Research Subjects: Napoleon Himself

Chapter IV.

t is quite clear today that, upon his return from the East, Napoleon had not drafted a plan of action to become the head of France.  That does not prove, however, that he was not aware that he had enough influence from his military achievements to establish his political fortunes; but also, it must be said, the time could never have been more cleverly chosen by him.

Of the five directors, Sieyès, Roger-Ducos, Gohier, Moulins and Barras, none personally had the strength needed to maintain the decaying order of things, and none had the will to replace it with anything more substantial.  A sincere union between them would have only saved the directorate government which was collapsing on all sides; but the union was impossible.  Their minds and their beliefs were remote from each other; Sieyès, the most skilful of all, and also of all, the most ambitious, had kept his ecclesiastical manners of habitual trial and error and hesitation which excluded, for himself, all spirit of enterprise.  He saw what he should have done, but he knew he could not act alone; at the same time he learned he could not seriously count on the support of any of his colleagues.  In this, he reasoned correctly.  Roger-Ducos, whose character and moderate political honesty complemented that of Sieyès, followed him more by habit than by their common views.  Moulins and Gohier, the latter President of the Directorate, were patriots; that is to say exalted, and stood at a distance from their two colleagues whom they suspected of intrigue.  As for Barras, the voluptuous, the rotten, as he was called then, his support was well within reach of all; but his selfishness and laziness made him belong to anyone.  These were the disparate elements which made up the leadership.

 As for the legislative branch, its impotence was well known: it would naturally become a docile instrument in the hands of someone intent upon leading.  The Council of Anciens (Elders) jealously known as the Five-Hundred, was named well.  A large number of remarkable men nonetheless sat in one or the other of these assemblies, but none of them showed leadership coming from sound ideas.  Confusion reigned as had terror reigned; and this confusion could have turned to anarchy: Napoleon would not permit it.  In this, the salvation of France and the interest of the general were in agreement.

The news of the arrival of General Bonaparte spread to France as an electric shock.  Aix, Avignon, Valencia, Lyon, offered him festivals on his passage.  The enthusiasm gained step by step, and even in the smallest villages, there was an explosion of joy that we cannot imagine.  Also in Paris, the effect was to be immense.  The Five-Hundred, by a spontaneous movement, deferred to Lucien Bonaparte to preside over their meeting, a glowing tribute paid to the winner of Egypt, in the person of his brother.  Finally, an almost unbelievable report of, a deputy, Baudet (of the Ardennes), not able to contain the emotion that it caused him; so unexpected and so happy for the true friends of freedom: he died of joy, they say, learning of this event.

From the day after his arrival, Napoleon made a visit to Gohier, who held a dinner and informed him that the day after he would be formally presented to the Directorate.  The same evening, Napoleon wrote to Mr. N…1 to come find him the next day at sunrise, that is to say, seven o'clock in the morning; he was exactly on time for the appointment.

After the preliminary compliments, Napoleon and Mr. N… discussed the great interests that made him General in Chief of the Army of the East, in France.  He said on this subject a lot of things that were far from being proven, and then broke all of a sudden the thread of conversation to talk of the dinner he had attended the previous day.

—My dear, said Napoleon, I affected not to look at Sieyès, who was placed in front of me, and I realized the rage that this contempt caused him.

               —But, General, said Mr. N…, are you sure it was against you?

—I do not know yet, but this is a man of the system and I do not like these people.  As for others, I've tried.  Moreover, I'll see them today, I rendezvous in two hours, come see me every day.

At this point in the affair, Mr. N… was confident that Napoleon would glimpse the face of the nature of things, and that they had already decided upon the admirable course that they should take.  At the agreed time, he went to the Directorate therefore, wearing a simple blue frock and wearing a magnificent Mameluck sword, suspended in the Eastern manner by a crimson silk cord.

