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ART. II. Confession du Général Buonaparté à l'Abbé Maury,
&c. &c. dédiée au Général Kléber. Par le Général Sarrazin, &c.
Egerton. 1811. THERE are, probably, few individuals in Europe whose com
torts have not been, or may not be abridged by the all pervaiding influence of Buonaparte. There are none so insulated as to view him with indifference. His talents and his vices, his achievements and his crimes furnish matter not only of speculative inquiry, but of anxious meditation : and there is no passage of Buonaparie's life, nor any quality of his mind or temper, which does not excite in every reader of his history, in whatever part of the world, a silent and involuntary reference to future possible coutingencies in which he may himself unhappily have a share. It is interesting to investigate the process, and to measure the steps by which an individual born in the humblest walks of private lite has advanced from obycurity to the possession of the highest rank which fortune can bestow on human ambition; to mark the quick and dexterous audacity with which he has seized and profited by every advantage which a series of unexampled vicissitudes successively threw in his way; and to contemplate the skill with which he has recombined and consolidated all the elements of a mighty power which had been scattered abroad by the explosion of the revolutionary volcano. But it is doubly interesting to examine and calculate the means of mischief, which such a series of successes, however earned, has accumulated in the hands of this daring and prosperous adventurer, when we know that the destined employment of those means is for the destruction of this country; and that we must therefore be prepared to oppose to them, so long as his life shall endure, a vigilant and unintermitting resistance. Every publication, therefore, of whatever nature, or from whatever pen, which promises to afford a new insight into the actions and character of so extraordinary a man, offers a sure incentive to our curiosity.
The anecdotes which have been collected, respecting Buonaparte are, as might be expected, almost innumerable. For a time, those only were sought which tended to indicate, in the youthful candidate for military fame, the future hero of Lodi, of Arcole, of Roveredo, &c.; his early vices were concealed; his wellknown ferocity glossed over; his ambition considered as the instinct of conscious superiority; and, so strong and durable was the illusion which his triumphs and his artifices had cast around him, that we scarcely know how to fix the date at which the persevering display of his malignant nature began to shame bis admirers into silence.
The tide of popular opinion, indeed, appears, at length, to be effectually turned, and many indications concur to shew, that the indignant spirit of resentment, which has burst forth in the Spanish peninsula, is with difficulty repressed in many other parts of Europe. Indeed, we rather fear the too sudden and impatient display, than doubt the extent and sincerity of this feeling. That it is very general in France itself, can scarcely be questioned by those who consider the numberless privations imposed upon the people, the vexations of the police, and the multiplied miseries inflicted by the conscription. But public opinion will never subvert a military despotism. On the army alone, which raised their general to the throne, and continues to support him on it, must the stability of his power eventually depend." We are, therefore, much more anxious to acquire information respecting the temper of that army, and the characters and views of its principal officers, than to ascertain the degree of impatience with which a cruelly oppressed nation submits to slavery. We should also be glad to know exactly the degree of estimation in which the great military talents of Buonaparte (for great they unquestionably must be acknowledged to be) are held by the intelligent and unprejudiced companions of his triumphs ; for the purpose of discovering bow far be is indebted to this estimation, for the great ascendancy which he has acquired. It was not therefore without a very lively interest that we took up the publication of General Sarrazin: and although our reliance upon what we might find there was necessarily to be qualified by many obvious considerations arising from the peculiar circumstances under which the General presents himself to the notice of the British nation, we yet began the perusal of this performance with hopes which, we are sorry to say, have by no means been realized.
Of the writer we know nothing beyond what is contained in his preface to this publication, and in his printed' Answer to the Report addressed by General Clarke, to Buonaparte,' which last indeed, sufficiently shows the means which he had of collecting, from other generals in the French army, an account of every military transaction during the war in which he had not himself participated. But he has related some facts respecting which he confesses himself to be merely the echo of public opinion, and attempts to establish others, of which his own belief is by no means creditable to his judgment. Still, however, an account of Buonaparte's military life, written by one of his generals, must be an object of some interest. We will, therefore, present to our readers a short description of the volume before us, the composition of which is rather singular; the first part being a dialogue between Buovaparte and the Abbé Maury; the second a dialogue between Maury and Berthier; and the third an extract froin a work, intended for publi
cation, under the title of “ Notes Biographiques;' the lives here sketched being those of Berthier, Buonaparte, and Kleber.
The two dialogues form a sort of drama, of which this is the fable. Buonaparte, having retired to rest towards the close of the night of the 1st of July, when the splendid ball, given by the Prince of Schwartzenberg, was so umexprciedly terminated by a dreadful conflagration, is tormented by hideous dreams, in which he supposes himself to be struggling with assassins, and utters such piercing shrieks, that he ultimately dissipates his own slumbers, and so completely alarms the imagination of the empress, that she firmly convinces herself, and at last persuades him, that he is tormented by the devil, and can only hope for repose, in this world or the next, by going to confession. For this pious purpose the repentant Buonaparte repairs to the Abbé Maury, fully determined to reveal all his misdemeanours and to obtain absolution.
This Confession, which occupies the first 115 pages, is interrupted by the entrance of the express. The scene then changes to the anti-chamber, where Berthier had long been expecting an audience of his master, and where a second dialogre, carried on in a very different tone, but generally turning on nearly the same topics, takes place between the grand almoner and the master of the imperial buck-hounds.
