, year 5, Marshal Moncey, Duc de Conegliano, is called to preside over the said Court-martial, as being the oldest of the Marshals of France, taking into consideration the letters of Marshal Moncey, from which it appears that he has not the only excuse which, after the 6th article of the law of 13 Brumaire, would be valid to exempt him from presiding at the said Court-martial ;
Considering that the refusal of Marshal Moncey can be ascribed to nothing else but a spirit of resistance and insubordination, so much the more culpable, as an example diametrically opposite might have been expected from the high rank which he enjoys in the army, and the principles of obedience which his long military career should have taught him to respect; we have resolved to apply to him the penalty decreed by the 6th article of the 13th Brumaire, year 5, against every officer, who, without a valid excuse, refuses to sit in a council of war to which he is called ; we therefore have ordained, and do ordain as follows : ----
Art.1 Marshal Moncey is cashiered (destitue); he shall suffer three months imprisonment.
2. Our Minister, Secretary of State for the War Department, is charged with the execution of the present ordinance.
Given at Paris, at the Thuileries, August 29, 1815, 21st year of our reign, (signed) LOUIS
Minister of War, (signed) GOUVION SAINT CYR.
General GRUNDLER is named the public accuser or prosecutor on the part of the Crown against Marshal NEY. Marshals MASSENA and AUGEREAU have written to the King, offering reasons why they should not be named among the judges of NEY, and his Majesty has deigned to consider the reasons they have given as valid.
[Published in the Times of 6th September 1815]
What a sudden and terrible change has taken place in the public opinion with respect to Marshal Ney!
Until March 1815, his name rendered illustrious by 25 years of eminent services and brilliant exploits, was dear to the country, and even the enemies of France admired in him the character of the Great Captain. All allowed him to possess as much generosity of sentiment as bravery and skill at the head of armies. No trait of weakness, adulation or rapacity, had ever cast shade over his loylalty and military virtues. His sole defect seemed to be a certain vehemence of character and expression, which rendered him little suited to public affairs.
Since the month of March, 1815, Marshal Ney must have become quite another man! After having in the preceding year at Fontainebleau, boldly notified to Buonaparte that no other course remained for him except that of abdication, Marshal Ney must have shewn himself so base and so inconsistent as to conspire in his favour! He must have done violence to his character in transforming himself into a venal and hypocritical courter. He must have deceived the King with false demonstrations of zeal and perfidious protestations! After receiving a sum of money from his Majesty he must have immediately gone and sold himself to Buonaparte, conducting to him the forces whcih he commanded.
Doubtless were it true that the fault committed by Marshal Ney had been marked by such contemptible conduct, his situation, however distressing, would be but merited. he would be unworthy of exciting interest, and the disgrace with respect to the monarch into which he is fallen, the proceedings on a criminal trial, and what is not less fortunate, the extreme disfavour which seems to be every where attached to his name - all these accumulated misfortunes would be but the just chastisement due to the basest of crimes.
But if on the contrary it is demonstrated that Marshal Ney did not conspire, that his promises, his oaths to the King were sincere and disinterested; that he received no money; that he set out for his government with the firm resolution of doing his duty; that he served the Royal cause with good faith, until obliged to yield to the irrestistable force of circumstances;
If it should in particular be proved that this yielding of Marshal Ney, though doubtless blameable, had no other foundation than the fear of civil war; that it is the love, ill understood, of his country, which has alone made him incur this reproach of treason; if it be demonstrated that the defection of the Marshal did not promote the success of Buonaparte; tha tthe Marshal derived no advantage from it, and that he has given some proofs of virtue in this conduct;
Then at least these thick clouds of blind prejudice which obscure the glory of Marshal Ney will begin to dissipate; then at least he will begin to recover that valuable public esteem whcih is the best patrimony he can transmit to his children; then if he be reduced to the extremity, painful ot every man of honour and still more so to a Marshal of France, of appearing at the bar of the accused, some wishes still will follow him there. And France, undeceived respecting the shameful acts imputed to him, will continue to honour him as one of the most respectable of her warriors.
Under other circumstances, to turn aside the slightest suspicion of baseness, it would have been sufficient for Marshal Ney to appeal to his whole life. it would be sufficient briefly to point out to what Buonaparte was in fact indebted for trhe inconceivable success of his march, to prove that he had in no way contributed to it by his adhesion.
But in a situation so afflicting as that into which this fatal event has plunged France, when the present feeling of misfortune does not permit its causes to be perceived, not to make a distinction between which fate has brought upon the scene, and when the actions in question are crowded within the short interval of a few days it is indispensable to enter into explications which compel us to observe their shades.
Before stating the facts, it may be allowable to dwell for a moment on what is personal to the Marshal.
It belongs to history to collect all the traits which have rendered his military career so brilliant and glorious to his country:
It will tell that he has fought in more than 50 pitched battles; that he has been in more than 500 combats;
That he has been covered with honourable wounds;
That his uncommon intrepidity cause to be bestowed on him the surname of the brave among the brave.
History will also render an account of his able conduct and unshakeable constancy, in that disastrous retreat from Moscow; and will declare that it was he who preserved to so many French and allied families fathers and children whom they adore.
But the eminent distinction of Marshal Ney in the eyes of posterity will be those principles of humanity, justice, and candour which he always preserved as well in camps as in every other situation in which he was placed.
He has been unceasingly occupied in diminishing the evils of war; acting towards the prisoners with that generous conduct which is always united with true courage, and employing his income and influence in the way most befitting the rank he held in the army.
He has been seen in Germany at the period when the laws were so terrible against the emigrants who fell into the power of the French armies, granting them safeguards at the risk of his own security
At a later period, forbidding,in the midst of popular insurrections in Spain, every act of severity.
(Footnote: In 1792, Marshal Ney, commanding an advanced guard which followed the Prussians in their retreat on Longwy, made a great number of Emigrants prisoners, and particularly the Regiment of the Crown. he had the good fortune to save all their lives, notwithstanding the laws which then existed. On the passage of the Rhine which was effected by General Kleber, opposite Dusseldorff, the Marshal also took great number of prisoners belonging to the regiments of Saxe, Royal -Allemand, Bussy, and Carneville. He succeeded in concert with General Kleber, in getting all these prisoners absolved by a Council of War, composed of men on whom they could depend.)
Sent to Switzerland under the Consulate, in the double character of Minister Plenipotentiary and Commander in Chief, he honourably terminated a difficult mission, less by his talents than by the nobleness of the sentiments which he manifested in the negotiations. These are triumphs of affection which he has obtained: these re victories of which the substance will always with him exceed the appearance.
In no instance did Marshal Ney ever compound with his duty. he never bowed before Buonaparte, who imposed on so many others; his ardent and impetuous character forcibly determined him in that direction which appeared to him consistent with the public good. Hence his proposition of abdication to Buonaparte at Fontainebleau. The same sort of conduct was repeated on two more recent and not less important occasions. One only passion governed him, the love of his country, the glory of the French name. it was impossible for him to obey any other impulse.
What probability, it may be asked, is theer that a man of this character, proved by 25 years of uniforn conduct, should be capable of falling in one day into a system of deception, and of acting with unvarying duplicity? Whence did he acquire the disposition necessary for conceiving the infamous plan of dissimulation.
Had he even been perverse enough to form such a plan, how was he to execute it? Nature had forbidden the attempt -
"For vice, like virtue, grows but by degree."
It is not enough to find in one who is accused of treason, a mind sufficiently mean to lend itself to all the baseness connected with such an enterprise; it is besides necessary to give some consistency to the accusation, to find a motive, and a powerful motive, a great interest which he must have had in meditating and committing the crime.
In the month of March, 1815, was there any reason which could have induced the Marshal to enter into a conspiracy? Is there the slightest circumstance observable on his part to indicate such an intention?
He was indebted solely to his personal merit for the ranks which he successively held in the army.
General in Chief for eighteen years.
Marshal of France from the creation of that grade.
Possesing the most eminent title, he had nothing to wish for in the way of honours.
As to fortune, what he possessed, combined iwth his emoluments, was sufficient for his ambition.
The restoration, far from placing him among the number of dissatisfied, presented to him every desirable guarantee; it ensured to him a repose, of which until then he had never known the comforts.
How can it be supposed, that, without any subject for complaint, without the shadow of a motive for desiring a change, Marshal Ney should have willingly joined in a plot, the object of which was the return of Buonaparte. This is too hostile to all probability.
A fault, however, and a serious fault, was committed by Marshal Ney, through a fatality whcih requires explanation.
The moral certainty that there was not in the conduct of Marshal Ney, either premeditated venality, deliberate perjury, or any bad intention, is a weighty consideration. Let facts explain the enigma, the only expalnation which remains to be made.
When one speaks of a conspiracy one immediately connects with it meetings of individuals, secret conferences, midnight mysteries.
Where was Marshal Ney long before the very unexpected news arrived at Paris of Buonaparte's landing?
