OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 12

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 <12> 13

The trials began on the 28th of May. Buonaparte had already ascended the imperial throne several days, and a senatus consultum had been passed, depriving all persons accused of design against the emperor's person of the privilege of a jury. In fact, it Was not believed that any jury could be found which Would pronounce Moreau guilty of treason against France. The judges for this special tribunal were carefully selected by Fouché and Real, under the guidance of Buonaparte. Hemart was chosen as président of it; Merlin-de-Douai, the attorney-general and crown accuser; and Thuriot, one of the leading judges, had, with Hemart, all voted for the death of Louis XYI. The accused were Moreau, Georges and his Chouans, the marquis de la Rivière, Bouvet de la Lozier, and the other royalist prisoners, including the spy and tempter, Lajolais, who had been the decoy of Fouché to lure them all into the snare. Of course his enrolment in the list was but for a blind.

The trial of Moreau was extremely embarrassing. In spite of all that had been done in the Moniteur, and in pamphlets, and other organs of the press, to represent him as a trait or the unequivocal respect manifested towards him showed that it had failed to make the public forgetful of his brilliant services and of his real character. General Lecourbe, an old friend and brother soldier of Moreau, and a zealous republican, appeared in court every day with madame Moreau and her little boy, whom he frequently took up in his arms and showed to the soldiers as the child of their beloved general. The very gens-d'armes who guarded him at the trial testified their high respect for him, and, whenever he got up to speak, all rose and stood most deferentially. Moreau repeated the amount of admission which he had made in his letter to Buonaparte, but treated the charges of his wanting to make himself dictator as mere madness in those who suggested it. He reminded the judges that, for years, nineteenths of the soldiers of France had been under his command, but that, so far from his having attempted any seizure of power, all his officers and aides-de-camp had been arrested and most strictly examined, without their admitting the slightest suspicion against him, much less any overt act. The judges were confounded; six out of the ten proposed to acquit him; but Hemart, the président, and Thuriot declared that Moreau's acquittal would be dangerous: it would be the signal for civil war. The judgment hung in suspense for days, and remained to be pronounced with those against the other prisoners.

The conduct of Georges Cadoudal on his trial Was the same as it had been from the first. He gloried in his hatred to the republic, and equally so to the imperial usurpation. Buonaparte, through Réal, at the last moment, made another attempt to seduce him, but he had spurned at it, saying, " My comrades followed me to France, and I will follow them to death." He turned, ever and anon, to his Chouans, and said, " Courage, my boys! " When asked if he had any defence to make, he replied, " No! You are blues and I am white; only ascertain my identity, and treat me as you used to treat the whites in La Vendée and Brittany. Three bullets in the head will be enough, so let us have no more talk about it." He ridiculed the regicide judges, and amused himself by misnaming Thuriot - Tue-roi, or king-killer - and even washed out his mouth with water after uttering that name. The rest of the leading prisoners repeated only what they had asserted before - that they were royalists, not assassins, and had come to see whether it were true that the country was prepared for another royalist insurrection. When a miniature of the count d'Artois was found on the person of the marquis de la Rivière, he took it, and respectfully kissed it. Armand Polignac asked for no favour for himself, but that his brother Jules might be spared on account of his youth; and Jules implored that he might suffer, and Armand be pardoned, because he had a wife to lament his loss.

The sentences were pronounced on Sunday, the 10th of June. They were death to Georges Cadoudal, Lozier, Lajolais, Armand de Polignac, and sixteen others; two years' imprisonment to Moreau, Jules Polignac, and three others. The remainder, twenty-two in number, were acquitted, but were immediately seized again by order of Buonaparte, and thrown into prison.

