Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Eighteenth Brumaire

On November 9, 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte overthrew the French Directory, in a coup d'etat. The date was 18th Brumaire, in the second month of the eighth year on the French Republican calendar.  Sir Walter Scott introduced some information on the events of that day, which had previously been unpublished, in an appendix in his "Life of Napoleon Buonaparte". 


The following facts, which have never been made public, but with which we have been favoured from an authentic channel, throw particular light on the troubled period during which Napoleon assumed the supreme power—the risks which he ran of being anticipated in his aim, or of altogether missing it.
 In the end of July, 1799, when all those discontents were fermenting, which afterwards led to the Revolution of the 18th Brumaire, General Augereau, with one of the most celebrated veterans of the Republican army, attended by a deputation of six persons, amongst whom were Salicetti and other members of Convention, came on a mission to General Bernadotte, their minister at war, at an early hour in the morning.

Their object was to call the minister's attention to a general report, which announced that there was to be a speedy alteration of the constitution and existing order of things. They accused Barras, Sieyes, and Fouche, as being the authors of these intrigues. It was generally believed, they said, that one of the directors (Barras) was for restoring the Bourbons ; another (Sieyes is probably meant) was for electing the Duke of Brunswick. The deputation made Bernadotte acquainted with their purpose of fulminating a decree of arrest against the two official persons. Having first enquired what proofs they could produce in support of their allegations, and being informed that they had no positive proof to offer, the minister informed them that he would not participate in the proposed act of illegal violence. " I require your word of honour," he said, " that you will desist from this project. It is the only mode to ensure my silence on the subject." One of the deputation, whom the minister had reason to regard as a man of the most exemplary loyalty, and with whom he had had connexions in military service, replied to him, " Our intention was to have placed you in possession of great power, being well persuaded that you would not abuse it. Since you do not see the matter as we do, the affair is at an end. We give up our scheme- Let the affair be buried in complete oblivion." In less than two months afterwards, Buonaparte's arrival gave a new turn to the state of affairs.

He landed, as is well known, at Frejus, after having abandoned his army, and broke the quarantine laws. When this intelligence reached Bernadotte, he intimated to the Directory, that there was not an instant to lose in having him brought before a council of war. General Debel was instructed to make this communication to a member of the Directory, who was one of his friends. Colonel St Martin, of the artillery^ spoke to •this director to the same purpose. His answer was, "We are 'not strong enough.". On its being said that Bernadotte was of 'opinion that Buonaparte should be proceeded against according to the principles of military discipline, and that the opportunity which occurred should be laid hold of, the director replied, "Let us wait."

Buonaparte arrived at Paris. All the generals went to visit him. A public dinner to him was proposed, and a list for that purpose handed about. When it was presented to Bernadotte by two members of the Council of Five Hundred, he said to them, " I would advise you to put off this dinner till he account satisfactorily for having abandoned his army."...'

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