In seeing off the carriage from the courtyard of Luxembourg, the guard recognized him and pushed out the cry: Vive Bonaparte!  Led by two bailiffs before the assembled magistrates, Napoleon said that he had consolidated the organization of his army in Egypt and entrusted its fate to a general capable of achieving its success, he returned to come to the aid of the Republic, that he thought lost; but that since it was saved by the exploits of his brothers in arms, he rejoiced.  “Never, he said laying his hand on the handle of his sword; will I fail to draw this to defend the Republic!”

The President Gohier complimented him on his triumphs and his return; giving him a fraternal embrace.  The reception was apparently very flattering, but basically the fears had become too real and too justified by the situation so that the unexpected return brought pleasure to the five Republican judges who then ruled France.

All the generals, all the officers present in Paris, Lannes, Murat, Berthier, that Napoleon had brought with him; those who had served or who were waiting, Jourdan, Macdonald, Leclerc, Beurnonville, Lefebvre, who commanded the seventeenth military division, that is to say, Paris; Bruix, former Minister of the Navy; Dubois-Crancé, Minister of war; Cambacérès, Minister of Justice; Fouché, Minister of Police; Talleyrand, who wished to be forgiven for his resistance over the expedition in Egypt, and a thousand others, all capacities, all interests, patriots or moderates,  people in position or destitute, finally all members of the government indiscriminately came to enlist with him: the largest number to join his projects, some also to watch.  He still had to rely on Chénier, Cabanis, Rœderer, etc.., who were the elite of the philosophical party joined with the philosophical elite of the army, to pursue the national destiny.

With the exception of Bernadotte, all the generals of the Army of Italy rallied to their former General
in Chief.  

Eugene Beauharnais, Duroc, Bessières, Marmont, Lavallette, Caffarelli (brother of the one who died in Syria), Merlin (son of director), Bourrienne, Regnauld-Saint-Jean d'Angely, Arnault and Daunou, of the Institute, and ammunition manufacturer Collot, showed their greater dedication.

There was not but twenty-two guides he had brought with him from Fréjus to Paris, who showed their eagerness.

Each served General Bonaparte in his own way and finally Augereau, which internally hated his former brother in arms, joined him, albeit after some hesitation.  Perhaps it was also because he was neglected that he came to offer his services to Napoleon.

—I have already learned many things, the latter said to Mr. N… in review.  He is a singular man that Bernadotte.  He claimed he could not enter the project of which we spoke; he only promised to keep quiet, provided that he isn’t renounced.  Bernadotte is not a man of means, he added, he is a man with obstacles.

And after a silence during which he placed his hand several times on his forehead, he said:

I believe that I have Bernadotte and Moreau against me, but I am not afraid of Moreau.  He is soft; without energy and I'm sure he prefers military political power.  I’ll win him with the promise of commanding an army; but Bernadotte does not love me...  He believes the right of any dare; this devil of a man of spirit! ... Besides, I do think it will happen, we'll see.

It is a fact that Bernadotte was not ready, like other generals, to call on Napoleon.  This failure was all the more remarkable, as he had served under his command in Italy;  however, only eight days later after repeated pleas of his wife, sister-in-law of Joseph Bonaparte, he finally decided to come to see his former commander-in-chief.

Napoleon spoke to Mr. N… telling him:

—Can you imagine Bernadotte?  Not only does he brag, with ridiculous exaggeration, about the brilliant situation and victory in France?  He talked about the defeated Russians, occupied Genoa, the levees that form everywhere, the state of arts and commerce, the public mind, as if I knew that?

—You he talked about Egypt? asked Mr. de N….

—Ah! You reminded me.  Do you not think he accused me of failing to bring back the army with me? ... But I said to him, you just told me that you reorganized the troops, that all borders were assured, that there had been immense levees, that you had 150,000 soldiers and more than 30,000 cavalrymen.  What would have been good was a few thousand extra men, who could have served to maintain Egypt? I asked him.

—Well! How did he answered?


He does not say everything, objected M. N… I know he had issued advice to bring you to a council of war (courts martial), both for leaving your army without order, for violating health laws.

—Ah! Ah! Napoleon made with two pitches of his voice; it is good to know, but patience; the pear will soon be ripe.  Come back then tonight; my wife complained yesterday, to me, that I have not seen her since my return.

Mr. N… promised.  However it was only the next day, in the post-diner, that he went to be with Madame Bonaparte, who graciously reproached him for having neglected her in the absence of her husband.  He apologized the best he could by excusing such deprivation on his many occupations.

—I forgive you, said Josephine in this tone that would make one always feel that such things were your fault.  Then she got up to go meet of a lady that was announced.  Meanwhile, Mr. N… approached Eugene, who was showing his sister Hortense engravings from a beautifully bound book, but hardly had he mingled in their conversation, than he heard all of a sudden Bernadotte announced.

His unexpected presence, after the conversation he had with Napoleon, likely caused him some surprise; however he presented no appearance of astonishment and was received this general very well; but one quarter of an hour later, both were in a heated discussion in a window embrasure, that when seeing this discussion would degenerate into a dispute, Mr. N… engaged Ms. Bonaparte to intervene, which she did by standing up to go to speak to Bernadotte himself, who, realizing her good intention, entirely changed the conversation with her husband; then, a few moments later, taking advantage of the movement caused by the number of visitors, which increased to the point of completely filling the hall, he retired quietly.

For the moment, they say, Napoleon thought to leave things in their apparent condition, reserving however, the effective means to change; this means was to be appointed director.  Already, two years earlier, he had this idea, but they could have the same objection as before, his age: he was too young to be director.  He had to be forty years old: he was only thirty.  Unless unforgivable on the part of the people who feared a superior man.  It was putting him ahead of larger projects, and this was a problem.

Through M. de Talleyrand, a rapprochement had been made with Sieyès and Napoleon, between whom there had existed a strong resentment since the dinner with Gohier.  Once reunited, both of these men were soon able to take command of events: they were necessary to one another.  It was agreed upon to act with or without the participation of directors and, in general terms the need to seize power was understood, but unresolved was how to break up the resistance.  By the way, it did not appear formidable.  Among the Anciens, the majority was in the hands of Sieyès; the Five-Hundred weren’t a part of this. The garrison of Paris formed in part from the 8th and 9th Dragoons, which had served in Italy under Napoleon; from the 21st Horse Chasseurs, which were commanded by Murat and Jubé, then commander of the Guard of the Directorate; finally the police, in the hands of Fouché, were all waiting for the watchword that would be given that held all their expectations.

The 15 brumaire (November 6, 1799) was established by Napoleon for an interview with Sieyès, which would finalize the plan adopted for carrying out their projects.  The same day, a banquet was offered to General Bonaparte by the Counsels; the banquet given as always by subscription.  It took place in the church of Saint-Sulpice, which was then closed like all the others.  The number of subscribers was six to seven hundred.  The gathering was the typical for these kinds of demonstrations: each came with an official face and carefully observed what was said.  Just Napoleon took his time touring the tables, where he did not even sit down and addressed a few negligible words to the deputies; far more preoccupied him.

It was on leaving the banquet that he ran into Sieyès.  He found him calm and serious.  Napoleon sat without a word.  Sieyès finished making notes.  There was a minute's silence and finally Napoleon, rising suddenly:

—Well? He asked of this Director.

—We are the masters! He answered with a kind of warmth of expression that was even more clearly impassioned coming from his figure; Roger Ducos is with us.

—I know.  We did not forget it.

Sieyès continued:

—Gohier is unsuspecting.

—I know that also.  According to my advisor, Josephine is closely linked with Madame Gohier.  They are our most the innocent accomplices in the world, my wife will not repeat to Madame Gohier what her husband knows.

 —And what does my colleague know?

—Nothing at all.

—Moulins has a suspicion, replied Sieyès, this one is just the same, he is a friend of Santerre.

—And it is good that we waited for things to go well.  The movements are passed the suburbs, believe me, and the brewer would seek in vain, but not with impunity, to foment some disorder.  Santerre has warned that the first attempt of this kind, he will shoot; Moulins is also aware and he has enough to make them think of before he will allow his friend to become compromised and lost.  As for Barras, we do not have to take care of him, said Napoleon we can return him to his land of Grosbois.

—So be it, said Sieyès.  Now, here is my opinion: the constitution is to be redone, we make a motion; for it to take three months, we give it to them.  Moreover, a consular commission will replace the Directorate; a decree appointing consuls-Roger Ducos, me and you.

—Who will make the decree? Asked Napoleon.

—The Consuls.  This is not difficult, but it remains to be seen who will execute it?

—I will make it so, said Napoleon with passion.

—Very strong.  In this case, it only remains for me to make the Anciens vote on the next proposal.

Sieyès put on the table a paper from which he read:

“The Council of Anciens, under articles 102, 103 and 104 of the Constitution, decree as follows:

Art. Ist.  The Legislative body is transferred to the town of Saint-Cloud, and the two Councils will serve in both wings of the palace.

Art. II. They will be placed in session on 19 brumaire before noon.  Any continuation of functions of deliberation is forbidden elsewhere and before that time.

Art. III. General Bonaparte is responsible for the implementation of this order.  He will take all necessary measures for the security of national representation.

The general commanding the 17th military division, the Legislative Bodyguard, line troops who are in the municipality of Paris, are placed immediately under his command and required to recognize that authority.  All citizens will supplement his strength at his first requisition.”

There was the whole revolution.  The resignation of the directors was obtained, it created a provisional Consulate.  Before separating, Napoleon and Sieyès partook of their roles: Sieyès was instructed to make the decree of transition which he had just read the draft of to Napoleon; he undertook to have the armed forces given to him and the lead them to the Tuileries.

—Above all, promptness; remember that we still only have three days, said Napoleon on taking leave of Sieyès and by energetically grasping his hand; if necessary, at the decisive moment, join you us, mount your horse!

—But I do not know how! Said the former abbot with an innocent smile.

—You will learn! Said Napoleon. And he went out without wanting to hear more.

It was the Deputy Cornet that Sieyès instructed to propose the decree of transition to the Anciens.  He had to take on the assault to this proposal, upon which depended the success of the enterprise.  Cornet did this with more skill than energy.  Everything was prepared on the night of the 17th to 18th.  The two Councils were convened by their respective committees for the following 18th, the Anciens at 7 o'clock in the morning, the Five-Hundred at 11, and again among the latter, letters of invitation had failed to be sent to members that were too openly hostile.

“The most alarming signs, said Cornet, who at the opening of the meeting was given the floor, have manifested themselves for several days, more sinister reports have been made to us: if effective measures are not taken, if the Council of Anciens does not make the Fatherland and Freedom immune to the greatest dangers, the conflagration becomes general, and we have not done more to stop the devouring effects; it will envelope friends and enemies; the homeland is consumed, and those who escape the fire cry bitterly, but impotently, on the ashes it has left in its wake.  Accordingly, your Committee proposes to adopt the following resolution.”

And he read the draft transcription prepared by Sieyès that was instantly adopted.  Napoleon, who was waiting for the result sitting in a room nearby, was introduced immediately to take the oath.

The decree was carried, but that the Five-Hundred were not yet in session; and, at this point of the legislation he was not allowed, under the constitution, to enter into debate, the proposal once made was closed even before ten o'clock, the chamber of the Five-Hundred was not to convene until eleven.

However, the Directorate was officially informed of nothing.  Gohier, Barras and Moulins did not know, so what was happening was by public rumor.  Moulins was furious; sensing the movement was going to pass, he ordered General Lefebvre, and addressing him roughly:

—What the f… are you going do? he said using a word much more energetic; and are you going to let your commission be taken away that the Directorate gave you?  General! You should realize your conduct.

—Gentlemen, said Lefebvre, I have a debt to pay to Bonaparte, who became my general.

And he retired.  As for Barras, he was in the bath.

—He needs to be done to identify the house of Bonaparte!  Moulins said when Lefebvre was gone.

And he called Jubé, commander of the Directorate Guard, but we could not find him, though this troop was already gathered in the Tuileries, under the command of Napoleon.  The Commission of Inspectors was established under his protection.  The seat of government was therefore, not in Luxembourg, in the garden of which Sieyès, the promoter of the events, was walking quietly as if he had done nothing.

It was noon.  For five hours in the morning, a large number of troops were staged both in the Tuileries Garden and on the Revolution Square, to be reviewed by General Bonaparte.

As soon as the latter had indicated his plans to Sebastiani, Colonel of the 9th Dragoons, before sounding out the other colonels of the garrison, not only Sébastiani had lent the support to Napoleon, but he had led a crowd of officers that the Directorate had left jobless and without pay in and complete ruin.  At the given signal, first Sébastiani burned his ships, distributing his dragoons, eight hundred in number, and all of whom had served in Italy with Napoleon, ten thousand bullet cartridges, which were left with him and could not be delivered by an order of the commander of Paris.  He had mounted his regiment on horseback and led them to the Rue de la Victoire to serve as an escort to the General, who left for St. Cloud.  In passing through the ranks, Napoleon felt it was his duty to harangue these riders.

—We do not need explanations! Interrupted the dragoons, we know that you only want the good of the Republic!

Like a ship put up on shore, Mr. N... who was in the courtyard of Napoleon’s small house, met General Debel, with whom he was bound from childhood, who wore a civilian coat; but who at the first sound of movement ran out like any the others.

—How! Mr. N… said to him, you're not in uniform? ...

—I did not know exactly what was to happen, said the general; wait for me, it will not take long.

And searching in the group around them with his eyes, for a soldier who is his size, he recognized a gunner.

—Surrender your coat to me, my brave!  Debel said to him by removing his own, and guard mine; you can come and exchange it with me tomorrow.

The gunner gave up his coat, and it was in this costume Debel that followed the review.

 Arriving in the Tuileries, accompanied by many of his General Staff, Napoleon met on his way Bernadotte, who was reported as an amateur, to better judge the events which, however, he was far from predicting the outcome.

—Beware; he told him to a hushed voice, as soon as he came up to him, you are going to the guillotiner.

—That is what we will see, Napoleon replied coldly, continuing on his way.

We note that the turnbacks had a pair of small pocket pistols, passed in the belt of his sword, and that all that showed was the tip of the knobs.

Meanwhile, Sieyès and Roger-Ducos sent their resignations to the Councils.  In two hours, Barras sent his, and, realizing the prophecy of Napoleon, began his way to his estate.  Gohier and Moulins remained, which were seen in exasperation.  Isolated, they could do nothing.  They protested, however, until the last moment.  Located in the Tuileries, Moulins was swept away again blaming Napoleon's abuse of power, to which, turning to his chief of staff, he said in a radiant voice:

—The Republic is in peril, we must save it... I want the guillotine!  

—Sieyès and Ducos have given their resignation, Barras gave his own, I urge you, Citizen Director, not to resist.

In the morning he told Boto, secretary of Barras, who had come to spy on his conduct:

—What did you make of this France that I have left so bright?  I had given it peace: I found war.  I had given it victory: I found setbacks.  I had given it millions from Italy, and I found spoilage and misery ... What has become of one hundred thousand French that I knew as all my companions in glory? ... They died!

At those words, spoken by such a man, there was nothing to respond.  Moulins was returned to Luxembourg, where he was confined as had been Gohier.  Moreau was responsible for carrying out this order, and in this circumstance, we could not understand the conduct of the General.  Mr. N… always thought that it was his great mediocrity as a politician who had come together under the dependence of Napoleon; mediocrity that sufficiently justified his actions thereafter.

