Billeder på siden

rested twelve years from political agitation, and one year from war. This double repose has caused a longing for activity. France wants, or thinks she wants, speeches (une tribune) and assemblies. It was not always so. You, who were in opposition, must remember ;-yet it is only the minority; do not deceive yourself. The people, or, if you will, the multitude, desire only me. You did not see that multitude, those peasants, as I advanced from Cannes, rushing, invoking, seeking, saluting me. I am not alone the emperor of the soldiers; I am also the emperor of the peasants --of the plebeians of France. ... After all, the people, you see, come back to me. There is a sympathy between us. .... The popular fibre responds to mine.... I am sprung from the people. Our nature is the same..... But I would not be the king of a jaquerie. If there be means of governing by a constitution, be it so: I sought the empire of the world. I wanted for this, unlimited

power. To govern France alone, a constitution may do better. ... I wished the empire of the world. Who would not in my place? The world invited me: kings, subjects, precipitated themselves under my sceptre ;— those kings, to-day so proud of no longer having a man of the people for their equal. Bring me your ideas, - publicity of discussion, freedom of election, responsibility of ministers, liberty of the press ;-I will have all these; -above all, a free press. To stifle it is absurd; I am convinced on that head.... I had great designs; but fate has disposed of them....I do not hate liberty: I put it aside when it came in my way; but I understand it, I was nourished in its principles," &c.

Napoleon proposed to his conclave of lawgivers, that, instead of substituting a new system for the old, the constitutional liberty of France should be established for the present by “ an additional act to the constitutions of the empire.” He was afraid that by abrogating the old imperial laws he should shake the foundations of his title ; and eager to direct his whole mind, and that of the nation, against the enemy. The ministers insisted upon a new system of constitutional legislation, in accordance with his pledge; but Napoleon brought over Benjamin Constant, and “ the additional act” was published officially in the Moniteur, for the approbation or rejection of the French nation. “ I have seen his constitution in the newspaper," said Mr. Grattan, with contemptuous affectation, in his glittering and applauded speech. He might also have seen Magna Charter in the newspaper; and both, though necessarily incomplete, contain the great leading principles of public right and liberty. It, however, did not give satisfaction; and was bitterly attacked in pamphlets and in conversation. * The friends of liberty were too exacting at such a moment; but they suspected Napoleon of an after-thought of despotism.

The national convocation of the Champ de Mai took place in the Champ de Mars on the 1st of June, when the mystic seals were to be opened. The

• Madame de Staël applauded the provisions of the additional act. In a letter to the prince of “ The additional articles are all that is wanted for France ; nothing less and nothing more;” and adds, “ The return of the emperor is prodigious, and surpasses all imagination. I

immend my son to you.” - (Memoirs of the Duc de Rovigo.)

she says,

spectacle is said to have fallen short of the popular fêtes of the republic. It, however, had in it much that was exciting and sublime. The morning was ushered in with a ringing of bells and beating of drums, producing a concert of singular effect. A vast and varied population moved noiseless and orderly towards the scene. A throne and an altar erected upon the plain, — the one occupied by Napoleon with his family around him in classic (not Gothic) robes of state, the other by the ministers of religion in robes more gorgeous and imposing ; the countless thousands, civil and military, with every variety of martial and municipal costume; the eagle standards and tri-color civic, flags; the inauguration by the performance of divine service; the simultaneous kneeling and rising of that great concourse, from the emperor and the hierarch to the peasant of Auvergne and the Vosges; the announcement of the re-election of the emperor, and acceptance of the additional act by a majority of a million of votes* ; the mutual oaths of the people and the prince; the harangue of the representative orator of the nation to the newly elected sovereign ; above all, the harangue of Napoleon in reply, beginning with “ Emperor, con

onsul, soldier, I hold all of the people ;" the firmness of his voice and attitude, the fervour of his words, his gestures, and his looks ; - all these produced alternately silent and deep emotion, and awfully loud explosions of the voices of men.

* The numbers were, for the affirmative, 1,532,557; for the negative, 4,802: and the votes, it should be remembered, were given under the protection of secret ballot.

Opinion was not rallied by this pompous ceremonial. The popular enthusiasm had died away, and could not be re-animated. Savary ascribes this unfavourable change to the treason of Fouché, who secretly stimulated the Jacobins aud republicans, and contemplated ridding himself of Napoleon by assassination in the last resort. Fouché's character was perfidious, and his life blood-stained; but Savary was his enemy, and should be received as a witness against him with distrust. Other and adequate causes may be assigned. The emissaries of the Bourbons were not idle. The republicans were alarmed at the ascendancy of the sword; dissatisfied with the additional act; and especially disgusted with the creation, or rather continuance, of a chamber of

peers. In fine, enthusiasm is in its nature transient; and the bravest people might well look with a depressed and ill-boding spirit to a contest with the rest of Europe, leagued and armed, and marching against them with a million of soldiers.

The defeat and ruin of Murat about this time was also a discouraging event. Murat, apprehensive, and with reason, that the congress of Vienna, won over by the Bourbons and Talleyrand, contemplated dethroning him, suddenly attacked the Austrians, and proclaimed Italy independent.* The Italian pa

* Lord Castlereagh, for the purpose of showing that Murat was accessory to the escape from Elba, read several letters, in the house of commons. One of the letters, professing to be from Napoleon to his sister, the queen of Naples, contained a coarse vulgarism; and this Lord Castlereagh emphatically recited, with a bad taste and personal meanness which really did not belong to him. His triumph soon recoiled upon

triots did not appear at his call. They distrusted his capacity, and thought meanly of his character. He had shortly before disclosed the conspiracy of the patriots of Milan” against the Austrian governor Bellegarde, the Gesler of the Milanese. After some slight successes, he was routed by the Austrians, first at Tolentino, then at Caprano, and escaped to Fréjus in France a disguised and wretched fugitive. The conduct of this wrong-headed and ill-fated person proved equally disastrous to others and to himself. His defection in 1814 turned the scale in favour of the allies, and his inopportune attack upon the Austrians in 1815 cut off Napoleon's only chance of peace at that time. “ How can I treat with him," said the emperor Francis, “ when he makes his brother-in-law attack me in Italy ?"*

On the 7th of June, Napoleon opened the session of the newly created chamber of peers and newly elected chamber of deputies ; harangued them on their duties and the dangers of France; was reminded by them in turn of his renunciation of political despotism and military conquest; reviewed the national guard and federate volunteers; appointed a council of government; and on the 12th of June left Paris, at three o'clock in the morning, to take the command of the army, and open the campaign.

himself. The letters were forgeries by an emigrant French abbé, named Fleuriel, which the count de Blacas, favourite of Louis XVIII., had imposed as authentic on the English minister. * Gourgaud's Narrative.

« ForrigeFortsæt »