It was more than a month, since, fatigued by the conversations kept up in the drawing rooms of the Capital, he had retired to his estate near Chateaudun, 30 leagues from Paris. There he lived quite isolated, without any correspondence or communication that associated him with political combinations, with which it is well known he was quite unacquainted.
On the 6th of March he received in his retirement a letter from the war minister, dated the 5th, in the evening, which was brought to him by an Aid-de-Camp. The minister ordered the Marshal to proceed in all haste to the Sixth Military Division, the government of which was entrusted to him.
The minister entered into no explanation on the cause of that order; not a word was said respecting Buonaparte, or his re-appearance. The officer, who himself knew nothing of it, conversed with the Marshal only on the pleasures of the capital.
Immediately on the receipt of this order, the Marshal commenced his journey for his destination. he passed through Paris where he learned of the landing of Buonaparte. Early in the morning of the 7th of March, the Marshal called on the Duc de Berri, and afterwards on the minister for the War Department. Both gave him reason to apprehend that he could not posibly obtain an opportunity of taking leave of the King. They advised him to depart without loss of time. The Marshal, however, resolved to compensate for one or two hours of delay by sacrificing so much of his rest and persisted in waiting until he could have the honour of being admitted to his Majesty.
Why this earnestness? It certainly was not, as has been reported, for the purpose of asking from his Majesty employment in the expedition against Buonaparte, or to solicit a command. The Marshal was in active service, and urged even by the letter of the Minister to proceed to his post. the Marshal did not come to offer himself; he obeyed the orders which called him.
At the august aspect of the Monarch, all of whose traits breathe [illegible,either bounty or majesty?] the Marshal, electrified by the flattering words in which his Majesty was pleased to address him, warmly participated in the [illegible] with which all minds seemed to be occupied. Those who know the ardour of his liberal soul, and the promptitude of his language in seconding it, never would mistake for falsehood or stratagem any thing which the Marshal may have said to the King, even in language boldly figurative. Could duplicity have induced him to utter such accents, it would have led to no advantage.
This is the place for decidingly contradicting a calumny directed against Marshal Ney, with the intent of for ever discrediting him.
It has been invented and circulated with affectation in public, that on his departure the King ordered him a sum, according to some, of 500,000, and according to others, of from 6 to 7, and even [illegible] francs, to secure as far as possible his fidelity.
This is a falsehood. It is not true that either the King or any of the ministers ordered Marshal Ney either 500,000 francs or any sum whatever. On this point he invokes with the most respectful confidence the testimony of his Majesty.
Nevertheless this false and injurious insinuation has hitherto been generally credited!
As if a Prince, so judicious, could found the slightest hope on a General whom he found it necessary to purchase.
On leaving the King, the Marshal repeated to his family and his friends the same language he had held at the Thuileries. he mounted his carriage, and set of for Besancon. All the Marshals, all the General Officers, were at their posts. he had no idea, and no opportunity of forming a concert with anyone.
Marshal Ney could not arrive at Besancon until the 10th of March. In what situation did he find affairs? What were the arrangements already made without him?
To what point was the extravagant enterprise of Buonaparte then carried, at sixty leagues distant from his station?
Finally, what were the orders which emanated from Marshal Ney before the fatal moment whcih produced his error?
Those who seek truth sincerely, will not fail to inquire scrupuously into the slightest of these circumstances.
The Marshal found Besancon and the 6th Government almost entirely stripped of troops. On the same day, the 10th, he informed Monsieur, the King's brother, and the Minister for the War department that almost all the troops had marched on Lyons. Conceiving his presence at Besancon nearly useless, he requested Monsieur to [2 illegible words] under his command, and in the advance guard. He reported to the Minister what he had learned respecting Buonaparte, that he had appeared before Grenoble, and that he would probably throw himself into Italy by the Simplon.
On the morning of the following day, March 11th, the Duc de Maille arrived from Lyons, to inform Marshal Ney, that the troops at Grenoble had gone over to Buonaparte: that Monsieur had withdrawn from Lyons, to establish himself at Rouanne; that it was supposed Buonaparte might that day enter Lyons.
The Marshal immediately transmitted this intelligence to the Minister for the War. He informed him that he would proceed to Lons le Saulnier, to assemble the troops of the government, and make them occupy Bourg and Macon. He added, "if I find the opportunity favourable, I shall not hesitate to attack the enemy." The Marshal also reported to the Minister his other dispositions and measures.
On the same day, the 11th of March, Marshal Ney wrote to the Duke of Albufera, then at Strasburgh. He communicated to him the same details respecting Buonaparte, adding, "it is to be regretted that no one has ventured to engage him." The Marshal was then ignorant of the new defection of the troops at Lyons, and their insubordination towards Marshal Macdonald, one of the generals most loved and esteemed by the soldiers.
On arriving at Lons le Saulnier the Marshal employed his time from the 12th to the 13th of March, in advancing his troops by sections [?] from Lons le Saulnier to Bourg, so as to be able to march either on Macon or on Lyons.
And of what did those troops consist? Only of two brigades or four regiments.
The Marshal entrusted the comamnd of the brigade which was in advance to Lt-General Lecourbe and the second to Lt-General de Bourmont. Still the Marshal had not on the 13th a single piece of artillery at his disposal. Several battalions had marched from Besancon without cartouches, and the Marshal had been obliged to order them to be forwarded by express.
All these particulars are detailed in two letters from the Marshal to the minister for War, dated from Lons le Saulnier, March 12. In these letters he blames the countermarch of the troops ordered on [Moulins ?]. He says "I have countermanded their march: these troops would be lost to the King; all the country from Auxonne to [Besancon?] would remain uncovered." He informed the Minister of the different positions he had orderd the troops to take to approximate them and make them form a mass.
On the same day, the 12th, the Marshal, who did not dissemble the insufficiency of his means, dispatched two couriers to Marshals Oudinot and Suchet, to urge them to join him, and to bring the artillery well harnessed with them.
On the morning of the 13th, Marshal Ney forwarded a new dispatch to Marshal Oudinot. in this letter, which is very remarkable, he says:-
"Under the present circumstance it is highly important to hasten the arrival of the troops spoken of by the war minister. We are on the eve of a great revolution. It is only by cutting up the evil by the roots that we can yet hope to avoid it. The troops must be sent forward by express: that is to say, the prefects must be required to provide at all the military stations relays of carts, such as the country can provide, so that the troops may advance at the rate of four or five stations a day. For it is merely to the quickness of his march that the first success of Buonaparte is to be attributed. His rapidity produces astonishment, and unfortunately the people have given him support in the different places through which he has passed. The contagion among the soldiers is to be feared. in general the officers behave well. I hope, my dear Marshal that we shall soon see the end of this foolish enterprise, particularly if there be celerity and combination in the movements of our troops."
Here we adjure even the enemies of he Marshal to say, whether, after this appeal to auxiliaries so estimable, by which he pressed by so many solicitations the junction of their troops to his, after the opinion which on the 13th of March, he expressed against the attempt of Buonaparte, there is any reason for doubting the Marshal's fidelity to the King on that day? Had he at that period entertained an idea of treason, would he have written in terms so contrary to the interests of Buonaprte, and so well calculated to prevent any confidence being placed in the issue of his efforts? But if, before the dispatch could have been received at forty or fifty leagues distance, the conduct of the Marshal had contradicted their contents, what purpose would this ridiculous stratagem have answered?
Was the faith of the Marshal doubtful, when on the same day the 13th of March, at Lons le Saulnier, in the presence of the Chief of the Squadron of Gendarmerie, he ordered two gen-d'armes in disguise to act as spies on Buonaparte?
When, at the same time, he pointed out a number of dispositions to be made with the troops, to the Marquis of Sauran, who had hastened towards him, and who set out to receive news from Monsieur, which was looked for with inexpressible anxiety?
Did he waver, when in every rencontre he constantly and loudly exhorted the troops and officers around him to remain faithful?
When he threatened to shoot the first vedette who should communicate with those of the enemy?
When he arrested one of the most distinguished officers of his troops, and ordered General Bourmont to send him to the citadel of Besancon.
When he endeavoured to compose masses to oppose a respectable barrier, writing to Lt-General Heudelet the following lines, likewise on the 13th of March:-
"You must avoid forming any small detachments: unite at Chalons all the troops under your orders. It would be well if you could proceed there in person or at least cause your self to be represented by a firm and intelligent Marshal de Camp. Send the depots, magazines, and useless effects to Auxonne. I move the 6th Hussars on that place, where it is also to be wished you could appear for a moment in order to tranquillize the people, and to convince yourself in concert with General Pellegrin, that all the means of defence are properly combined. Let me know what artillery and ammunition I may draw from that place, in order that nothing may be wanting when I shall be prepared to assume the offensive.
"Watch well the course of the Saone to Villefranche; write to Count Gormain, the Prefect, requesting him to inform me of every thing interesting to the good of the King's service," &c.
It is then a point well ascertained, that on the 13th of March Marshal Ney was, with head and heart, loyally serving the King, whose cause he had warmly embraced; that it had not for a moment entered his mind to espouse the party of Buonaparte; that on the contrary he had constantly discouraged, repressed, enfeebled, and put in hazard that party by every contrivance he could imagine, and by all the resources and combinations to which he could resort.