And what solidified M. N…’s opinion in this view, was that long after the 18-brumaire, finding themselves one evening in Saint-Cloud, in the salon of Josephine, where the first Consul came in for a moment, and she gave her husband a small note to read, and that, after reflecting, said his to wife, raising his shoulders in his own way:

—Always the same!  At the mercy of those who want to lead ... Now he’s an old witch: it is fortunate that his pipe does not speak, because it would too.

Josephine wanted to respond.

—Shut up, you heard nothing, he said.  And with that gave her a kiss on the forehead, he added immediately:

—Even if it is carried out by a nice woman like you ... But it is by his corporal’s stepmother, I do not want these people to my house.

And Napoleon left the salon.

This day, 18 brumaire happened with enough calm, but on the night of 18 to 19 Napoleon ran into imminent danger; because if the Directorate had not been as closely guarded by the troops of Moreau, who had accepted the job of chief jailer to the captive Directors; if, instead of putting on, so to speak, handcuffs and squeezing them as he been charged; if, instead of playing a dirty role, he finally would have acted as he should, the Directors and Councils would have been winners and not losers.  This would have been bad news without doubt, but finally his cause was that of the Constitution; and it would have been Napoleon, his brothers and friends that would have mounted the scaffold!

The next 19 brumaire (November 10), everything was moving at Saint-Cloud in preparation for the most incredible day of our modern history; material preparations which would last, without any question.  Three rooms would be prepared: one for the Anciens, the other for the Five-Hundred, the third for the Commission Inspectors and Napoleon.  The order was given to get them ready by noon; only two hours away.

 Meanwhile the deputies, spread in groups in the garden, had time to talk, reflect, to consult.  The desirability of this extraordinary translation was discussed, and the legality of the appointment of General Bonaparte to command of all the armed forces.

—What will follow as the director? Said Bertrand du Calvados.

—Do you think he will be content with so little? Grandmaison replied.

—Well! Destrem added, call him to our bar and make him explain it.

—He is capable of coming here without being called, observed Bertrand, not to explain, but in order to ask us for explanations.

The strangest noises were travelling from all sides.

The legislative body, it is said, was identified by the troops it attracted.

Also, some members thought they had to protect themselves by wearing weapons on them.

—Yes! Said Arena while approaching a small group and showing a dagger hidden under his robe, this is for protecting the Constitution; ambition shouldn’t be its ruin.

These words and a thousand others significantly influenced the dispositions of certain deputies, who usually waited to the last moment to decide, and the draft revolution had to appear for a compromise instantly.

Meanwhile, Napoleon had remained on horseback.  Every moment, he was informed of all these words; but until they defrayed that specific conversation, he seemed not to worry about that much.

—Well! Sieyès said to him, in approaching, what is stirring?

—What gossip! You mean, said Napoleon, but do not worry: I have given the order to saber the first person who might try haranguing the troops, representative, military or bourgeois, whatever.

—Me, at any event, I have prepared a fast carriage, said Sieyès; it awaits us at the gate of Saint-Cloud.

—You can unharness it, M. Father, Napoleon said ironically.

The meeting of the two Councils opened in two hours.  The Anciens worked on a notification to the Five- Hundred, to announce to them that we were ready to deliberate.  As for the Five-Hundred, it was Emile Gaudin who opened the discussion, but hardly had he finished his speech, than an appalling tumult broke out.

—Down with dictators! Was shouted. Down with dictators! Long live the Constitution!

—The Constitution or death! Exclaimed Delbrel ... Bayonets do not frighten us, we are free here!

Lucien chaired the meeting. With a remarkable dignity, he took the floor, and designating by gesture to the interrupters, he reminded them of order; the turmoil continued none the less.

