EVENTS succeeded each other
rapidly in 18i. The remains of the army were collected around Paris,
Napoleon was once more compelled to abdicate, and a temporary Government
established. This Government, wishing to gauge the opinions of the
Generals, called a meeting, to which I was invited. I refused to attend
it, as I had resigned my command to the King, and felt that, if I
accepted the invitation, I should appear to be associating myself with
recent events and recognizing an order of things which my opinions would
not allow me to support.
One of the first
proceedings of this Government had been to raise new levies and organize
battalions of federates, who soon adopted a bullying, threatening manner
towards all who were not in agreement with them—that is to say, the
partisans of Royal Government. I decided to return secretly to Paris, so
as to be on the spot and better able to profit by chance events. I
entered it at night, and took shelter with one of my aides-de-camp. So
well hidden was I that next day everyone knew where I was! This
discovery did me no harm; on the contrary, it brought about an interview
with Monsieur Hyde de Neuville, who brought me (better late than never)
a note from the the Duchesse d'Angoulême, then in London, and unlimited
powers from the King, with a nomination to a membership in a secret
Government, which was to restore proper authority as soon as possible.
Monsieur Hyde de Neuville, who had quitted Ghent a month previously, had
been to London in the hope of finding means of returning to France. They
were fighting on the frontier, so it would have been imprudent to
attempt to enter there.
Several private meetings
were held in my house, of which I had openly retaken possession. We had
many supporters in the capital, and it was proposed to risk a Royalist
movement. 1 was opposed to it, as I did not see how we were to struggle
against the temporary Government with Fouché at its head, and also
because the army was still too exasperated to abandon the cause into
which it had been dragged.
Our party consisted of
Marshal Oudinot (Duke of Reggio), of Messieurs de Sémonville, D'André,
Du Bouchage, and Baron Pasquier, with one or two others whose names I
have forgotten. Baron Pasquier entered while we were discussing the
advantages of, and objections to, attempting a rising. He brought
Monsieur de Vitrolles with him; both had just come from Fouché. They
declared that the movement was unnecessary; that the Duke of Otranto (Fouché)
was in the interests of the King; that he had received from him plenary
powers later than ours; that our intentions were known, our every step
watched, and that we should infallibly fail. Baron Pasquier added that
in a few days we should have by force things that we might vainly
attempt to obtain by other means.
Monsieur de Vitrolles
confirmed what he said, and they added that they enjoyed the full
confidence of the Duke of Otranto, who did nothing without asking and
taking their opinion. Monsieur de Vitrolles was an ultra-Royalist, and
was therefore above suspicion.
We decided to do nothing,
but thought it would be only proper to inform the King of the reason why
we took no steps. One of us was to be deputed to go to his Majesty, and
I was asked to undertake the mission; I agreed. Fouché was informed of
this next day; he wished to see me. I at first felt very strong
disinclination to such an interview, but was persuaded to agree to it,
as I was informed that I should be told of many things for the King
which could not be entrusted to paper. The capitulation of Paris and an
armistice had just been arranged; the French arm)' was retiring across
At the appointed hour I
went to the Tuileries, where the temporary Government held its sittings.
I expected to be received privately, but I found the Duke of Otranto and
some of his colleagues amid a number of Generals and others. Several
came to greet me. A heated discussion ensued. I treated them very
severely, reproaching them for the misfortunes under which France was
groaning, and accusing them of having provoked the strangers, who in two
days would be masters of Paris. They all talked at once, and such
nonsense that at last Fouché took me aside, and said
'Never mind them; they
are a set of fools.'
One of his colleagues
called to me, in a loud voice
'Monsieur Ic Maréchal,
you are going to see the King. Tell him that what we want is
independence, the tricoloured cockade and—'
I did not hear the
remainder, contenting myself with a shrug of my shoulders. The days of
the temporary Government were numbered.
Fouché confirmed all that
Pasquier and De Vitrolles had told me the previous evening at our
meeting—he was working on behalf of the King. He begged me to assure his
Majesty of his devotion and fidelity—to say that, if he had played a
part in recent events, it was only in order to serve him better! He
urged me to impress upon him the advisability of coming quickly, and of
preceding the foreigners, if pos. sible, so as to check any movement by
his presence. He added that, if the King wished to give an agreeable
surprise to the nation, and thus attract the army to himself; he should
wear the tricoloured cockade, which he ought to mind the less as he had
worn it before the emigration. He ended by asking me to go and see
Davoüt, Commander-in-chief and Minister for War, who was expecting me,
and would give me my passport. I took leave of Fouché, and went to the
Marshal Davoüt received
me warmly. He told me that the effective force of the army that was
going to the other side of the Loire amounted to 150,000 men and 30,000
horses, with 750 pieces of ordnance; that he would place this imposing
force at the King's service if he would leave them the tricoloured
cockade and wear it himself; that the great majority of people in France
were deeply attached to these colours, under which they had so often
fought victoriously ; that that would be the best means of regaining the
affection of all citizens worthy of the name; and that his Majesty might
then give the army a chief of his own choice, if it did not please him
to leave him (Davoüt) at its head.
I promised, as I had done
to Fouché, to relate faithfully to the King all that I had heard; but I
added that I doubted his accepting the conditions laid down.
As a matter of policy, I
am still convinced that the adoption of these colours, on the occasion
of the first Restoration, would have saved France from the calamities
that weighed so heavily upon her; but at such a moment, in presence of
the allies, could the King honourably decide upon such a course?
Although policy excuses everything, even the greatest mistakes, one had
been committed at the first Restoration, and perhaps, also, at the
second, because this was not clearly understood. It cannot he said that
the mistake was committed a second time owing to want of good advice.
The King was inclined to give way when 1 saw him, but the counsellors he
brought from Ghent dissuaded him.
I started with Monsieur
Hyde de Neuville; although we were serving the same cause, I was far
from sharing his extreme opinions. A staff-officer passed us through the
outposts, and it was with a feeling of sorrow that I found myself among
those of the foreigners.
It was believed that the
King was at Cambrai; but that very day he had come to sleep at .Arnouville,
a few leagues from Paris. His Ministers preceded him; I met them rather
on this side of Louvres. They halted on learning who I was. They had no
news from Paris, and that which I brought appeared to them so important
as to make them anxious that the King should stop at Gonesse, whither we
went to wait for him.
His Majesty embraced me
very cordially, praising the fidelity I had maintained towards him. He
gave me a private interview, which lasted for a full hour. The King
could not get over his surprise at finding the importance that was
attached to so apparently trivial a thing as the cockade---'a plaything'
he called it.
'But, your Majesty,' said
I, 'were you only playing when you once adopted and wore these colours?'
'The circumstances were
very different,' he replied. 'At that time I had to master the
''And to make use of it,'
I hastily remarked, 'on your first return. The circumstances are the
same now. Moreover, were not these in former days the colours of the
Royal Family, and did not the Dutch receive them from Henry IV.?
'Yes,' answered the King;
but they were the livery colours of his house.'
'No doubt your Majesty
will also remember that at the gates of the capital the same monarch
remarked that "Paris was well worth a Mass"?
'Certainly; but it was
not a very Catholic speech.' Finally the King said he would consult his
Ministers and allies, and took me on with him to Arnouville.
After dinner, Monsieur,
the 1)uc de Berry, the principal officers, and some of the Ministers
came in. The King said:
'My brother, my nephew,
here is our friend the Marshal; embrace him.'
Monsieur did it with very
good grace, but his son displayed some embarrassment and reluctance. I
do not know whether he thought the favour too great, or whether he
remembered the discussion we had had before the departure of the King.
Conversation turned naturally upon existing circumstances and the causes
that had produced them. Everybody indiscriminately, but especially the
army, was accused of having joined a colossal plot to upset the Royal
Government and restore Napoleon.
I, on the other hand,
maintained that the faults of which I could speak boldly, since they had
been avowed boldly in the proclamation of Camhrai—prodigality,
injustice, abuses, favours distributed without discernment, violation of
the Charter, haughtiness, contempt—had contributed to embitter the army
and a portion of the nation; that even had Napoleon not appeared, there
would have been risings, as they had been foreshadowed by unmistakable
portents. 1 declared, with the same boldness, that certain Generals had
not followed a straight line, to use the expression of Count Ferrand;
that when they found their influence spreading, the appearance of their
old leader had sufficed to turn all their heads, as a spark might create
a conflagration; that, on the whole, the officers were not guilty ; and
that, in acting as they had done, they simply followed the regimental
money-chests. A proof, an unanswerable proof, that there had been no
plot was contained in the fact that during the Hundred Days no
individuals had boasted of having had anything to do with it. Had it
been otherwise, men would have been proud of it, and publicly solicited
rewards. Surely those who had done wrong would not have been kept from
self-glorification by vanity or indifference.
'There is much truth, my
brother, in what the Marshal says,' remarked the King; but the audience
did not appear convinced. The King dismissed us.
Next day I saw several of
the Ministers privately; they appeared uncertain what to advise, but to
me it seemed clear that they had already resolved to reject the
proposals I had brought the previous day to Gonesse. Monsieur de
Talleyrand, who had been sent to Neuilly to the allied Generals, had
returned to give an account of his mission. A council had been held
immediately upon his arrival, and after a short deliberation he started
again for Neuilly, no doubt in order to announce the result to his
allies. I learned that Fouché had gone there also, more probably to
treat for his own private interests than for those of France.
I tackled the Ministers
immediately upon the subject of the colours. They somewhat awkwardly
admitted that the presence and opposite opinion of the allies had placed
an invincible obstacle in the way. It became obvious that, if we could
no longer impose acts of government, we must submit to accepting those
of the conqueror. Several of them, Baron Louis, the Marquis de Jaucourt,
and others, invited me to a conference in the open air, and I learned
that they were charged to reconstruct the Ministry, and to offer me the
Secretaryship for War. The Duc de Feltre was standing not far from us. I
Pointed him out, and said:
'T'here is the man with
the best right to it.'
'No,' said Baron Louis;
'we will not have as a colleague a man who, in a speech in the Chamber
of Peers, under a representative Government, dared to proclaim that
"What the King wills, the Law wills."
I had myself heard these
remarkable words; and this resuscitation of a superannuated maxim,
dating from the time of absolute monarchs, had produced considerable
murmurings against, and some abuse of; their author.
I at first pleaded my
incapacity, the condition of France and of the army. I declared plainly
that, foreseeing as I did acts of severity, I would not consent to he
made the instrument for applying them to men who were unfortunate rather
than guilty; that, in short, I had neither strength, courage, nor
capacity to support such a burden. They pressed me, but to no purpose;
they then exhibited great regret, which I had no reason for not
believing sincere, and begged me to name somebody. There were few
Generals who had taken no part in this Revolution. I named them, and
left the choice to my auditors—Mortier, Oudinot, Gouvion St. Cyr,
Dessole, and some others whom I do not now recollect. They desired my
opinion upon the subject of the two last. I had no connection with nor
any feeling for or against either.
'Is St. Cyr fond of
work?' they asked. 'Many people say he is lazy.'
'I am not aware of it. He
is a man of great military capacity, firm, honest, jealous of other
people's merit. In the army he is regarded as what is vulgarly called a
"bad bed-fellow." In the coldest manner imaginable he allowed his
neighbours to be beaten without attempting to assist them, and then
criticised them afterwards. But this opinion, not uncommon among
soldiers, is perhaps ex- aggerated, and he is admitted to have wits,
calmness, and great capabilities.'
He justified this opinion
both in the army and at the War Office.
Dessole seemed, at the
moment, to be more in favour with my interlocutors. His character was
gentler, more trusting than the other's; he also possessed greater
administrative qualities, having generally occupied the post of chief of
the general staff. But under existing circumstances, and after so great
an alarm, it was indispensable to select a man who combined firmness and
conciliation. The former of these qualities should predominate, and it
was just that one in which Dessole was lacking. He had recently given
proof of this in my presence when I brought him back from Béthune to
Paris—hesitating, undecided, not knowing what to do. However, he
afterwards became President of the Council and Foreign Secretary.
Loud were the railings
against France and the army, as I have mentioned in my account of the
conversation the foregoing evening ; those who were about the Princes
and who had emigrated vowed vengeance, though I must add that their
vengeance was to he brought about by means of the allied armies. For the
sake of truth I must add that the Ministers with whom I conferred
displayed great moderation, and lamented with me the disaster of
Waterloo, and the yoke that the foreigners were preparing for the
shoulders of our country.
During our conversation,
from which this digression has carried me away, we were struck by a
sudden uproar rising from the courtyard of the castle. We hastened up,
and saw General Lagrange, who had only one arm, struggling with some
guards of the blue and red corps. They were abusing him for not having
followed to Ghent a company of mousquetaires, of which he was commander,
and were tearing off the emblems of his rank. We ran to his assistance,
but the Duc de Feltre, who was close at hand, had already delivered him
from the hands of these madmen.
I expressed in round
terms my indignation and my opinion of their cowardice in attacking a
one-armed officer; I told them that they should exhibit their bravery in
presence of and against the enemy, and not against a man who had given
'proof of his on many battlefields. As soon as the King was informed of
the occurrence he sent down an expression of his indignation, and his
intention of inflicting punishment; at the same time he sent for me.
This incident naturally broke off our conference. [A very different
incident occurred in one of the Peninsular Dattles. As Colonel Felton
Harvey was leading his squadrons to an attack, his sword arm disabled
and hanging clown, he was on the point of being cut down by the Colonel
at the head of the French cavalry opposed to him, when the latter,
observing his defenceless condition, suddenly brought his sword at the
critical instant to a salute, and passed on.]
The King began by
thanking me for the firmness I had displayed towards his guards, but I
stopped him by saying that it was the Due de Feltre who had put an end
to the outrage to which General Lagrange had fallen a victim, that I had
come up too late, but soon enough, however, to lecture his guards as
they deserved. He then said that he had ordered an inquiry, and would
punish the guilty severely.
'But,' he continued, 'I
had another motive in sending for you. You told me that Monsieur Fouchét
would make over the government to me if I would agree to the conditions
you were charged to submit to me. I cannot speak very decidedly just
now, because I must deliberate with my allies; but you understand that
my dignity will not suffer me to take the reins from his hands. Return,
therefore, to Paris, tell him to make over his powers to you, and that I
will not fail to requite the services he has recently done me.'
I knew that the Duke of
Otranto was at Neuilly in conference with the allied Generals and the
Prince of Benevento (Talleyrand) I had the intelligence from
Beurnonville. Apparently the King was ignorant of the fact, for he
started, but soon recovered, and said:
'Very good; if he he away
you will see his colleagues, and notify my intentions to them.'
'But, Sire, they will do
nothing in the absence of their leader, and they are sure not to be all
of the same opinion.,
'Go, all the same. If you
do not see them, remain in Paris; in the contrary event, come back as
soon as possible and inform me of what has happened.'
I bowed, and was about to
start upon this mission, when he stopped me, and said:
'My dear Marshal, there
is yet another service which I am going to ask of your zeal;' and,
giving me a folded paper that was lying on his writing-table, he
'This is your nomination
as Arch-Chancellor of the the Legion of Honour. It was presented to me
by Monsieur de Talleyrand, and I signed it at Roye.'
I refused this office for
the same reasons as those I had previously given in refusing the
Ministry of War. At the word 'Ministry' the King seemed surprised, but
said with great kindness that he considered me equally worthy of either,
and insisted so much that I ended by giving way. He largely increased
the dignity of the office by restoring to it the title of a
Secretaryship of State, and permitting it to have direct communication
with the Sovereign. These privileges had existed under the Empire, but
had been suppressed at the Restoration; the title had been reduced to
that of Chancellor only, and the officer could only communicate with the
King through the Minister of the Household. I was to be dependent upon
the President of the Council, inasmuch as his counter-signature was
necessary. [I think I have already referred to the question of
orphanages founded for the daughters of members of the Order. I have not
leisure to read over again what I have written on this subject, from a
bad habit I long since contracted. I write a great deal and very
rapidly; I should discover many mistakes, but in order to correct them I
should have to erase them or recommence my work, and I should never have
time enough, although I rise very early. (The secret is that I know the
value of time, and never waste it.) However, do not imitate my bad
habits ; write less and more correctly. But, after all, these historical
notes are for you alone, and you will make allowances for your father.
Note by Marshal Macdonald.] When this matter was settled I started for
Paris to carry out the mission with which the King had charged me.
On the way I reflected
upon what had happened during the morning. Why, on the one hand, were
the Ministers I have quoted so anxious to secure my services, while, on
the other, the King pressed me so earnestly to accept the Arch-
Chancellorship? He, clearly, was but the echo of Monsieur de Talleyrand,
who was interested in keeping me out of the Government, where I should
have been too much in his way; but as the King, apparently, wished that
I should hold some office, the Prince of Benevento suggested the Legion
of Honour for me. It was clear that some intrigue, of which his
colleagues were kept in ignorance, was concealed under this business.
The matter had been arranged between the King and the Minister, who in
his haste had forgotten to countersign the appointment. I did not think
well to have this informality put right. It was now useless, as I was
already in office. The document has remained in the same state ever
On the road I had to
endure the painful spectacle of, and to pass through, an enemy's camp. I
also passed General Dessole, wearing the uniform of the Commander of the
Parisian National Guard. He was going to pay his respects at Arnouville,
and was uneasy as to what reception he might find; we exchanged a few
words, and I was able to reassure him. As a matter of fact, he was
retained in his post, and next time I saw him he was in good spirits,
and had recovered his courage.
According to my
anticipations, I found neither the Duke of Otranto (Fouché)—who was at
Neuilly—nor his colleagues in the temporary Government. They had met
that morning for the last time. Since my mission had no longer an
object, I remained quiet.