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Talleyrand and M. Constant.
liberal monarchical ideas, was at time singularly infected with republican despotism. He undertook to explain the object of our interview, and made a long speech composed of obscure, long-winded sentences, which no doubt he thought very eloquent. Madame de Staël every now and then prompted him both in words and ideas; so that the oration was altogether not a little amusing. Barras, seeing me smile, grew impatient to make an end of M. Constant's speech, which he very unceremoniously interrupted by saying:
"At first, I did not wish to see you in the Directory; not from any objection to yourself, but on account of my engagements. Now, I should see you there with pleasure on one condition, which is, that you assure to us the co-operation of Bonaparte."
"For what object?" inquired I.
They all looked at each other. The moment had arrived when it was necessary to be candid; and, after a sign interchanged between the Ex-Bishop of Autun and the Baroness, Barras thus continued:
We are between two gulfs: the old régime on the right, and terrorism on the left. By dint of leaning first to one side and then to the other, we shall lose our equilibrium. We must endeavour to stand firm and not fall; but it would be well to close up the gulfs which are yawning on either side. This we might do by pursuing our course in the path opened by the present constitution (that of the year III. and not of 1793); but, to do so, we must have the aid of a sword."
"Do you want Hoche, Moreau, Bernadotte, or Augereau" inquired I.
Objections were urged against them all. Augereau was declared to be useful only for a coup-de-main. He was Isaid to be an arm and not a head. "There is only one," said Barras, "only one who by sincerely uniting with us could lend us ample support. Henceforth, in all measures that may be contemplated, that General must be placed in the foremost rank. He has already been applied to through Ozun:* upwards of two hundred persons have
* Marie Joseph Ozun, was a native of Sarrancolin in the depart
Scheme of Madume de Staël.
written to him, and I wish you to procure his final an
"What if he should demand a share of the cake?"
"A place in the Directory."
Talleyrand. He is not of the age.
"Oh! He is an exception. Nobody would dispute the point with him.”
They all laughed, and I joined them. Madame de Staël now thought it was her turn to speak. Her silence had hitherto been a manifest effort of self-denial.
"I have suggested," said she, "that the Director shall intrust me with the negotiation. A woman is a person of no importance. Is it not so, gentlemen?" (We made many gallant protestations to the contrary) I can go to Italy: of all journeys that is the least likely to awaken curiosity. I will see the hero; I will paint to him a picture of his future glory. If he has a spark of patriotism in his soul, I will fan it into a flame. I will be his prophetess, his sybil, the Egeria of a victorious Numa. This will ensure success, whilst, if you employ ordinary negotiators, they will merely resort to cold common-place arguments. Bonaparte will grow weary, and matters will never arrive at a close. What is your opinion, Monsieur de Camba
I was by no means anxious to mediate between Barras and Bonaparte; and I, therefore, eagerly seconded the proposition of the enthusiastic daughter of Necker. "Gentle
ment of the Pyrenees, and was descended from an ancient family in that part of the country. He was a man of talent and of agreeable person and manners. On his arrival in Paris, he commenced his official career in the office of the National Treasury. He became a member of the Council of Five Hundred in 1795, and was made a tribune after the 18th Fructidor. He was subsequently created Prefect of l'Ain, and he died shortly afterwards in consequence of a fall from his horse. At the time of his death, the First Consul, who was his intimate friend, was about to give him the appointment of Prefet du Palais. From his entrance to the council of Five Hundred to the time of his death, he actively espoused the interests of Napoleon. He left behind him some very curious memoirs extending from 1784 to 1803.
Scheme of Madame de Staël.
," said I, "Madame de Staël is a man in politics, and the Graces cannot fail to negotiate advantageously with heroes."
I perceived that neither Barras nor M. de Talleyrand shared my opinion. The former observed:
"I fear that the General, of whose stoicism I have witnessed examples, will not be very well pleased to see affairs during the Republic conducted as they would have been in the reign of Louis XV."
Talleyrand.-The Gentleman (Bonaparte) is very positive, and but little given to gallantry. So far from consenting to listen to Minerva, he would, I verily believe, shrink from the zone of Venus.