—We all should take an oath to the Constitution!  Grandmaison said in standing up on his bench.

—Yes ... yes ... he was answered on all sides.

The roll call was made: everybody took the oath.

Warned by the turn that things took:

—Let’s go, it is now! Napoleon said.

Moments later, they heard in the corridors the noise of sabers in tow, spurs and military boots.  The tapestry doors were opened, and quickly entering the chamber of the Council of Anciens, was Napoleon in his strict dress of Egypt, his wide Basque coat, and his Damask suspended from a silk cord.  His head, uncovered, his hair hanging flat on his pale face, but characteristically strong; while his staff followed him in silence. Immediately Napoleon advanced to the bar, saying in an accented voice:

—Representatives! You're not under ordinary circumstances, you're on a volcano ...

Here murmurs broke out.  Napoleon was momentarily interrupted by them, but he soon resumed:

—Let me speak with the frankness of a soldier, and suspend your judgment until you have heard me through to the end.  I was quiet in Paris when I received the decree of the Council of Anciens that talked to me about the dangers to the Republic.  At that moment I spoke with my brothers in arms, and we quickly offered our arm ...

You conspirator! Said a loud voice in the assembly.

—There is talk of a new Caesar, a new Cromwell, Napoleon continued.  If I had wanted to oppress the freedom of my country, if I had wanted to usurp the supreme authority, more than once, in more favorable circumstances, would I have not been able to take it? ... After our triumphs in Italy, could I not have been called by the wish of the nation, by the wish of my comrades, of the whole army? ... It is on you alone, citizen representatives that the salvation of the motherland rests, because there is no longer a Directorate, you know this! ...

—General! You forget the Constitution! Linglet cried.

—The Constitution! Napoleon said, becoming impassioned more and more as he spoke, you repeatedly raped it, and it cannot be a means of salvation for you, because it has no respect for anyone ... Those who love me follow me! ...

And he left the room to go harangue his grenadiers; then, full of assurance, he headed to the Council of Five-Hundred, in the middle of this assembly, where the strongest friends of the Republic, fiery tribunes, unrelenting Jacobins sat.  Napoleon wanted to end things; his friends had said that time was critical and there was a need to take the resolution by a sudden coup d’État.  But for the Council of Five-Hundred, its star was fading with the moment.

He entered there followed by some grenadiers who he left behind him at the side of the room; he had not yet reached the middle, when an angry explosion of shouts shook the windows. This is no longer a legislative session: it was a riot between four walls.

—What! Exclaimed a lot of voices, soldiers here? With weapons? What does this mean?

—Down with the dictator! ... Down with the tyrant! ... Beyond the law Bonaparte! ...

These were the cries heard from all sides.

However Napoleon moved along the dais where his brother Lucien sat; he was immediately surrounded, threatened.

Overly exasperated with his colleagues, a deputy drew a dagger to stab him, which a grenadier of the Legislative Bodyguard, named Thomé, deflected with the elbow.

To me, grenadiers! Napoleon exclaimed then.

The platoon arrived to help him, and plucked their General from the hands of these madmen, but this was barely done when cries came out: Down with the tyrant!  Over thrower of the law! Recurred as a storm.  Lucien wanted to speak to defend his brother, he was not listened to. He left the chair, Chazal occupied it; unrest continued.

Again, Lucien tried to be heard:

—There is no more freedom here! He said by depositing his cap and robe on the rostrum; I declare that I am no longer a member of that assembly.

—Raise the meeting! Cried Chazal at this point.

Napoleon was out of the room bringing together the troops in battle order in the courtyard of the chateau, where several deputies had already spread to try to gather up support for their cause.  The moment was most critical when he arrived in the midst of them; in a few minutes, and everything would be lost, so, speaking to an infantry officer, Captain Ponsard, posted at the entrance to the vestibule of the gate:

—Captain, he said, take your company, and go to the spot to disperse the factional meeting.  It is no longer representatives of the nation, but miserables that have caused all our misfortunes and who will kill my brother; save him!

