like Talleyrand had to endure from one who could subdue a continent, yet failed sometimes to conquer a ferocious temper. Napoleon, probably without the slightest cause, had suspected Talleyrand of abetting Austria in the abortive rising of 1809.

'The Emperor, in his passion, broke from all restraints; he ordered M. de Talleyrand to the Tuileries, accused him of every kind of villany, treachery, and crime, and declared that he regretted he had not had him hanged over the gratings of the Carrousel.

"But," he exclaimed, "there is yet time!" This was spoken in so loud a voice that it was heard through the adjoining rooms.

'M. de Talleyrand, not only apparently, but really, and in all his being, impassive, had fallen back by degrees, and was leaning against the wall, as if he was seeking shelter from a pelting storm; he did not utter a word, and was wholly unmoved. In the midst of his

outrageous extravagance Bonaparte cried out, as a proof of his minister's treason: "You actually did not tell me that the Duc de San Carlos was the paramour of your wife!"

At these words M. de Talleyrand recovered his astonishing presence of mind and wit.

"In truth, Sire," he replied, "I did not think that a story of the kind could promote the glory of your Majesty or my own!"'

At the crisis of 1814 Napoleon utterly distrusted Talleyrand. We quote from one of his letters to Joseph: 'I tell 'you again, have no faith in that man. I have known what he is these sixteen years; I have been kind to him; 'but he is the bitterest enemy of my house, since it has been 'abandoned by Fortune.'

Another of the plotters was the Duc de Dalberg, a German noble of the highest rank, and from youth intimate with M. de Vitrolles. The Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine had lavished honours and wealth on the Duke; but he had not gained the allegiance of one of the high-born reformers of that singular age. In his case, probably, as in that of Talleyrand, Napoleon's insolence had made an enemy. About January 1, 1814, the Duchesse de Dalberg, a lady of honour of the empress, went to pay her respects to her, 'on the return of the new year; Bonaparte, walking up to 'her, addressed her in the most brutal language on account 'of what he called the bad sentiments of her husband.' The Abbé de Pradt was the third figure of mark. He had been in disgrace since his mission to Poland; and he, too, had felt the sting of Napoleon's tongue. The well-known conversation, during the flight from Warsaw, had, it would appear, the following supplement: While the Archbishop

[ocr errors]

'was making these impertinent remarks, Bonaparte took a 'pencil, as if to write an order, and put a paper in Caulain'court's hand with the words "Deliver me from this rascal."'

At this juncture the allies were ignorant of the real state of the tottering Empire, and were perfectly ready to treat with Napoleon. This did not suit the purpose of Talleyrand, who felt that his safety lay in the fall of his master, and proposed to send an emissary into the allied camp, to explain the real position of affairs. ""Europe," he said, "does not ""understand the situation. . . . They are negotiating with "a man whom they ought to crush, and just when they have ""the power to crush him. He is more able than they; peace "" will be made, and what then will become of us? At any "“risk the allied Sovereigns must be made acquainted with "the true state of France.'


[ocr errors]

But though Talleyrand was willing to overthrow Napoleon, he was not yet ready to declare for the Bourbons. He 'seemed to feel alarm when the cause of the Restoration was 'spoken of." "How would they feel towards us ?" he said. ' in a loud voice."""Ay, and have they forgotten the mass of "July the 14th ?" said Abbé Louis more openly.' At this moment, in fact, the Bourbons had scarcely a single avowed and important supporter:-'I spoke to the Comte Montili'vault, an old émigré comrade, of the return of our princes as a possible contingency: he appeared as much surprised 'as if I had talked of the resurrection of Louis XIV., and 'he looked anxiously at me, as though I had lost my senses. This was in February, 1814.'

M. de Vitrolles, earnest, and bold to a fault, offered to undertake the perilous mission. Characteristically, Talleyrand, whose suggestion it was, refused to accredit his envoy in any way :


'It was in vain that he had been requested to write a line, however insignificant, to give a seal with his arms, or even a vague message, from which his knowledge or approval of my journey could be inferred. ... "You do not understand that monkey," said Dalberg: "he would not risk the burning of the tip of his paw, though all the chestnuts were to fall to his share.”1

Having been furnished with private tokens, to make him known to one or two of the allies' ministers, M. de Vitrolles left Paris early in March, 1814. This was the aspect of the excited capital, already sick of Napoleon's rule, but fluctuating between the emotions roused by Champaubert, Montmirail, and Montereau, and the dread of disaster already imminent :—

'Paris had a singular appearance. Here and there the streets were crowded with peasants, who were seeking refuge in the city with their carts, their oxen, and their most precious effects; here and there columns of prisoners of war were seen on the march. They were there in all kinds of uniforms, of all nations, of every tongue. They multiplied their numbers before the populace; they were made to move in every direction, and to go from one end of the capital to the other; at the same time many isolated soldiers were to be met with; and there were bodies of conscripts in such a state of want that they begged alms from the passers-by.'

Having threaded the lines of the contending armies, and fallen in with an Austrian vedette, which escorted him on his dangerous way, M. de Vitrolles found himself safe at Châtillon. He cleverly managed to introduce himself to Stadion, of all the allied statesmen perhaps the one who disliked Napoleon most; and, having satisfied himself of the stranger's purpose, the minister spoke to him without reserve. At this moment the astonishing success of Napoleon in the plains of Champagne had as yet been balanced by scarcely a reverse; the army of Blücher had been driven back, routed, from the approaches to Paris to the sources of the Marne; that of Schwartzenberg had suffered defeat on the Seine; and the invaders who, a few days previously, had been moving confidently upon the capital of France, had been compelled to sue for an armistice, and were in full retreat with their discomfited hosts.