No sooner were these sentences passed, than Napoleon's wife and sisters, supported by Murat, entreated him to shed no more blood, but to pardon them all. Probably, Buonaparte was not anxious for the deaths of any except Pichegru and Georges, with some of his chasseurs, whom he deemed particularly dangerous. Of Pichegru he was rid already; and he now reprieved the rest, except Georges and Coster-Saint-Victor, with eleven of the inferior persons, who were ordered for execution. Those reprieved were kept in different fortresses for longer or shorter periods, and some died there. Georges and his companions were guillotined in the Place de Grève, on the 25th of June, and died with a courage in keeping with their characters. Of course, Lajolais was soon at liberty; but the new emperor was terribly puzzled with the sentence of Moreau. Its mildness was a confession of his innocence, and therefore threw the greater shame on Napoleon for detaining him at all. He was equally afraid of keeping a man so muck beloved and admired in prison, and of setting him at liberty. Having put Georges and part of his comrades to death, he now confessed privately to Bourrienne that the charges of intending to assassinate him were sheer fiction; but as for Moreau, what, he asked, was lie to do with him? He said lie had long before told him that he would some day run his head against the pillars of the Tuileries, and, now that he had done it, it was no fault of his. That is, he knew long ago that Moreau would never consent to his usurpation of the supreme power. " Let him sell his property," he added, " and quit France; that will be the best for all of us."

Moreau, no doubt, felt the same; he could not continue to live in safety,- or even comfort, with Buonaparte on the throne, and his myrmidons all around him. He consented to this arrangement; the government purchased his house and grounds, and he was escorted by Savary's gens-d'armes to Cadiz, where he was joined by his wife and family, and embarked for the United States, to reappear and aid in the final fall of the usurper.

The murder of the duke d'Enghien, and the mysterious fates of Pichegru and Wright, had sunk the character of Buonaparte to the lowest degree amongst all foreign nations and amongst all the better class of minds in France. It was seen that, in the pursuit of his ambitious objects, he was not deterred by the darkest and most bloody crimes. He could no longer be regarded as the noble victor and the honourable legislator; he had classed himself with the despots to whom must for ever cling the dark blood-stains of oppression. But, on the other hand, as these conspiracies had been purposely evoked by himself and his agents, so they were made, by the same machinery, to pour in a host of sympathising addresses from every part of France, especially from the army. The Moniteur was kept actively employed in spreading alarm, and in expressing the unspeakable calamities which would befall France if the great hero and first magistrate of the country were cut off by assassins. These assassins were represented as the bribed agents of England, and thus the odium due to himself for his murderous deeds was diverted from himself and made to fall on the country which, from the first, had stood aloof from him, and still regarded with suspicion his career.

In the midst of these deeply-planned manœuvres Buonaparte proceeded to make his last move in his great game. He had intimidated the royalists by the seizure and fusillading of the duke d’Enghien; he had deprived the republicans of their leader in Moreau; the nation was passive; all its brandling lines of authority were in his hands; and there remained only to erect a throne and seat himself upon it. It must not be a regal throne, because that would too much remind the world of the claims of the Bourbons: it should, therefore, be an imperial one, and mark a totally new era in France. It was one which was especially calculated to flatter the French vanity.

Accordingly, on the 30th of April, Curée - a man of no particular note, and perhaps selected on that account for the occasion, as his proposal might be the more easily disavowed, if it were resisted - rose in the tribunate, and proposed that Napoleon Buonaparte should be invested with the title of emperor. This Curée had been a member of the convention, and one of those who had sworn the most bitter oaths for the destruction of monarchy, and against everything but the most perfect equality; but he now represented that the internal condition of France had been purified and renovated by the process of the revolution; victory had purchased peace with foreign nations, and the laws and the finances had been restored on a superior basis. There required nothing more now than to abandon mere theories, and embrace a single great fact - the enjoyment of their liberties under the protection of one eminent man and one distinguished family. The man to whom he alluded was Napoleon, who had done so much to earn France glory and to bring back internal vigour and tranquillity.