Now how does it happen that what Marshal Ney was so far from resisting on the 13th, he consented to and executed on the following day, the 14th?
It must be frankly avowed that never did a concourse of more extraordinary and unforeseen events spring up to shake the resolutions of a man most firmly attached to his duty. They were doubtless imperious and irresistable, since they suddenly gave in the eyes of the Marshal, to false and deceitful appearances the colour of necessity and public safety.
We have already seen by his letter to Marshal Oudinot, that Marshal Ney dd not perceive, without uneasiness, though at the distance of 60 leagues from Buonaparte, the rapidity of his march. He had not, however, witnessed the causes which accelerated it. He had unfortunately to form his judgement in proportion as he approached the continually increasing mass of the invader.
Hitherto the Marshal had regarded the partial defection of some corps as merely exhibiting principles of disorder, dangerous indeed, but which he still could arrest. He knew not the degree of fermemntation which prevailed, and what false enthusiasm had been produced by the entrance of Buonaparte without a blow into Lyons.
All at once in the evening of the 13th, he was informed by the Prefect of the Aisne, that the battalion of the 76th, which formed his advance guard at Bourg, had gone over to the enemy; that the two other battalions had arrested their Chief, Gautior.
He learned that the people in insurrection at Chalons-sur-Saone, had taken possession of a train af artillery from Auxonne, after ill-treating hte artillerymen and the soldiers of the train. On this train he had relied.
He learned that the gens d'armerie, that corps in general so much to be relied upon, were wavering in all quarters;
That at Lyons and beyond it, all the people, particularly the inhabitants of the country, had risen in multitudes to witness and applaud the re-appearance of Buonaparte, as if it had been a miracle;
That an impulse was given to all the armed corps seduced and electrified by these popular movements, and by the example of their comrades who had first joined Buonaparte.
Details reached him respecting the inconceivable apathy of the troops at Lyons, in the presence of the august Prince and of the Marshal, formerly so much respected, who commanded them.
Chalons was already occupied by Buonaparte. Autun was in insurrection.
The spirit of insurrection had spread to Dijon. On the 13th the tri-coloured cockade was assumed there. Numerous groups traversed the town, crying Vive l'Empereur! The gendarmerie and the troops refused to suppress them.
Thus, at Lons le Saulnier, Marshal Ney was almost in the focus of the insurrection; or rather it may be said that the troops of Buonaparte were already far advanced. Marshal Ney, with very inferior forces, was left in their rear, though laterally; it was impossible for him to undertake any thing.
It would have been in vain for him to have made the attempt. A cloud of seducers had inundated his little army on the 13th.Proclamations had been distributed, which had heated the imagination of the soldiers. Their enthusiasm was at its height; there was no hope of regulating heads now turned, still less of marching them against Buonaparte.
Finally, Marshal Ney obtained this melancholy conviction; he no longer had any army. Unbridled perturbators had alienated it; it was rebel to his voice; it even threatened violence in case it was prevented from joining Buonaparte. The Marshal was not more favoured than several other generals who have had the misfortune to be deserted by their troops.
On the night of the 13th of March, the emissaries of Buonaparte came to the Marshal, whom they found in great agitation, accessible to all impressions, and trembling for the fate of France. they brought a letter from General Bertrand, who painted in strong colours the hopelessness of his situation and the certainty of Buonaparte's success.
According to this letter Buonaparte had concerted his enterprise with Austria, through the Austrian General Kohler.
England had favoured his escape.
Murat triumphant, was advancing rapidly to the north of Italy to assist his brother-in -law.
The troops of Russia had returned to their distant quarters.
Prussia could not contend alone against France.
It would be in vain for Marshal Ney to attempt resistance; the means were no longer in his power. It was the sub-lieutenants and soldiers who had recalled Buonaaprte; words which he has since repeated himself a hundred times.
That if Marshal Ney continued to resist, what would be the result? he would plunge France into all the horrors of a civil war.
These last words completed the triumph over Marshal Ney's best resolutions.
In his extreme trouble, the Marshal struggled between the sentiment of his duty, and that of the safety of the country which he beheld in danger. This last sentiment outweighed every other in his mind. He shuddered at the idea of the internal ravages which the slightest division might have occasioned. his individual determination, after all, was not of a nature to strengthen the party of him who, previously, by all his artifices, had ensured to himself the devotion of the soldiers. According to all that he saw around him, and all that he heard, the entire mass of the nation appeared to be shaken. The blindness to which he was reduced was the more complete as no news arrived from Paris by which his eyes could be opened.
Future adhesion was only a vain form, which could only compromise himself. A General Officer more or less was nothing to Buonaparte; the consequence has sufficiently proved that Buonaparte, for his projects and plans; had effectively no want of him; it has like wise proved that the Marshal had yielded without any ambitious views.
Ah! That error was doubtless very serious which precipitated Marshal Ney into this false proceeding: not that it added anything to the power of the Usurper, who knew how to draw force to himself, and even to penetrate into the capital wihout firing a single musket, but because it signalised in him an ill-understood love for his country; because it appeared to have been the result of a deliberation of which he was incapable.
Who could attribute to him for a moment that proclamation which he received ready drawn up, and the style of which sufficiently exposes the extravagant author? Have the agents who transmitted it to him done any thing else than attain the end familiar with the perfidy of their employer, that of compromising those whose personal merit offended him? Did this proclamation, preceded by so many others, accompanied by so many political tricks, bring over to Buonaparte a single soldier, or make him gain an inch of ground!
No, assuredly; no profession of faith is to be seen on the part of Marshal Ney, and in his public conduct no real inclination towards Buonaparte at the period of his usurpation. The Marshal in this situation, of which there was never before an example, was subdued by illusions; but he was not gained in the sense of a traitor.
Nothing demonstrates his sentiments better than the conduct which he pursued shortly after this fatal error.
It was not as a slave, nor as a courtier that he addressed Buonaparte: he who had never worshipped the idol when so many adulators raised altars to him; he who more than any other, at Fontainebleau, had contributed to make him abdicate the supreme rank, when he found him aspiring solely to repossess it, did not humbly bend his knee before the Usurper.
Before repairing to Auxerre, the Marshal drew up hastily a long series of grievances, which was to be read to Buonaaprte. it began with the severest qualifications and the bitterest reproaches.
"I am not come to join you (said he in substance) either from respect or attachment to your person. you have been the tyrant of my country; you have brought sorrow into all families and despair into several: you have disturbed the peace of the whole world, &c. - Swear, then, since fate has recalled you, that your sole future study will be to repair the evils you have inflicted on France - that you will render the people happy. I call upon you to take up arms only for the maintenance of our limits, and never more to pass them for the purpose of attempting useless conquests &c. On these conditions, I renounce opposing your projects. I yield, in order to preserve my country from the distractions with which it is menaced" &c. &c.
Several persons were made acquainted with this letter before it was transmitted: they are ready to certify the substance of its contents.
Buonaparte submitted to every thing demanded by the Marshal, and even promised much more for the prosperity of France. Satisfied with these promises, Marshal Ney did not think of drawing from his blind submission, any kind of advantages for himself; he did not in any manner seek the favours of the new Court.
A short time after the entrance of Buonaparte into Paris, the Marshal retired to his estate. A report was spread (doubtless in consequence of the speech at Auxerre) that he was completely disgraced. The truth is that the Marshal, quickly undeceived with respect to the false utterances made by Buonaparte of agreement with the Powers, would not reappear before him. Nothing could determine him to quit the place of his retreat.
It is also certain, that during the three months of the mad reign, the Marshal was seen to ask for no office, to solicit no recompense.
Buonaparte did not consult him concerning his campaigns: he only remembered him as a warrior disposed to fight for the integrity of the territory.
For one moment Marshal Ney conceived the hope of snatching his country from the calamities of foreign war - his expectation was disappointed on the 18th of June. He immediately returned to Paris; and in what disposition? We may judge by the frank and vigorous declaration he made in the Chamber of Peers on the 22d June. Buonaparte was still, on that day, surrounded by numerous partisans; the illusion attached to his fatal existence was far from being dissipated. He still entertained a hope of rising once more; one of his Ministers presented himself to the Chamber, bearing an audacious lying message.
But Marshal Ney was there with his inflexibilty of character - too honest a man to compound with his conscience - too much the friend to his country to suffer it to be abased by fresh lies. He declares openly that the 18th of June has left no other alternative but that of speedy submission.
But had his open proposal been followed, if on the 22d of June it had been decreed to negociate, the negociation conformably to the treaty signed at Vienna on the 25th of March by all the Powers, would have restored the King sooner to his people.
And who knows if in that case, the French territory would have been occupied by so many foreigners, who knows whether great evils might not have been averted?
However it may be, we still find here in Marshal Ney the same uprightness of intention which has characterised his whole life, the same veracity which he has shown in these latter times towards Buonaparte, at Fontainebleau, at Auxerre.