Yet-very different from what had been witnessed in 1792-3-4-these disasters did not shake the allies; and whatever alarm was felt in their camp, steady resolution presided in their counsels. Stadion, clearheaded and free from illusions, understood the military situation much better than the victorious Emperor.

"We have had the mischances of all coalitions," said the Austrian minister, "and the difficulties inherent in, and resulting from, the movements of our immense armies, the presence of sovereigns not always in accord with each other, and the secret jealousies of commanders not in due subordination from their very position. These differences had twice caused the separation of the invading forces. Blücher, eager and bold, as the chief of a vanguard, could not endure the presence of Prince Schwartzenberg, the commander-in-chief of the allied armies. The independence of the Prussian marshal has been more than once upheld by the king and the Emperor Alexander. But it was not against such an antagonist as the great captain that such a game could be played and an opportunity afforded to his daring manœuvres. His army is, in his hand, as though it were his sword; and thus he has struck Blücher's forces a series of weighty blows, and compelled us to retreat

to Langres. The Prussian marshal, without troubling himself about our retreat, has pushed on towards Paris, and you may have heard the sound of his cannon. He thus gave Napoleon an opportunity of dealing on the rear of his enemy's army those skilful and decisive strokes by which, more than once, he has destroyed a kingdom in one day. But Blücher has obtained large reinforcements; he is at present in strong positions behind the Aisne, at Laon, at Rheims, and at Soissons; and he is about to throw, if not a decisive, certainly a considerable weight into the balance of fortune."

Contrast with this sober and well-founded view the arrogant boasting of the self-deceiving Emperor, intoxicated with the fumes of victory, and over-confident, as he always was, from Montenotte to Marengo and Waterloo. We quote a few words from his correspondence at this time:—

'The exploits of my Old Guard can only be compared to the romances of chivalry and to the deeds of those knights who, thanks to their armour and their horsemanship, were singly matches for three or four hundred men. . . . I have taken thirty or forty thousand prisoners, two hundred pieces of cannon, and many generals, and have annihilated several armies almost without striking a blow. . . . These poor wretches of Austrians fall on their knees at the first check. . . . The enemy is in a very different position from that which he was in when he offered the conditions of Frankfort; it is all but certain that only a small part of his forces will return across our frontiers. His cavalry is worn out and down, his infantry is tired of its movements and countermovements; in a word, he is completely demoralised.'

As Stadion observed, the real consequence-besides the reinforcements despatched to Blücher of the reverses upon the Seine and the Marne, was the negotiation of the Treaty of Chaumont :

'The defeats of our invading armies had made us perceive that we were liable to reverses, successful as we have been; and as the war might be prolonged in France, and even beyond her frontiers, we felt that it was necessary to strengthen the bonds which united us, and to be able to offer as powerful and enduring a resistance as the occasion required. It was with this object that the allied Cabinets signed, the first of the present month, the Treaty of Chaumont.'

The allies at Châtillon, as is well known, had offered

These were the corps of Bülow and Winzingerode detached from the army of Bernadotte, through the influence of Lord Castlereagh, and at the instance of Schwartzenberg, who declared that without this addition to their forces the allies could not venture to march on Paris. Pasquier tells us that the fearless Englishman at first demurred to this request, pointing out that the allies were still 200,000 strong against Napoleon with not more than 70,000. The reply of the Austrian commander was 'Milord, vous ne connaissez pas cet homme!'

Napoleon the France of 1790, with large additions, and perhaps with Savoy; but, according to Stadion, they would have conceded more :

'Bonaparte, losing his head amidst the din of arms, would not distrust fortune; instead of making on the spot the sacrifices required by the position of affairs, and approaching the proposed terms, he has resolved on defending everything. . . . Had he negotiated on the bases set before him, he would have obtained great concessions on our part, and all would have been settled by this time.'

M. de Vitrolles, through Stadion's kind offices, managed to obtain audiences, during the next few days, with Metternich, Alexander, and Lord Castlereagh. As in the case of Stadion, it is certainly strange that these great personages should have spoken so openly to an obscure and scarcely accredited envoy, as M. de Vitrolles asserts they did; yet these memoirs bear the impress of truth, and the allies seem to have been sincerely anxious to get genuine information as to the real state of France. It was now nearly the middle of March, and though Napoleon had missed the decisive attack he had aimed at Blücher, on the Aisne, at Soissons, and had been defeated at Laon with heavy loss, and though Bordeaux, at the approach of Wellington, had joyfully welcomed the Duc d'Angoulême, their policy was still to treat with the Emperor. The representatives of Austria, of England, and the Czar were as yet completely in accord in this purpose. Metternich, always opposed to overthrowing order, whatever its embodiment, if once established, condemned a manifesto against Napoleon: International right, 'universally recognised, forbids us to meddle in such a ' matter. A State could not violate this principle with 'impunity some day, perhaps, the example would justify reprisals; and where, then, would be the peace, nay, the 'existence, of nations?'

Alexander admitted that it might become impossible, before long, to keep terms with Napoleon, but he rejected as yet the only alternative, the restoration of the Bourbons to the throne.

'The obstacles which will ever separate the Bourbon princes from the throne of France appear to me insurmountable. They would return embittered by misfortune; and though generous feeling, or a better understanding of facts, should induce them to sacrifice their resentment, they would be unable to restrain those who had suffered through them and for them. The sentiment of the army, of that army so powerful in France, would be against them; the tendency of the coming age would be hostile; the Protestants would fear their return; the spirit of this age is not with them.'

« VorigeDoorgaan »