Though the pill was well gilded, yet nevertheless Madame de Staël shewed herself piqued. However, some remarks which were made, soothed her dissatisfaction, and the party took leave of me, with a very absurd recommendation of secrecy.
Three hours afterwards, I repaired to the Luxembourg: I desired Barras' valet-de-chambre to inform his master that I was awaiting his commands. Barras desired that I should be shewn in, and, as soon as he saw me, said:
"What do you think of that mad project? Do not imagine that I had any share in it. The whole merit belongs to those two sages whose heads Sappho has turned. They will see their absurdity by and bye. However, she has talent enough for the whole forty of a French Academy." "Do you wish them to add another act to the Revolution?" I inquired.
"We must. The French are a strange people; agitation is their element, and they cannot be kept tranquil. Such is their taste for violent emotions, that repose is painful to them. When they complain of inertness, they mean to say: We rise and go to bed to-day, just as we did yesterday and the day before: this is too wearisome. Release us from this insipid state of existence!"
"It is too true,” I observed.
"Well, then! we must serve our master in his own way. These Councils are plotting my destruction, with that of La Réveillère and Rewbell. They are leagued with Carnot and Barthélemy. You seem to doubt this. I know it to be
Epithet applied to Carnot.
the fact. The ferocious Carnot, (I repeat the epithet which was used," said Prince Cambacérès, "without vouching for its appropriateness. Carnot bowed, and we all laughed) The Republican Carnot wishes to be a Marquis, and to fill a place at court... I tell you again it is so... Do you know so little of mankind? Carnot hates us and will do anything for the pleasure of revenge. We must keep watch on him, and anticipate his designs. If you are not for us, your name will be inscribed as against us; and then, God help you! If you will let good sense guide you, you will have a decisive answer from Bonaparte. In the first place, he must transmit funds. The Treasury is drained. There is not enough in it to pay for a man's supper:
Voilà, belle Emilie, à quel point nous en sommes.
This droll application of the above line of Corneille, made me laugh, though the subject of our conversation was melancholy enough. I shook my head and said:"Hoche will not agree to this."
"Never mind him."
"He will be compromised."
"We must close his mouth."
"How are you to impose silence on a man in his position?"
"There is a way to do so.... and an infallible one." The tone in which this was said made me shudder. I replied:
"I know there is. But I need not trouble myself about what does not concern me. I will write to Bonaparte." "Go and see him!"
"Stop!" said I, "this is not child's play. My mission would excite attention. Would Bonaparte be pleased with it? If he could be brought to a favourable decision, I would go If not, not
"Oh!" exclaimed Barras, laughing, "this is the Cortes of Arragon over again! But, seriously, one cannot treat this gentleman so cavalierly as one would another You are one of those who threw him in my way in Vendé
"Have you any reason to regret it?”
"I do not mean to say I have. ... But he is worse than a bar of iron; one can break that if one cannot bend it; but he is neither to be broken nor bent. These obstinate spirits are always more troublesome than useful.... And then you turn round upon me and say, tu l'as voulu, Georges Dandin!.... Well! I confess I did admire him; but then I knew nothing of him beyond his courage and military talent. Who would have imagined, in these times, that an officer would think about anything but pay and promotion? His correspondence is quite unique!... . It is like Frederick II. writing to his Council of State!.... What extended views!.... What lofty feelings of honour!.. What foresight! If we ever suffer him to get a firm footing in Paris, there will be but one dwelling for him, and that is the Tuileries; . . . . and he will doff his military cap for the crown of France."
I listened with deep interest to these observations. Barras formed a just estimate of Bonaparte; but yet I was not without apprehension that his fears might suggest that certain way of getting rid of him, which he had obscurely hinted to me in reference to Hoche. I, therefore, thought it expedient to subdue the bright colouring of the portrait he had traced of Bonaparte, to whom, nevertheless, I fully conceded other qualities besides those of an able general. "I am quite sensible," added I, "of the importance of securing his concurrence. I will write to him. I will see Lavalette. But will he not be dissatisfied with the confidence you have reposed in Augereau?"
Barras then told me that Augereau had been allotted a part in the movement only because he had been expressly designated by Bonaparte, who, knowing him to be incapable of governing, did not regard him with that jealousy which Hoche, