Imatges de pÓgina

which might, for a short time, have preserved his power, nor could he bring himself to the dignified measure of an apparently voluntary resignation. He clung to what could no longer avail him, like the distracted criminal, who, wanting resolution to meet his fate by a voluntary effort, must be pushed from the scaffold by the hand of the executioner.

Buonaparte held, upon the night of the 21st, a sort of general council, comprehending the ministers of every description, the president and four members of the Chamber of Peers, the president and four vicepresidents of the Representatives, with other official persons and counsellors of state. The emperor laid before this assembly the state of the nation, and required their advice. Regnault (who was the imperial orator in ordinary) seconded the statement with a proposal, that measures be taken to recruit with heroes the heroic army, and bring succours to what, by a happily selected phrase, he termed the astonished eagle." He opined, therefore, that the Chambers should make an appeal to French valour, while the emperor was treat ing of peace" in the most steady and dignified manner." Fayette stated, that resistance would but aggravate the calamities of France. The allies stood pledged to demand a particular sacrifice when they engaged in war: they were not likely to recede from it after this decisive victory. One measure alone he saw betwixt the country and a bloody and ruinous war, and he referred to the great and generous spirit of the emperor to discover its nature. Maret, called Duke of Bassano, long Buonaparte's most confidential friend, and fatally so, because (more a courtier than a statesman) he attended rather to sooth his humour than to guide his councils, took fire at this suggestion. He called for

severe measures against the royalists and disaffected-a revolutionary police and revolutionary punishments. "Had such," he said, "been earlier resorted to, a person (meaning probably Fouché) who now hears me, would not be now smiling at the misfortunes of his country, and Wellington would not be marching upon Paris." This speech was received with a burst of disapprobation, which even the presence of the emperor, in whose cause Maret was thus vehement, proved unable to restrain; hisses and clamour drowned the voice of the speaker. Lanjuinais and Constant supported the sentiments of Fayette. But the emperor appeared gloomy, dissatisfied, and uncertain, and the counsel broke up without coming to any determination.

The force was still in Buonaparte's hand, for the regular garrison of Paris was numerous, and the federates and bands of the suburbs might, at the outset, have espoused his cause. They could not, however, be trusted; for they were fickle in their quality of rabble, and, as Parisian rabble, they were jacobins by nature and costume; for, if they wanted the bonnet rouge, that positive part of the republican livery, they had the no less indispensable negative requisite, being in all respects, both of dress and principles, sans culottes. Besides, the na tional guards, thirty thousand strong, were almost all either royalists or constitutionalists, and would certainly op pose both the regular army and the federates, in any violent attempt to dissolve the assembly; for all parties, except his own, were now disposed to unite against Napoleon as the common enemy, and main obstacle to the peace so necessary for France. These considerations cowed Buonaparte's spirit of enterprise, and he remained in a state of piteous irresolution for the remainder of that night, and the

next day; asking advice from those around him, but unable to determine on adopting the plans which they recommended, or upon forming any other for himself. Amid his uncertainty he was surprised by an unasked and obtruded visit from General Solignac, whom he had not seen for several years, and who now came to impress on him the necessity of his abdication. Regnault supported the arguments of Solignac; and it is said that Napoleon at length received a domiciliary visit from several representatives, General Marescot being one, who used such strong language to bring him to a decision, that they might be almost said to wring from him his signature to the act of abdication by literal violence. He added, however, a clause in favour of the succession of his son, which, but for the rapid advance of Wellington and Blucher, might yet have given much trouble to Europe. It was said to be the inventive genius of Lucien, which discovered this hopeful expedient to prop the falling dignity of the house of Ajaccio.

On the next morning, the June 22. Chamber of Representatives was convoked at half-past 9 o'clock. They evinced the utmost impatience to receive the act of abdication, which now all ventured to name as the only measure which could save the country. They were informed, that in half an hour they would receive from the emperor such a mes. sage as would meet the wishes of the Representatives, and the imperialists endeavoured to turn the deliberations of the assembly on the mode of opening negociations for peace and recruiting the army. A Mons. Crochon proposed, that, to soften the allies, France should disclaim all views of foreign conquest; a proposal which, even in those feverish moments, excited a laugh in the assembly, by its ridicu

lous contrast with the state of the nation. The expected message did not arrive. The Chamber became impatient; and Mons. Duchesne made a motion, that the Chamber should require from the emperor his formal abdication, as a sacrifice peremptorily demanded by the public safety. It was with difficulty they were prevailed upon to wait another hour for his voluntary resignation, which was at length presented by the minister of police. It was couched in these words:

"Frenchmen!-In commencing war for maintaining the national independence, I relied on the union of all efforts, of all wills, and the concurrence of all the national authorities. I had reason to hope for success, and I braved all the declarations of the powers against me.

"Circumstances appear to me changed. I offer myself as a sacrifice to the hatred of the enemies of France. May they prove sincere in their declarations, and have really directed them only against my power! My political life is terminated, and I proclaim my son, under the title of Napoleon II., Emperor of the French.

"The present ministers will provisionally form the council of the government. The interest which I take in my son induces me to invite the Chambers to form, without delay, the regency by a law.

Unite all for the public safety, in order to remain an independent nation.

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were judged premature, and the Chamber resolved instead, to content themselves with naming a provisional executive government of five persons, to be chosen by ballot; three from the body of Deputies, and two from the Chamber of Peers. They seemed next to feel that some decency was due to the late head of the state, and resolved to send an address of thanks to Buonaparte for the sacrifice which he had just made. But, in their address, they carefully avoided all mention of the condition in favour of his son, with which his resignation was qualified. The President Lanjuinais, attended by a delegated committee, carried this addresss to Napoleon, who, for the last time, received them in the imperial habit, surrounded by his state-officers and guards. He seemed pale and pensive, but was firm and collected, and heard, with a composed and steady look, the empty praises which the Chamber bestowed on his abdication. His reply was in these words:" I thank you for the sentiments you express. I recommend to the Chamber to reinforce the armies, and to place them in the best state of defence; those who wish for peace, ought to prepare for war. Do not expose this great nation to the mercy of the foreigner, lest you be disappointed in your hopes. In whatever situation I may be placed, I shall be happy if France be free and independent. In transferring the right which France has given me to my son, during my life, I make this great sacrifice only for the welfare of the nation, and the interests of my son, whom I therefore proclaim emperor.'

The president respectfully replied, that the Chamber had given him no orders on the subject, which Napoleon now pressed upon. "I told you," said Buonaparte turning to Lucien, "I knew they would not, or

could not do it." Then addressing the president, he added, "Tell the assembly, that I recommend my son to them; it is in his favour I have abdicated."

The point, therefore, which remained to be litigated between Buonaparte and his legislature, was the succession of Napoleon II. Besides the embarrassment of pinning themselves down to a choice, which they might be unable to support, since it was certain to prove distasteful to the allies; besides the absence, and non-age of the child in question, his relation to Buonaparte, and the influence which his father, and his father's friends, were likely to exercise in any government formed in his name, were, with the republican and constitutional party, strong arguments for altogether setting aside the dynasty of Napoleon.

This point was fiercely and articulately contested June 22. in the Chamber of Peers, when the abdication of the emperor was laid before them. But the discussion was preceded by one of those singular scenes which occur only in France, where men's prejudices and passions travel so much faster than their judgment, and occasion so many extraordinary inconsistencies of conduct. After the declaration of Napoleon had been read, Carnot mounted the tribune, and announced the most reassuring and gratifying intelligence from the army. Many corps, he said, had rallied, particularly two thousand of the Old Guard had joined Marshal Soult, near Mezieres, who was directing their march on Laon; and Grouchy, who had led back his division out of Belgium untouched and entire, after a glorious victory at Wavres, had an army of sixty thousand men, to whom were to be added ten thousand soldiers, and two hundred pieces of artillery, dispatched from the interior. The

extravagance of these statements called forth the resentment of Marshal Ney, who was writhing under the sense of the infamy he had gratuitously incurred, under the neglect and censure of Napoleon for whom he had encountered it; and, under the sense of vexation of a soldier, who had seen his whole army destroyed, seems to have been impelled to speak truth, like a possessed person under the exorcism. There was a reckless spirit of desperation in the manner of his contradicting the minister; it seemed as if he wished the state of the world undone in his own undoing. "The report," he said, "was false false in every respect. Dare they tell eye-witnesses of the disastrous day of the 18th, that we have yet sixty thousand soldiers embodied? Grouchy cannot have under him twenty, or five and twenty thousand soldiers at the utmost. Had he possessed a greater force, he might have covered the retreat, and the emperor would have been still in command of an army on the frontiers. Not a man of the guard would ever," he said, "rally more. I myself commanded them I myself witnessed their total extermination, ere I left the field of battle-They are annihilated-This enemy is at Nivelles with eighty thousand men; they may, if they please, be at Paris in six days-There is no safety for France, but in instant propositions of peace." On being contradicted by General Flahault, Ney resumed his sinister statement with even more vehemence; and at length striking at once into the topic which all felt, but none had ventured yet to name, he said in a low, but distinct voice, "Yes! I repeat it-your only course is by negociation-you must recal the Bourbons; and for me, I will retire to the United States." The most bitter reproaches were heaped on Ney for his last expres

sions; Lavalette and Carnot especially appeared incensed against him. Ney replied, with sullen contempt, to those who blamed his conduct, "I am not one of those to whom their interest is every thing; what should I gain by the restoration of Louis, excepting being shot for desertion? but I must speak the truth, for the sake of the country." It is, indeed, hardly to be supposed, that Ney had any serious expectations of repairing his error, or making interest with the royalists by his present conduct. He spoke from the native ardour and ve hemence of a disposition, much guided by the feeling and impressions of the moment. The predominating faction, therefore, took care to prevent his voice being again heard in the assembly. The marshal was, in his present mood, too apt to speak disagreeable truths to be entrusted with the public ear. But what he had said sunk deep into the minds of thinking men, and induced them to view the subsequent bustling debates and sounding resolutions of the Chambers as empty noise, unsupported by any strength

or resources.


The abdication of Napoleon being read to the Chamber of Peers, gave rise to a scene as stormy and scandalous as that which had just taken place. Lucien Buonaparte, who ascended the tribunal, insisted that the Chamber should follow the line of the constitution, and instantly acknowledge his nephew as emperor. the emperor die, the rule is, Long live the Emperor his successor. The. emperor being resigned, let us, in like manner, cry, Long live Napoleon II." He concluded, that the Chamber should at once, and with enthu siasm, recognize the legitimate successor to the crown. The orator was interrupted by Count de Poniécou lant, who, (although he had taken his oath of fealty twenty-one days be

fore to a constitution, which declared Lucien one of the blood-royal of France), had forgot his qualities so far, as to demand by what title he, a Roman prince, proposed a sovereign to the French empire, and who had given him the privileges of a denizen?" Lucien was about to speak, probably to remind him of the Additional Act, which gave them all the right (such as it was) to sit and deliberate as a branch of the legislature; but Pontécoulant, commanding him to respect that equality, of which he had for merly set an example, proceeded to state objections against acknowledging, as sovereign of the state, a child who resided in another kingdom. Lucien angrily vindicated his right to call himself a Frenchman by his sentiments, and by the constitutions of the empire. "By those constitutions," he said, "the oath to Napoleon II. cannot be the object of deliberation, but ought to be taken as speedily as possible to prevent civil war. Boissy d'Anglais asked, "if the foreign war was not sufficient, that civil war was threatened, in order to precipitate and prejudge a most important national question; perhaps effectually deprive themselves of the power of treating with the foreignAt observing this hesitation, Labedoyere started up, and demeaning himself with fury, exhibited the same blind and devoted attachment to Napoleon, which had prompted him to show the example of defection at Grenoble. "The emperor," he said, "had abdicated solely in behalf of his son. His resignation was null, if his son was not instantly proclaimed. And who were they who opposed this generous resolution? Those whose voices had been always at the sovereign's devotion while in prosperity; who fled from him in adversity, and who already hastened to receive the yoke of foreigners. Yes," continued

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this impetuous young man, aiding his speech with the most violent gestures, and overpowering, by the loudness of his tone, the murmurs of the assembly, "if you refuse to acknowledge the imperial prince, I declare that Napoleon must again draw his sword again shed blood. At the head of the brave Frenchmen who have bled in his cause, we will rally around him; and woe to the base generals who are perhaps even now meditating new treasons. I demand that they be impeached, and punished as deserters of the national standard-that their names be given to infamy, their houses razed, their families proscribed and exiled. We will endure no traitors amongst us. Napoleon, in resigning his power to save the nation, has done his duty to himself, but the nation is not worthy of him, since she has a second time compelled him to abdicate; she who vowed to abide by him in prosperity and reverses." The ravings of this daring enthusiast, who was, in fact, giving language to the feelings of a great part of the French army, were at length drowned in a general cry of order. "You forget yourself," exclaimed Massena. "You believe yourself still in the corps de garde," said Lameth. Labedoyere strove to go on; but was silenced by the general clamour, which at length put an end to this scandalous scene.

The Peers, like the Deputies, having eluded any express recognition of the right of Napoleon II., the two Chambers proceeded to name the members of the provisional government. These were Carnot, Fouché, Caulaincourt, Grenier, and Quinette. The three first are sufficiently known. Grenier had been a soldier; Quinette an advocate. Both were faggots, chosen to fill up the commission, because they were likely to follow the sentiments of their more able colleagues. They addressed a proclamation to the

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