The motion of Curée appeared independent, but everything had been prepared with the utmost exactness beforehand. Fouché tells us that he had already recommended it to Buonaparte, and that he had himself resolved upon it. Curée was a well-known frequenter of the salons of Eliza Buonaparte, and it could not escape the members of the tribunate that he was put forward on the occasion. He did not content himself with arguing that the succession of convulsions and of horrors which had marked the revolution through a terrible term of fifteen years had made all men anxious for security under one head, but he impudently asserted that this result was the object at which the whole race of revolutionists had been aiming. They had sought, he said, to put down feudality and establish equality. As if they had not abolished and trodden out feudality long before they had destroyed monarchy; as if an emperor and equality were the same thing - an emperor who, the moment he was created, would be surrounded by all the old ranks, offices, privileges, and pageantries of monarchy. But Curée knew at what crisis and to whom he was speaking. The military dictatorship, certain to follow a scene of chaos and blood, like that of the French revolution, was now accomplished; all measures and means were prepared to introduce the absolute master. Accordingly, no sooner had Curée proposed that Napoleon should be made emperor, and that the crown should be made hereditary in his family, than he was surrounded by cries of, " True! true! we want an hereditary monarch! Let us vote at once for Napoleon as emperor!"

Whence did these cries proceed? From numbers of men who had shouted as loudly, on former occasions, for sansculottism, for the death of the monarch, for the proscription of every man who advocated, or was suspected of advocating, anything but the most prostrate equality. And they called creating an emperor and a court instituting equality! This was on a par with Napoleon's boasting of securing the freedom of the press, when he lately put it into the most absolute thraldom. Simeon, a lawyer, from Aix, who had been active in the convention, had been a member of the council of five hundred, and had been transported as a violent conspirator, in return for being recalled under the consular government, seconded the motion, declaring that the only safe termination of the misery of ten years was the government of one sole man. There were loud acclamations, and not a dissentient voice, but, to avoid the appearance of hurrying on so grave a matter rashly, they adjourned its final decision to the 10th of April. On the 6th, however, the senate received a message from the first consul, which was an incentive to that body to speak out. It was the day on which Pichegru was found strangled in his cell - a significant reminder of the fate of those who dared to oppose the present imperious ruler; they appointed a committee to prepare a report on the message, that the tribunate might, in the meantime, give its decided verdict. On the 10th the tribunate went into the question: Curée, again taking the lead, quoting Roman history to prove how admirable a way to escape having a master it was to choose an hereditary chief - an unfortunate reference, if any one there dared to have stated the real results of imperialism in the Roman empire. But a long succession of speeches followed in the same strain, and only one man was honest enough and rash enough to dissent. This was Carnot, who had been only too notorious in the reign of terror, and as a member of the committee of salut public, but who now showed that, however violent his opinions, they were sincere. He knew at the moment that he was condemning himself to poverty, neglect, or perhaps worse; for as real a reign of terror now existed as under Robespierre, and this honest deed makes amends for many crimes.

No sooner had the tribunate sent up its decision to the senate, signed by all, except Carnot, than the senate hastened at once to adopt it, and to sign the answer to the message of the first consul, which had been drawn up by Fouché for the committee of ten appointed by the senate. In this answer the senate echoed the declaration of the tribunate, that the choice of Napoleon, as emperor, was the only security against the agitation which had so I»ng desolated France, and the rendering this choice hereditary the only means of at once demonstrating the gratitude of the nation to Napoleon for the glory and the benefits with which he had crowned it, as well as of preserving all the rights of the republic; for they still retained the mockery of that name, leaving it to Buonaparte himself to expunge it. In their public answer all the guarantee which they took for the preservation of their liberties and rights was the use of the phrase, that " the social contract should be respected." What social contract was meant, it did not specify; but to the public answer was appended a private list of conditions, no doubt made private by the management of Fouché and his colleagues, and by their very nature. These conditions did not concern the nation at large - that was left to its fate - but merely the senate. It was an attempt at a private bargain on its own account. By these, the senate was to be hereditary, like the house of lords in England - it was to possess the right to originate laws, if not to have a veto upon them; that the council of state should and have the power to alter any senatus consultum; and that the senate should have the authority to appoint two permanent committees of its members: one for guarding the liberty of the press, and the other the liberty of the subject. Buonaparte accepted the address graciously, but said not a word of the conditions; and, when privately reminded of them, asked the reminders, sarcastically, how they could attempt to overthrow equality by attempting to set up an hereditary aristocracy?

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 <12> 13

Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 12

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About