In all occurrences, public welfare has always rhe precedence over his personal interests. In this last, he totally neglected what so many others have observed with success, the taking a military position which would facilitate to him at least some means of causing his errors to be forgotten.
Such, without any disguise, is the conduct of Marshal Ney since the month of March, 1815. Does there result from it, we will not say the prejudice, that he has committed the odious crime of treason, but even a real moral degradation? All crime, in the legal acceptation of the word, supposes premeditaton or interest more or less prevailing. The crime of treason consists of long, successive plots, of cowardly and perfidious combinations.
An error of the moment, the effect of an unheard of concurrence of the most strange incidents - an error of which one sees in the principle a sentiment praise worthy in itself, but ill-directed - in short, an error which served the Usurper in nothing, which profited nothing to the person committing it - is such an error any other than a fatal mistake?
Is it not then allowable for Marshal Ney to call to his support that judgement pronounced by the Monarch on such of his subjects as were misled? Are not the instigators of the disorder, the authors of the plot, formed in favour of Buonaparte, those whom his Majesty first consigned to the vengeance of the laws?
It is proved that, far from having formed any conspiracy, Marshal Ney, notwithstanding his fault, had entered into none; that he was sincere in his promises to the King; that he only yielded to the irresistable influence of the safety of the State, which was, in his opinion, compromised by an impending civil war; that his hands remained pure, his character independent and inaccessible to all the seductions of personal interest; that the first moment it was possible to repair his error, while there was still danger in pronouncing against the Usurper, and in favour of the legitimate Sovereign, the Marshal did not hesitate to lay open his whole soul, and to vote that France should adopt the course of submission.
By what fatal exception then is Marshal Ney treated as a criminal? He was certainly far from expecting such an occurrence when in the last instance the place to which he had retired was surrounded. To have concealed himself, or to have fled, would have been easy; but both these courses were repugnant to his heart. With the calmness of a conscience from which honour never was banished, the Marshal offered himself to those charged to secure his person - a last act which completes the apprecation of his character, and which attests his confidence in the institutions by which he is to be judged.
M.Berryer, sen., Advocate.
The court martial charged with the trial of Marshal Ney will meet tomorrow in the great Hall of Assize, at the Palace of Justice. It will consist of ----
Marshal Count Jourdan, President;
Marshal Massena, Prince of Essling;
Marshal Augereau, Duke of Castiglione;
Marshal Mortier, Duke of Treviso;
Lt-General Count Villatte;
Lt-general Count Claparede;
Lt-General Count Maison, Governor of Paris.
Baron Joinville, Commissary Ordonnateur of the First Military Division, will peform the functions of King's Commissary ,
Count Grundler, Marechal de Camp, those of Judge Advocate
And M. Bondion, those of Greffier.
It is said that one of the members of the Court has presented reasons of refusal. Marshal Victor is designated to re-place him should his reasons not be admitted.
Lt-General Grundler has visited the Assize Court, in order to make himself acquainted with the localities, and to direct the measure necessary for good order and regularity during the trial. A numerous detachment of the National Guard has been charged to watch over the security of the Conciergerie. The Court is occupied by a piquet of the mounted National Guard.
Marshal Ney's trial will commence tomorrow at 10'clock precisely.
Second sitting, Nov 10 [record of the first sitting, Nov 9, not available]
The Sitting was opened at 11 o'clock.
The Reporter - I am about to read to the Court some documents which are not testimonies: they are letters, or mere notes, which can only be considered as notices.
The first documents were signed by M Walther, Lt. in the 63rd regiment of the line, by Messrs. Curel, senior and junior and M. Fautrier. They went to state, that in April last, Marshal Ney conversing at Metz with the officers of the garrison, held the most outrageous language against the King and the Royal family. He said to the officers of the 63rd, "Have you in your regiment any of those voltigeurs of Louis XIV [sic]? If you have any, you must chase them out like the plague. The King said he felt proud of commanding the French, but he was not worthy of them."
Lt. Curel, of the regiment of the Crown, ascribed to Ney the following expressions in the same conversation:- "The Emperor is the greatest man of the age; the conversion which has been produced began by the head of the column."
Of the same interview M. Fautrier related the following stronger expressions: "The cause of the Bourbons is lost: that degenerate race regards the French as cattle,and would make the race retrograde to the 10th century; they have committed a theft by carrying off the diamonds which belonged to the French people."
M. Bellenet confirmed in his written declaration many of the expressions which we have retraced with a painful feeling; but he asserted he had never heard issue from the Marshal's mouth any personal attack on the King.
Captains Casse and -----, of the 42nd regiment, gave written declarations as to conversations held by Marshal Ney on passing through Conde in May last. the Marshal then expressed himself nearly as follows: If you saw me at the Thuileries, before my departure, caress the King, it was only the better to deceive him. He was not calculated for reigning; the members of that family scarcely know how to speak. Had the King given me twenty times the value of the Thuileries, I would not have served him. I bore the Emperor in my heart."
According to M. Casse, the Marshal should have said: "that the King was neither legitimate nor a Frenchman; that after remaining 25 years in England, one ought not to acknowledge him; that he did not appear as a Frenchman, but an Iroquois."
M.Favre deposed, that after the return of Buonaparte, he went to the Thuileries, about some business with Marshal Bertrand. By mistake he fell into conversation with Marshal Ney. M.Favre did not conceal his attachment to the Bourbons. the Marshal said to him - "My brave fellow, you love the King:- well - do not be uneasy - remain tranquil."
The Reporter then announced another document, written by a judicial functionary at Dijon, but not signed.
The President - If it is not signed -
The Reporter - It was sent to me by the Keeper of the seals; and it becomes my duty to read all those pieces, even though anonymous.
Marshal Mortier - It appears to me that papers not signed cannot be read.
M.Joinville, the King's Attorney assented to this, and the court decided that all such documents should be put aside.
M.Bousquet, a printer, at Beziers, stated in a letter the substance of a conversation he had with an officer of Ney's staff. The latter said, he was present when Ney read to him and General Lecourbe, a dispatch from Buonaparte, and delivered a fiery speech to induce them to join the ranks of the usurper. He concluded by complaining that his wife had been, as he said, vilified at court.
M.Belney deposed, before the Prefect of the Upper Saone, that Ney said to him at the end of March:- "Maria Louisa and her son are about to arrive, we shall have no difficulty in reconquering the left bank of the Rhine."
The Reporter, General Grundler, then read the two last examinations which had been taken of Ney.
In these the Marshal denied all knowledge of the conversations imputed to him by the Mayor of Dole, by M.Capelle, and M. Vaulchier, prefect of Jura: he had never boasted of having correspondence with the isle of Elba.
"I first learned," he added, "of the landing of Buonaparte from M. Besnardy, my notary. I never had any conversation with any of the Marshals of France, nor with the then Minister at War, respecting the return of Buonaparte. I equally deny all connections with the Duchess of St Leu; I never was at her house since the epoch of the abdication of Buonaparte at Fontainebleau. I was invited to dine at her house with the Marquis de Riviere; but I declined going under pretence of indisposition."
The Marshal required the insertion in his examination of the petition which had been presented to the King by his wife, relative to the alleged incompetence of the Court-Martial. The Marshal not only demanded the Chamber of Peers as his natural judges, but complained also of the mode of formation of the Court-Martial.
Q. Was it your inclination to go into Switzerland? ---- Yes; but my passport was antedated.
Q. Why was there found in your papers a passport, under the name of Neubourg? --- That was concerted with the Minister of Police, that I might the more easily preserve my incognito.
In answer to the charges contained in the declarations of Messrs. Walther, Turel, Casse, Feutrier, &c. his reply was as follows: ----
"I set off for Lille on the 23rd March, by order of Buonaparte. I there received a very long letter from him. He charged me to visit the fortresses and hospitals on a very extended line, as extraordinary commissioner of the government; I was empowered to change the functionaries. It is known that I exercised this power with great moderation. The authorities visited me; I of course spoke to them of the new government; but I never held any of that language that has been ascribed to me respecting the royal family. I received a formal order not to detain any member of the Bourbon family, but even to favour their departure.
"All the measures which I took up to the 14th of March were for the King's interest. If I had had ammunition and could have depended on the spirit of the troops, I should have been [sic] attacked, notwithstanding my inferiority in numbers. The spirit of the country parts was daily getting worse. If in these circumstances I erred, I at least wished, above all, to save my country; I never wished to betray the King."
Q. What was your force in infantry, cavalry, and artillery at Lons-le-Saulnier on 15th March? ------ A. Three regiments of the line, two of cavalry; the gun-carriages were not serviceable.
Q. What ammunition had you? ------- A. Some soldiers had 50 cartridges; others none: we were deficient in lead.
The President. --- The reading of the documents being now terminated, the accused is about to make his appearance. I must remind the public that all marks of applause or disapprobation are prohibited. I have directed the Commandant of trhe guard to remove every person who shall not conduct himself with the respect that is due to the Court and to misfortune.