Ponsard was put into motion; but he returned to his post with his troop.  Napoleon believed he
hesitated: it was nothing; only, this officer wanted to know what to do in case of resistance.

—Use of force, replied Napoleon. Do you not have your bayonets?

—That's enough, my General, said the captain.

Then he had the drummer beat the charge, mounted the grand staircase of the chateau at a run, entered the room with bayonets forward, crossed with a few grenadiers, arrived at the rostrum and removed Lucien, taking him in his arm exclaiming:

—Citizens! It is by order of our general.

Terror spread within the assembly.  In the court, in the corridors, the troops ran with weapons.

Outside the drums beat and no charge is heard again on the stairs.  In the chamber, some spectators jump out the windows, while others shout: Long live the Republic! Long live the Constitution of the Year III!  A body of grenadiers appeared at the door, marched in front of them a head of a cavalry brigade ... It is Murat; he raised a loud voice:

—Citizens representatives, he said, I urge you to begin to leave, or I cannot guarantee the safety of Council.

—Grenadiers, forward! Exclaimed another officer.

A rolling of drums dominated the confused clamors that responded to this command.  The grenadiers restored order ... Ten minutes after, the room was cleared, and Napoleon remained master of the battlefield.

The news of the coup de main, in the words of Mr. de Talleyrand, had been brought to the Anciens.  Afterwards they gathered around sixty members of the Five-Hundred, supporters of Napoleon, and in a deliberation taken during the night of the 19th to 20th, on the proposal of Villetard, these two bodies made a decree which pronounced the abolition of the Directorate, and the handing over of executive power to the hands of three provisional consuls.

Napoleon, Sieyès and Roger-Ducos were appointed Consuls of the Republic.

All three went at four o'clock in the morning to the room of the Orangery of Saint-Cloud, where a small number of members of both Councils met and administered the oath into the hands of the president.

Thus was consecrated the revolution that Napoleon had just accomplished.

The 20 brumaire (that is to say, November 11), when the three consuls held their first meeting in Luxembourg, where Napoleon was installed the same day, and it was questioned whether to appoint the presidency to Roger - Ducos, that Sieyès had thought to dominate according to his usual habit, cutting off the question by saying to Napoleon once he entered:

—General it is useless to for us to argue about the presidency here: it is your responsibility by law.

This was the first disappointment of Sieyès.  The provisional consulate lasted forty-three days, during which the new constitution (that of the year VIII) was published and submitted for popular vote.  Meanwhile, Napoleon had proposed its mode of governing, which had been adopted.  He was a First Consul, Head of State, with two secondary Consuls, as consultants.

The three consuls were elected for ten years.

The first place belonged by right to the liberator of Italy and civilizing of Egypt.

Napoleon was appointed, and made the choices (of the others), with the refusal of Sieyès, who would not accept second place, of Cambacérès, a moderate man, a high knowledge of business, and finally a legislator renowned for his erudition.  Lebrun, a remarkable writer and probing and informed administrator, was the third consul.

As for Sieyès, who had dreamed of the title of Grand Elector with an endowment of six million to govern the Republic in unison, without embarrassment and without responsibility, Napoleon had killed it with a word, saying:

—Who is the man of feeling who wants to be enriched with six million?

Sieyès turned red without answering, but that evening in his living room, he had said in the presence of the new ministers and deputies who met:

—Gentlemen, unwittingly, we have strangled the Republic, and without knowing it, we have given ourselves a master.  Bonaparte wants to do everything, knows everything and can do everything.

1This is the same Mr. N…, who was made a Peer of France in the Hundred Days, and who we are requested not to identify other than with the first letter, in this story, and the General Frégeville, then a member of the commission of the Inspectors of Anciens (that is to say, given the functions of interrogator) that we are relying upon, in part, for the curious details you will read.


Placed on the Napoleon Series: June 2008


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