Research Subjects: Biographies

 

 

 

Newspaper Accounts of the Trial and Execution of Marshal Michel Ney: 2nd Day of the Trial: 23 November

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.

 

Paris, Nov 21

Availing himself of the power granted to him by law and which the Chamber of Peers has intimated to him for the purpose of establishing before the trial his grounds of objection. Marshal Ney has presented a request to the members, that the King and the two Chambers should determine by law the formalities of the procedure to be instituted against him. We are not aware of what will be the effect of this claim; if it be successful the process will be retarded for some days.

Chamber of Peers, Ney's Trial (second day) [23rd]

The court assembled at nine o'clock. The names of the Peers being called, only three were absent, viz. Boissy d'Anglas, and the Counts De Richebourg and Lanjuinais. The two latter sent written excuses, assigning ill health.

The Chancellor to the accused, - the Chamber by its resolution of the 21st, reserved to you the exceptions on whcih it had not decided, you may now present them.

M. Berryer. - My Lord Chancellor and Peers, In conformity with your resolution, we are bound to present in cumulo all our remaining objections. We are reproached, I am aware, with protracting, by technical exceptions, the period of definitively proceeding to trial. The reproach is unfounded, Marshal Ney claims a complete justification; he wishes it to be speedy, but his advocates ought to take care that the proceedings be regulated by judicial form. I am about to make five objections of nullity; I do not fear the imputation of descending to trifles, of taking minute exceptions; when there is nothing too minute when the honour and life of a man are at stake.

My first objection applies to the resolution of the 13th, by which the Chamber acknowledged the reception of the charge, viz. that it is not sanctioned by the signature of all Members of the Chamber: the law is explicit in this respect - it requires all the Judges to sign the resolution.

The second is much more serious - you have not made any record which specifies the putting under accusation - you have only stated "having heard the charges, Michel Ney shall be taken into custody," - you have not complied with the law, which requires that the placing in accusation shall precede the order for apprehension. M. Berryer here developed the advantages of those successive stages which must preced the trial. They have appeared so indispensable to the legislature, that it prohibits all prosecution of those who have not passed through them. But if this adherence to forms was necessary in ordinary cases, how much more so before a Court, which, having nothing above it, does not allow the accused the hope of revision or cassation?

The third results from the indictment having been drawn before the order for the apprehension of the party, contrary to arts.241 and 242 of the penal code. And the indictment itself does not bear upon it, that the legal form was complied with, as the copy has no date. Thus Marshal Ney might have suffered an interval to elapse that might have been useful to his cause.

The fourth proceeds from the indictment not having been legally signified to the accused; the law requires it to be communicated within three days, and this does not set forth either the date of the day or month.

The fifth is twofold; the first arises from the omission to signify to the accused, that he might avail himself of his grounds of nullity; and the second, from his not having been allowed time to summon his witnesses. As the only interval allowed was from the 19th to the 21st, this extreme precipitation deprived us of the means of summoning our exculpatory witnesses, many of whom are necessarily distant. The act of accusation charges Marshal Ney with having been engaged in the manouevres anterior to the 14th of March. Twenty of such witnesses had been summoned to appear at the Court-martial; but they had since returned to their homes: compelled to appear before you, they would be able to furnish details which, by fully justifying Marshal Ney, would shew him to you as a man who never failed in performing his duty, and who still merits the esteem of France.

M. Bellart, the King's attorney General, replied to the following effect:-

My Lords - the King's Commissioners cannot refrain from wishing that the concluding words of the advocate for the Prisoner were founded upon solid grounds.May we all participate in that sort of confidence that he seems to have in the merits of his case. Ah! would to God that we could erase from the annals of our history, that lamentable day, so prejudicial to the honour of France! We shall await with an anxiety, mixed, I own, with great doubt, the happy denouement whcih we are promised, and enter purely upon the discussion of the objections taken to the proceedings.

An uninformed mind, would naturally, at the first glance, deprecate the pitiful warfare, he would say, of chicanery, evasion and exceptions which has preceded the grand discussion upon the principle; I am far from participating in such sentiments; everything connected with the freedom of the citizen is precious, because judicial terms are protective and conservative, but is it .....[completion of this article not available: the full trial appears to have been delayed to allow the summoning of the witnesses]

 

 


Placed on the Napoleon Series: July 2006

 

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