In the third part, wbich is of nearly the same levgth as each of the former, the author assumes the sober language of an historian; and the intention of this appendix is to shew, that of the three personages employed in his dialogues, two perform their parts in perfect consistency with their real characters; but he lias not taken the trouble to inform us whether the change which has been wrought in the lively and eloqnent Abbé Maury since his transformation into a cardinal and an archbishop, has really been so complete as to justify the representation which he gives of him; or whether he meant only to draw a biggotted and canting confessor, without much solicitude as to the tidelity of the individual resemblance.
With this exception, we are not disposed to question the dramatic truth of his characters; nor to deny that some advantage to his object may possibly be derived from the whimsical mode in which he has thought fit to arrange his materials. He may, perhaps, entertain hopes of being able to disseininate his work amongst his bre: thren in arms, in addressing whom it is much more politic to adopt the language of ridicule than that of indignation. By employing the penitent sinner as his own biographer; by causing him to use his own habitual style, and to blend the most humiliating avowals with expressions of his characteristic haughtiness and petulance; by occasionally introducing an embarrassing question, where it was necessary, to justify a long discussion; and by availing himself of other obvious advantages which the contrast of different characters naturally afforded; the author has certainly contrived to effect his purpose with less fatigue to himself, and with more amusement to the reader, than could otherwise have been reasonably expected.But the pleasantry, such as it is, which results from the dramatic form of the work, is incapable of being transfused into an abstract; and as General Sarrazin has unfortunately thought fit to reserve, for a future publication, the most recent, and consequently most interesting parts of his hero's history, we must content ourselves, for the present, with the somewhat tiresome task of repeating many facts which have long been known, for the sake of the comments with which they are accompanied.
We believe that the early part of Buonaparte's life is related in strict conformity to truth. He received the first rudiments of education at the military school at Brienne, from whence he was removed to that of Paris, and began his career of service in the first regiment of artillery. Whilst poor, and a subaltern, he was a model of submission to military discipline and subordination; and devoted his whole time and attention to the unremitting study of his profession.
The exploit which introduced him to public notice, was his pitiless execution of the orders of Barras and Fréron against the wretched inhabitants of Toulon; in consequence of which he obtained, in 1794, an employment on the staff of the army of Italy. His hopes being thus raised, he gave a loose to his turbulent ambition ; criticised the talents of the general, and of all the superior officers whom he wished to supplant, and gave so much offence that, notwithstanding his protestations of Jacobinism, and of zeal for the good cause, he was arrested on suspicion of treason, and, though liberated, reduced to half pay, and compelled to go to Paris for the purpose of soliciting his restoration. This was the
period of his greatest distress; but became the source of his subsequent elevation. Never were the several factions, by which Paris and the Republic were agitated, more nicely balanced than in 1795; never were their respective projects and means, and the characters of their leaders more easily discoverable, than at the moment when Buonaparte, whose natural sagacity was quickened by the excess of his misery, became a spectator of the busy scene, without any other occupation than that of meditating on the different roads which the approaching crisis might offer to his ambition.
The Convention had confided to Barras their power over the whole military force. Barras, who had witnessed the conduct of Buonaparte at Toulon, when the period arrived at which the troops were to be called into action against the refractory sections of Paris, chose Buonaparte for his second in command, and had reason to be amply satisfied with the slaughter of the Parisians on the 5th of October. The hero of the Rue St. Honoré was rewarded by an appointment to the rank of General of the 17th military division, and with the government of Paris; but he had too much penetration not to perceive that the Directory, which he had contributed to establish, could not possibly be competent to the task of exercising, during a succession of years, an authority which rested on no solid basis. lle had seen successive revolutions effected by the mob of the metropolis; he had ascertained, by experiment, the facility of crushing these tumultuous efforts of democracy by a small but well organized force, and concluding that the power of transferring the sovereignty must ultimately be assumed by the armies, he earnestly solicited Barras to procure for him the command of the troops destined for the conquest of Italy. It is supposed that this favour was granted under some specific stipulations. The widow of General Beauharnois, at that time the reputed mistress of the Director, became, on the sth of March, 1796, the wife of Buonaparte, who, on the following day, set off to take the command of the army of Italy.
It has been very much the practice to undervalue the military force with which revolutionary France began her aggressions on the peace of Europe, and thus to represent as marvellous those successes which were really the result of very natural causes. War was declared against the emperor on the 20th of April, 1792. The French troops of the line consisted of about two hundred battalions of infantry, and of two hundred and eight squadrons of cavalry, all well exercised, though not accustomed to a very regular discipline. The artillery and engineers were excellent; and, notwithstanding the very general emigration of the nobility, the army was, upon the whole, well officered. The national guards, who consisted of one hundred battalions, were by no means despicable, having been well instructed by non-commissioned officers from the line; and they shortly became equal to the regulars, in discipline as well as in courage.
The Generals Rochanıbeau, Beauharnois, Dumourier, Broglie, Lukner, La Favette, Dillon, &c, were certainly capable of organizing and commanding an army. It is true, that the tumultuary spirit of the times was unfavourable to discipline; but the insubordination of the troops was very short lived; and, from the moment when the representatives of the people were sent to the camps, the army became accustomed to those habits of implicit obedience by which they have, till this hour, been eminently distinguished. The extraordinary power thus entrusted to members of the Convention was, in some instances, capriciously and absurdly exercised; but it is to be remembered that Kleber, Mo