Here the proceedings were suspended for a few minutes. The scene became highly interesting since the principal personage was to make his appearance. What a subject for meditation to the observer, to find between those who had been long rivals in glory, the immense interval which separates a person accused from his judges. All eyes were turned towards that door by which a Marshal of France was to enter for the first time the sanctuary of justice.
Marshal Ney was introduced by Captain Hendelin. His countenance was firm and assured. No emotion was depicted on his physiognomy. It would appear as if the habit of strong impression which he must have contracted in his military career, prevented him from exhibiting their effect. He was in a plain military blue frock, without embroidery, with the epaulets of his rank, the ribband of St Louis, and the plate of the Legion of Honour; he wore a crape round his arm in consequence of a recent loss; and he sat down on an arm-chair in the centre of the semicircular space in front of his judges. Several officers of gendarmerie, seated at some distance, and two sentinels, the one a national guard and the other a veteran, served as his escort. Before sitting down he bowed to his judges.
The President. ------ What is your name, your place of birth, and description?
Marshal Ney then rose with impetuosity, and read the following speech: ------
"From deference to the Marshals of France and the Lieutenants- General, I have consented to reply to the questions which were put to me in their name by the Marechal de Camp Grundler, not wishing to obstruct the course of proceedings commenced against me.
"But introduced before a tribunal, I now think it my duty to abstain from answering every question that might tend to acknowledge the legitimacy of my mode of trial. Without therefore failing in the respect which I owe to Messrs. the Marshals of France and the Lieutenants-General, I declare that I decline the competence of any court-martial to try me, and I formally demand to be brought before the Judges who are assigned to me by the Constitutional Charter.
"A stranger to matters of jurisprudence, I demand permission of the court to develop my reasons by the organ of my defender."
The President, Marshal Jourdan, received the declinatory declaration of the accused; he at the same time observed to him, that to ascertain his identity, it was essential that he should reply to the questions put to him as to his name, surname, quality and the orders with which he was decorated; but his answers would in no way compromise him.
The Marshal replied as follows, to the questions thus put ---
"My name is Michael Ney, born at Sarre Louis the -----February, 1769, Marshal of France, Duke of Elchingen, Prince of the Moskwa, Knight of St Louis, Grand Cordon of the Legion of Honour, Knight of the Iron crown, Grand Cross of the Order of Christ.
M.Berryer [Ney's Advocate] ------ The first sentiment which I feel on addressing this august assembly, has in it something even more sweet and consoling than the most perfect security and the most immovable confidence. I fix my eyes with respect and admiration on this imposing conclave of the first personages of the state, clothed in military purple, and whose names, dear to their country, belong already to future times. But I ask, why these senators of the camp are met at this Areopagus. I fancy myself transported into a temple consecrated to bravery, and I cannot understand what is the object of this company of warriors, what magisterial duties they come to exercise. When I look on him, who is brought hither, although now without arms, without any mark of his dignity, and preserving only the uniform of heroes, what a long series of brilliant actions, of glorious services, of acts of intrepidity; and of devotion to his country, present themselves to my thoughts and ennoble him!
However, a grave accusation is brought against him, proceeding from the Government itself; and for an accumulation of misfortune the moment of justification is not yet arrived.
Although the Marshal would be anxious to justify himself, in order to be restored without reproach to his afflicted family, he refuses to acknowledge the jurisdiction of this Council. What is the motive of this temporising? Could he find elsewhere more just appreciation of his political and military conduct? He would wish to be tried by his brave comrades in arms, if he was not convinced of your incompetence.
The Advocate here divided his discussion into three parts.
1. That crimes of high treason ought to be tried by the Chamber of Peers, by the terms of the 33rd Article of the Charter.
2. Peers of France can only be tried criminally by the Chamber of Peers. The same holds good with respect to Marshals and Grand Officers of the Crown, who are not essentially part of the Army.
3. The composition of the Tribunal is not legal, even on the supposition that a Marshal is subject to military trial, for Marshals bear no analogy to Commanders in Chief, who may be tried by officers of the same rank.
The imposing authority (he continued) of the royal ordinance of the 24th of July, ought not to bind down your jurisdiction; and if it were necessary, I would appeal, with the Macedonian, to Philip, when better informed of the object in dispute.
He then developed his three propositions. he established his point, that, according to the Charter, the Chamber of Peers is alone competent to take cognisance of high treason and of state offences.
He did not dissemble the objection arising from the royal ordinance of the 6th of May, by which all the adherents of Buonaparte were given up to councils of war, but he maintained that the time of crisis being past, the regular order of judicial proceedings should be restored.
He instanced the case of M. de Lavalette, who, having been originally comprized in the ordinance of the 24th of July, in order to be tried by a military tribunal, had, by a subsequent order, been committed to his regular judges. On the point, whether Marshals were triable by Military Councils, the Advocate, after a glowing eulogium on the character of the Judges, and of the title of Marshal, showed by numerous examples the privileges which Marshals of France had always enjoyed and claimed.
On the last point, he contended, that the accused, as Marshal, had a right to decline the authority of the court, because the Marshals, as grand dignitaries of the empire, are styled cousins by the King and are not necessarily part of the army, like generals in chief. Analogies on subjects like these were dangerous.
"You have (concluded the advocate) open before you the sacred book of our liberties; the charter on which are engraven the titles of Marshal Ney. Your consciences (as heroes) feel the price of the deposit which is entrusted to you. Pronounce."
General Grundler, (the Reporter) spoke to the following effect: --
"The country mourns this day to see placed in the ranks of the accused, one of its hitherto most glorious defenders. Fatal result of our political dissension! Fatal error, which brings down the sword of justice on one who ought to have been its firmest supporter.
"In times of revolution, crimes are not always punished with impartiality. You will afford an illustrious example of a military tribunal deliberating calmly, in the midst of the general effervescence of passions, on the case of an unfortunate accused. The eyes of France, of all Europe are upon us. We shall leave this assembly with untouched consciences, and without dreading the judgement of our contemporaries or of posterity."
The General Reporter (the King's Advocate General). then entered into a learned research on the origins of the privileges of the peerage, ond on the origin and prerogatives of the Marshals of France. And in his view of the subject, the Chamber of Peers is the only tribunal that could judge criminally a Peer of France.
He denied that the Marshal had lost the right of being tried by his Peers, by accepting the peerage under Buonaparte. An accused should always be tried according to the quality which he possessed at the time of committing the offence.
He pointed out the absurdity which might follow, if the sentence of this court (its competence being allowed) should go according to the regular routine of military appeals, to be investigated before the usual but inferior court of revision, which was by law composed merely of persons of the rank of Colonels, and of officers lower than Colonels. he asked if a court composed of such dignitaries as Marshals of France should have their acts revised by such a Council.
He then gave nine different reasons against the competence of the Court, but did not make any positive inferences, leaving all to the wisdom of the Council.
The function of public administration in military courts being divided between the King's Reporter and the King's Procureur, M. Joinville, in this last quality, entered into an argument diametrically opposite to the preceding.
The competence of the court seemed to him fully established by the ordinances of the 6th of March, and the 24th of July. the Charter allowed to the King extraordinary measures, when requisite for the public safety. Marshal Ney had abdicated his rank by accepting the peerage under Buonaparte. "General Moreau was tried by a similar tribunal, and could Marshal Ney demand other judges than such as were allotted to General Moreau?"
Marshal Ney was conducted back to the prison of the Conciergerie. The Council retired at four o'clock, and in half an hour the President, in open court, pronounced the following judgement: ---
"The Council having deliberated on the question of its competence to try Marshal Ney, has decided by a majority of five voices against two, that it is not competent to try Marshal Ney.
"It directs the Marshal-de-Camp Grundler, the Reporter, to acquaint Marshal Ney with this judgement."
The court broke up at half past four o'clock.
Upon the report of Field Marshal [sic] Count Grundler and after hearing the request of the Commissary Ordonnateur Joinville, King's Counsel,
The Council considered,
1st That Marshal Ney was a Peer of France at the epoch when he committed the offence for which he was brought [illegible phrase] conformity with the Ordinance of the King of the 24th of July last.
2dly, That a person charged with crime ought always to be arraigned in the rank, and according to the quality, he possessed at the moment he committed the offence of which he is accused,
3dly, That the Marshals of France have never acknowledged under our Kings other jurisdiction than that of the Parliament of Paris; which, from the moment of their creation to the present they have declared to be competent, as a High Court; and that considering Marshal Ney a General d'Armee, in order to apply against him the provisions of the law of 4th Fructidor, An 5, they have formed by analogy a Tribunal the existence of which is not recognised by the law.
4thly, That Marshal Ney is accused of the crime of high treason and of an attempt against the safety of the State, and by the terms of the 33rd Article of the Constitutional Charter, the cognisance of these crimes belongs to the Chamber of Peers.
5thly, That the Ordinance of the 24th of July, which prescribed the arrest and bringing before competent Councils of War, of several Generals, superior officers, and other individuals, and that those of the 2d of August which [illegible word] the accused named in that of the 24th of July, before the permanent Council of War of the first military division, prejudging nothing with respect to the competence of the Council of War, as well as that of the 5th of December which sent back M. de la Valette, nominated in that of the 24th of July, before his natural judges, according to the terms of the articles 62 and 63 of the Constitutional Charter, give room to think that the derogation to the laws and constitutional forms pronounced by Article 4 of that Ordinance does not give it competence.
And not withstanding the requisition of the King's Counsel, declared by a majority of five voices against two, that it is incompetent to try Marshal Ney.
The Council having re-entered into a public sitting, the President pronounced in a strong tone, that judgement of incompetence was admitted by the Council of War.
The Council enjoin the Reporter to read the whole of this judgement to Marshal Ney, in the presence of the guards under arms, and to anticipate that the law allows him 24 hours to apply for revision, and, moreover, to get the judgement executed in every respect.
Signed by Marshals JOURDAN (President), MASSENA, AUGEREAU, MORTIER, TREVISE [sic] and the Lieutenants- General of the King's Armies GAZAN, VILLATTE, and CLAPAREDE.
Bulletin of the Sitting of the 11th Nov
At five o'clock, the Ministers of the King, accompanied by the Attorney General of the Royal Court of Paris, brought into the Chamber an ordinance of the King, dated this day, and of which the following is the text.
Louis, by the grace of God, &c.
Considering the 33rd article of the Constitutional Charter, and having heard our Ministers, we have decreed and do decree as follows: -----
The Chamber of Peers shall proceed, without delay, to the trial of Marshal Ney, accused of high treason, and of an outrage against the safety of the State.
It will observe, on the trial, the same forms as on the proposition of the laws, without, however, dividing itself into bureaux.
The President of the Chamber shall question the prisoner during the audience, and shall regulate the debates.
The opinions shall be taken acording to the forms used in the Tribunate.
The present Ordinance shall be carried to the Chamber of Peers by our Ministers, Secretaries of State, and by our Attorney-General of the Royal Court of Paris, whom we charge to support the accusation and the discussion.
Done at our Palace of the Thuileries, the 11th November 1815, and of our reign the 21st, LOUIS
The Duke of Richelieu, President of the Cabinet, detailed to the Chamber the motives of this Ordinance. His speech was as follows: ---
"My Lords - the extraordinary Court Martial established for the trial of Marshal Ney has declared itself incompetent. I shall not mention all the reasons on which their opinion is founded. Suffice it to say, that one of the motives is, that the Marshal is accused of high treason.
"By the terms of the Charter, it belongs to you to try this sort of crimes. It is not necessary, for exercising this high jurisdiction, that the Chamber be organised like an ordinary tribunal. The forms which you follow in the proposition of laws, and for judging in some sort of those which are presented to you, are indoubtedly sufficiently solemn and sufficiently sure for judging any man, whatever be his dignity, whatever his rank.
"The Chamber is then adequately constituted for judging the crime of high treason, of which Marshal Ney has been so long ago accused.
"No person could wish that judgement be retarded by reason that there does not exist in the Chamber of Peers a Magistrate who exercises the office of Attorney-General. The Charter has not established such office. it has not desired to establish it - perhaps it ought not. In some cases of high treason, the accuser will come from the Chamber of Deputies; in others, the Government itself will become one; the ministers are the natural organs of the accusation, and we conceive that we rather fulfil a duty, than exercise a right, in discharging before you the public ministry.
"It is not merely in the name of the King, that we perform this office, it is in that of France, long since indignant and even now stupified - it is even in the name of Europe that we approach, conjuring and requiring you at once to judge Marshal Ney.
"It is unnnecessary, gentlemen, to pursue the method of Magistrates, who in accusing, enumerate by detail all the charges brought against the accused - they arise from the proceedings which will be submitted to you. This process subsists in full force, notwithstanding the incompetence, or even the cause of it as pronounced. The reading of the documents whcih we place on your bureaux will acquaint you with the charges. There is, then, no necessity to define the different crimes of which Marshal Ney is accused; they are all united in the words traced by the Charter, which, after the convulsion of society in France, has become its surest basis.
"We accuse before you Marshal Ney of high treason, and of a wicked attempt against the safety of the State.
"We dare add, that the Chamber of Peers owes to the world a signal reparation; it must be prompt, for it is of importance to restrain the indignation which bursts forth from every quarter. You will not suffer a long impunity to engender new miseries, perhaps greater than those we endeavour to escape.
"The Ministers of the King are obliged to tell you that this decision of the Council of War has become a triumph to the factious. It is necessary that their joy be short, to prevent its being fatal to them. We then conjure you, and in the name of the King require you to proceed immediately to the trial of Marshal Ney, pursuing in this process the forms you observe in the deliberation upon laws, saving the modifications recommended by his Majesty's Ordinance which shall now be read to you.
"By this Ordinance your judicial functions immediately commence. You owe it to yourselves, Gentlemen, to hold no language by which your sentiments for or against the prisoner could be discovered. He shall appear before you on the day and hour the Chamber shall fix."
The Attorney-General, as King's Commissioner, then read to the Chamber -----
1st. The judgement by which the permanent Court Martial of the First Military Division declares itself incompetent to try Marshal Ney.
2d The ordinance of the King, of which the motives were just manifested.
The Decree being read, the Chamber, on the motion of one of the Members, declared, that it received with respect the communication then made to them by his Majesty's Ministers; that it recognised the attributes which were given to it by the 33rd article of the Charter, and was ready to fulfill its duty in conformity witht the King's Ordinance.
[This speech, by an unnamed Peer, is reported in a later edition]
"Without examining the reasons, " he observed, "on which the Court Martiol founded its declaration of incompetence, it was easy to justify the consignment made to the Chamber by the King's Ordinance just read. To establish the propriety of that consignment and the incontestable competence of the Chamber, it was only necessary to cite Art 33, of the Constitutional Charter which says :-
"The Chamber takes cognisance of crimes of high treason, and of attempts against the safety of the State, which shall be defined by law." The only exception to its competence, at the present moment, would, therefore, be in regard to crimes of high treason and wicked atttempts which should not be defined by law. But the Penal Code has provided against, it has defined, in the most extended manner, the crimes of which Marshal Ney is accused. It is therefore impossible to dispute, in this respect, the competence of he Chamber. This principle established, and considering the gravity of the circumstances, he should move - that the Chamber forthwith declare that it receives with respect the communication which had just been made to it in the name of the King, by his Majesty's ministers : that it recognises the powers assigned to it by Article 33 of the Constitutional Charter, and that it is ready to perform its duty."
This motion was adopted.
The Chamber then adjourned to Monday, at eleven o'clock in the morning, to take cognisance of the documents of the process against Marshal Ney.
The Duke de Richelieu communicated to the Chamber another Ordinance of yesterdays' date, in addition to that of the preceding day, and which definitively regulates the forms to be followed in the trial of Marshal Ney. The following is the text:-
Louis, by the Grace of God, &c.
By our Ordinance of the 11th of this month, we determined that the Chamber of Peers, in the exercise of the judciial functions assigned to it, should preserve its usual organization, and we have already prescribed the principal forms of the information and trial. Wishing to give to our said ordinance the necessary development - wishing also to give to the debate, which is to precede the judgement, the publicity prescribed by Article 64 of the Constitutional Charter:
We have ordained and do ordain as follows:
Art.1. The process shall be instituted on the application of our Attorney to the Royal Court of Paris, one of the Commissioners nominated by our former royal Ordinance.
2. The witnesses shall be heard, and the accused interrogated by the Chancellor, or other Peer, whom he shall appoint. Minutes, shall be drawn up of all the proceedings of information, in the form prescribed by the code of criminal information.
3. The duties of the Greffiers of Criminal courts shall be discharged by the Secretary Archivist of the Chamber of Peers, who may take to his assistance a sworn Clerk.
4. When the preliminary information is completed, it is to be communicated to the Royal Commissioners, who will draw up the indictment.
5. On the indictment being presented, the Chamber will, if there be occasion, pass a decree for securing the person of the accused, and fix a day for the opening of the discussion.
6. The indictment, order of arrest, and list of witnesses are to be notified to the accused. A copy of the procedure shall also be given to him.
7. The debates shall be public. On the day appointed the accused shall appear, with his Counsel, and one of the King's Commissioners shall act as Public Minister.
8. Witnesses shall be heard and examined; and the whole matter discussed, judgement passed, with sentence and execution, according to the established forms of the Criminal Courts. If the Chamber chooses, sentence may be passed in the absence of the accused, but in public, and in the presence of his Counsel : in which case it shall be notified to him by the Public Minister through the Greffier, who is to make a minute of it for his use.
After this ordinance had been read; some of the preliminary measure enjoined by it were passed into orders by the Chamber.
The Chamber acknowledged the receipt of 199 documents relative to the process. the Chamber ordered, that in the course of the day the Chancellor should go himself, or delegate one of the Peers to proceed without delay, to the hearing of witnesses, and to the interrogation of Marshal Ney.
The Chamber adjourned until the Commissioner named for the trial shall make his report of the preparatory proceedings in the case of Marshal Ney.
Addition to the Sitting of Nov 13
Before reading the Royal Ordinance brought down by the ministers, and serving as duplicate for the Supplementary Regulation relative to the trial of Marshal Ney,
A Peer deposited on the table, a motion, praying his Majesty, 1. To present to the two Chambers a plan of Law, prescribing the judicial forms to be followed by the Chamber of Peers when sitting as a High Court of Justice; 2d. To suspend the trial of Marshal Ney until the said law be adopted.
Another Peer proposed to add to the Chamber, during the proceedings respecting Marshal Ney, 12 Members of the Court of Cassation, to serve in case of need as Counsel, and to regulate the proceedings of the Chamber.
The latter proposition was read; the Chamber did not take it into consideration. The former remained on the table without being taken up by the Chamber.
A Peer moved, that the Chamber should constitute itself a High Court of Justice. No decision took place on this question in consequence of the observation of the President, that the title Chamber of Peers was the proper one for the occasion.
The Chamber of Peers did not meet on the 14th.
In consequence of the powers delegated under date of the 13th, to Baron Seguier, by the Chancellor, he proceeded next day to examine thirteen witnesses: among whom were the Prince de Poix, the Duke de Duras, the Duke of Reggio, M.Despremenil, chef d'escadron, M. de la Genetiere, Lt. Colonel, and the Chevalier de Rochemont, &c.
The order of arrest has been notified to the Marshal.
Never was the House of Peers fuller than on Monday. There were nearly 200. The ecclesiastical Peers did not attend; they never do on trials for life. It was decided by the Chamber, that the Peers who are witnesses are not to assist in the deliberation. They retired immediately. It is thought the Chamber will proceed to the reading of the documents on Friday. M. Seguier, the President of the Royal court is named Judge Advocate. Ladies are not to be admitted. Marshal Augereau will decline sitting as Judge. Two galleries are fitting up; one of them to hold the 25 members of the Chamber of Deputies, who are to be present as a deputation; the other will contain 60 people; 6 places are assigned, it is said, for the journalists.
Several important questions have arisen, as to the first ordinance of his Majesty, which assigned to the Chamber of Peers the trial of Marshal Ney. It was asked, in particular, whether a simple majority or two thirds of the votes would be necessary for condemnation, and whether the sentence would be liable to revision. The ordinance of the 12th has solved these questions in the 8th article, which is as follows :-
"The hearing of the witnesses, the examination, the debate, the judgement and its execution shall be proceeded in conformity to the terms prescribed for Special Courts, by the code of criminal information." [there is a textual discrepancy with the version given above.]
The following, however, is laid down in arts. 582, 583, Tit. 6 of that Code relative to Special Courts :
"The judgement of the court shall be taken by the majority,
"In case of equality of voices, the opinion favourable to the accused shall prevail."
By art. 597 of the same code, the sentence cannot be attacked by way of cassation.
Marshal Ney protests against the wording of the following article of his first examination :-
"My wife firmly believed, that I was marching against Buonaparte, and this afflicted her."
The following, however, is the mode in which the Marshal asserts he expressed himself :-
"My wife, who beforehand believed that I was marching against Buonaparte, was extremely sorry that this did not take place."
Marshal Ney is to be removed from the Conciergerie to the Palace of the Luxembourg. A lodging is preparing for him.
A piquet of the Natioanl Guards bivouacs in the Court of the Palace of Justice
The Chamber met at two, and rose at half past seven o'clock.
It heard the whole of M. Seguier's report, and the reading of the whole of the information.
Tomorrow, at 10, the Chamber will hear the requisition of M. Bellart, King's Attorney General. Then the Commissioners of the King (the Ministers and M. Bellart) will retire and the Chamber will deliberate whether it shall issue an order of arrest.
On account of the three days delay necessary, the first Sitting, when the accused will appear, must be Monday or Wednesday.
There were present today 101 peers, and 51 absent. The Members of the Chamber at present in the Ministry, as well as their predecessors who commenced the prosecution, viz. Messrs. De Richelieu, De Feltre, Barbe Marbois, De Talleyrand, De Jaucourt, and Gouvon St. Cyr, have declined sitting as judges. Marshal Augereau's grounds of decline have been judged valid.
It is said that M. Berryer, Marshal Ney's counsel, announces that he will have to plead about 12 hours.
There are 16 witnesses.
"Excellency , - It is a the last extremity; at the moment in which the critical circumstances to which I see myself reduced, leave me no longer but too feeble means of avoiding the condition and the terrible danger of an accusation of the crime of high treason, that I resolve to have recourse to a legitimate address to you, of which the object is as follows.
"I am sent before the Chamber of Peers by virtue of an Ordinance issued by the King on the 11th instant, and after a speech addressed to the Chamber by his Majesty's Prime Minister. This imposing denunciation, and the considerations upon which it is founded, are of a nature to give me just apprehensions. Among other motives for instituting my process, I have read with astonishment in that speech, "that it was even in the name of Europe that the ministers came to conjure the Chamber, and to require it to try me." Such a declaration, suffer me to observe, is irreconcilable with that which has passed in these last periods of agitation in France. I do not see how the august Allies can be made to intervene in this criminal proceeding, since their magnanimity was generously occupied with the care of guaranteeing me against it, and since a formal, sacred, and inviolable convention exists upon this subject.
"Deign to recollect that by the Treaty of Paris of the 30th May, 1814, the high contracting parties had formed an alliance with his Majesty, Louis XVIII.. Being informed at Vienna, on the 13th March last, that the cause of legitimacy in France was threatened by the return of Buonaparte, they resolved upon the solemn Pact of that day (13th March) with the Ministers at the Congress of his Most Christian Majesty. In this Pact the Allied Sovereigns declared 'that they were ready to give to the King of France and to the French nation the necessary succours to restore public tranquillity, and to make common cause against those who should undertake to disturb it.'
"In the confirmatory Pact of the 25th of the same month of March, the High Powers engaged solemnly to unite all their force to maintain in all their integrity the conditions of the Treaty of Paris against the plans of Buonaparte; they promise to act in common. They regulate the respective contingents they proposed to march against the common enemy. In fine, his Most Christian Majesty was invited to give his consent to the said measures, in case he should stand in need of the auxiliary troops that were promised to him &c.
"It results clearly from these different stipulations, that all the armies of Europe, without distinction, have been the auxiliaries of the King of France, that they have fought in his direct interest for the submission of all his subjects. Victory soon decided in favour of the English and Prussian arms united, on the plains of Waterloo, and brought them under the walls of Paris. There remained, to oppose their ulterior progress, a corps of the French army, which might have sold their lives dearly. A negociation took place, and on the 3d of July, a convention between these two parties was signed. The 12th article of which, says:
'Shall be equally respected, persons and private property : the inhabitants, and in general, all the individuals who are in the capital, shall continue to enjoy their rights and liberty, without being disturbed, or sought after for anything relating to the functions they occupy, or shall have occupied, their conduct and their political opinions.'
"The convention has since been ratified by each of the Allied Sovereigns as being the work of the two Powers, the first delegated de facto It has thus acquired all the force which the sacred right of nations, the rights of nature, and of persons, could impart to it. It has become the unalterable safeguard of all Frenchmen whom the misfortune of the trouble may have exposed to the legitimate resentment of their Prince.
"His Most Christian Majesty positively acceded to it himslelf upon entering into his capital; more than once he has invoked the imposing authority of this political contract as an act indivisible in all its parts.
"Hence, Excellency, can it be doubted that I am well founded, as one of the persons for whom this stipulation was made, in claiming the benefit of the 12th Article and the religious execution of the guarantees expressed in it?
"I presume in consequence to require expressly from your Ministry and from the august Power in the name of which you exercise it, that you cause an end to be put, with regard to me, to all criminal procedure on account of the functions which I filled in the month of March, 1815, of my conduct and of my political opinions.
"My state of isolation and abandonment is a reason the more for determining your Excellency to come to my succour, and to enable me to enjoy, by your powerful mediation, the right I have acquired.
"If I had not blindly relied on the word of so many Sovereigns, I should, in some unknown land, have made myself forgotten. It is this august and holy word that has caused my security - can it be deceived? I cannot believe so; and I expect with confidence from your loyalty, that you will grant me your powerful intervention.
Paris November 1, 1815
Monsieur le Marechal,
I have had the honour of receiving the note which you addressed to me on the 15th instant, relative to the operation of the Capitulation of Paris in your case.
The capitulation of Paris of the 3d July last, was made between the Commadder-in-chief of the Allied and Prussian armies on the one part, and the Prince of Eckmuhl, Commander-in-Chief of theFrench army, on the other, and related exclusively to the military occupation of Paris.
The object of the twelth article was to prevent any measure of severity under the military authority of those who made it towards any persons in Paris, on account of any offices they had filled, or any conduct or political opinions of theirs; but it was never intended, and could never be intended, to prevent either the existing French Government, under whose authority the French Commander must have acted, or any French Government which might succeed to it, from acting in this respect as it might seem fit.
I have the honour to be, Monsieur le Marechal,
Your most obedient humble servant,
[The origin of this is not stated, but it would appear to be published by Ney's defence team]
"It is not wished, nor is it possible, to recall the results and the consequences of the Capitulation of Paris, signed by the Duke of Wellington and Prince Blucher, in the name of the Allies, and producing immediately the re-establishment of the Throne for the King; but the subsequent observations are made on the faith and validity of capitulations, with reference to articles 12,14, and 15, of that of Paris.
"Capitulations or conventions concluded by Commanders-in-Chief, are not momentary and passing conventions, but are every where recognised as permanent engagements.
"Treaties thus formed by their representatives cannot be arbitrarily changed by Governments, particularly to the prejudice of the security, of the property, the liberty, and the life of the party guaranteed by the original capitulation.
"Even no possession what ever acquired by the capitulation, can be disposed of without fulfilling the conditions under which the acquisition has been made.
"A Government in yielding any possession whatever, cannot disengage itself from the guarantee of a capitulations; and the obligation, not being discontinued, the oppressed do not the less preserve the right of claiming its protection against subsequent violations of their personal security.
"Civil or military persons, accused of political offences, covered by a capitulation, cannot be delivered up to be tried by a new government, nor even by that which is re-established in its rights.
"France has consecrated this practice in all civilised nations, and particularly in England, the history of which presents a series of obligatory examples.
"The only deviation occurred at Naples, where the capitulation made by Captain Foote was not respected by Lord Nelson, and where the party surrendered on the faith of the English Government, to the re-established Neapolitan Government, was persecuted and executed by the latter Government; but Lord Nelson pretended, that Captain Foote was not authorised to make a capitulation, and yet that odious transaction has cast a shade over the character of Lord nelson, adn it excited so much horror in England, that nothing but the eminent services of Lord Nelson could have saved him from being the object of an accusation and judicial proceedings in Parliament.
"Recently, Generals Savary, Lallemand, and several others were not delivered to the French government by the English, because the captain of the Bellerophon had pledged his honour, and that not even by a written convention, but by an understood engagement that all those who embarked under his protection should have their lives secured by the Government. The King of France cannot pretend that the capitulation is not binding on the grounds above stated. How can he seek to violate this single and most solemn of the articles, when with regards to the others which are to the disadvantage of France, he has been compelled to lend himself to their rigorous fulfilment? The capitualtion was concluded in the name of the Allied Powers, and the King of France, on the day of the capitulation, was only one member of the coalition, according to the terms of the declaration and proclamations of the coalesced powers, and in particular that of June 22nd, agreed by the Duke of Wellington.
"The friends of justice bring forward these observations the more readily, as the whole population of Paris, the lives and property of so many individuals, are protected by no other aegis than the faith of that capitulation.
"It is essential to observe that the city of Paris has never been restored to the King; that it is now in the military occupation of the Allies, and that no person can proceed beyond its environs without a passport counter signed by the Military Commandant of the Allies.
"Art.12. Shall be equally respected," &c. - (See Ney's Address to the Ambassadors of the Foreign Powers)
"Art.14. The present Convention shall be observed, and serve as rule for mutual relations until the conclusion of peace.
"Art.15. If difficulties arise in the execution of any one of the Articles of the present Convention, the interpretation thereof shall be made in favour of the French army and the city of Paris."
The Duke of Wellington, in a private audience granted yesterday (Nov 13) to Madame Ney, gave as the grounds for the disposition in which he was personally not to interfere at all in the process of the Marshal.
"That his Majesty the King of France had not ratified the Convention of the 3d July;
2. That the stipulation written in the 12th Article expressed only the renunciation of the High Powers, on their own accobnt, of proceeding against any one in France for his conduct or political opinions;
"That they had nothing then to meddle with the acts of the King's Government."
Madame la Marechale Ney cannot believe that this first opinion, manifested upon the 12th Article of the Convention of the 3d July, can be definitively maintained in the conference of the Plenipotentiaries.
In effect, in the attacks and invasion purely foreign of a conqueror, the enemy who penetrates into a country, busies himself in no wise with the troubles that may have broken out in it, and it does not fall within the order of capitulations, that those of a certain party shall be proceeded against. It is then because in the present occurence the war was special, and for the pacification of the interior, that they thought of stipulating it in terms of amnesty.
The King, say they, has not ratified it; but the ratification has been sufficient. for the taking of possession followed from it. The condition of the besieged cannot be changed afterwards, unless things be re-established in statu quo.
His Highness has not sufficiently considered what ought to be essentially considered, that this 12th article was the subject of a discussion between the English and Prussian Commissioners, and the Commissioners of the French army, and that it was well understood that this stipulation took place on account of the King, and not on account of the Allied Armies, who had not positive interest to act against such or such party.
That the article is consented to in the name and common interest of all the Allied Powers, an interest indivisible, and which the two treaties of the 13th and 25th of March designated as being principally that of his Majesty the King of France.
That it will not be meddling in the Acts of theKking's Government to recall to his Majesty, engagements made in his name, engagements which his ministers forget; which individuals proceeded against claim, and of which it becomes the dignity of the High Powers that the effect should not be null.
Finally, in all cases, since his Highness allows that the High Powers are at least bound themselves by a renunciation, what ought they to think at being made to appear as conjuring and requiring the trial of Marshal Ney?
Is it not the first thing they ought to do in such a conjuncture to disengage speedily the balance of criminal justice of this enormous weight?
NOTE. - Duplicates of these two documents have been sent to the Prince Regent of England and to the Prime minister - their answer is expected.
Madame Ney has been lately paying a visit to all the Ministers of theAllied Powers resident here, hoping to interest them in behalf of her husband. But I understand she met with a cool reception. I know she also waited on the Duke of Wellington, who treated her with all that politeness which the situation of Madame la Marechale required, at the same time that he manifested the impossibility of his complying with the object of it.
[We do not have a reply from the Prince Regent, but the Editor of The Times had an opinion- one page only available]
....The form of the instrument, the circumstances under which it was made, the provisions it contains, all show that it was purely and simply a military convention. The Duke of Wellington so described it at the time. It is no new idea of his, taken up now, to meet the present contingency, but consigned in his dispatch of the 4th of July, when it was utterly impossible for him to foresee the present argument upon it, But, it is said, the Duke, though confessedly "a great and weighty authority, particularly in the construction of one of his own acts," (and we must add, on a point in which he is individually altogether disinterested) may, neverthe less, be mistaken. He may have bound himself to conditions, which he did not intend. Surely it must require strong arguments indeed, to lead us to such a conclusion as this; but where are we to find such arguments; extrinsically or intrinsically? Does the state of existing circumstances at the time of forming the compact supply them; or do they arise out of the wording of the instrument?
Let us call to mind the events which led to this transaction. The rebellious army had possession of Paris. BUONAPARTE. though he had abdicated the imperial dignity, still aspired to be Generalissimo. It was even doubtful whether he might not retract this abdication, as he had done the former. it was possible that there might be a change of dynasty, or an alteration in the form of government. A regency was talked of: the last new democratical constitution was hawked about the streets. With these political speculations the allied Commanders did not meddle or make. They directed their views solely to the obtaining of the military occupation of Paris without bloodshed; and for this purpose they consented to suffer the hostile army to march off and take up new position behind the Loire. The nine first articles of the Convention related to the mode in which the evacuation of the city and the retreat of the Rebels should be effected. But in most late cases of the evacuation of fortified towns, an article or articles have generally been inserted, for the purpose of protecting the lives and property of the unarmed inhabitants from the vengeance of the conquerors........
..Ney's trial was to begin yesterday, before the Chamber of Peers, and Lavalette's before the Court of Assizes, at the same time. Ney's advocate, it is said, has announced that he means to speak twelve hours, and in such a cause, and with such a style of oratory as he has already displayed, he may, doubtless, harangue ad infinitum. The merits, or rather demerits of the case lie in a nutshell. The Culprit, in answer to his interrogatories, confesses his treason. A host of witnesses depose fully to it. The only question that he pretends to raise is, whether he acted on a deliberate and long-concerted plan, or from a momentary impulse, and the persuasion of other traitors. With this question his judges have nothing to do: and indeed it is a sort of defence which an English Court of Justice would strongly urge a prisoner not to attempt, inasmuch as it must necessarily involve his condemnation. It is the province of the law to decide on the commission or non-commission of the crime: it is for the King, in the exercise of his royal attribute of mercy, to notice any circumstances of extenuation which the case may afford. Not that we conceive any such circumstances to exist in Ney's case; on the contrary, his moral infamy is even more striking than his legal guilt. Great numbers of strangers have crowded to Paris, since the first sittings of the Court Martial. There is strong reason to believe, that they are drawn thither by a conspiracy intended to break out during Ney's trial, or at the time fixed for his execution. The police, one would think. might easily stop the greater part of these persons before they reached the capital; but, with the usual weakness displayed by the Ministry, they content themselves with increasing the number of patrols in the city itself......
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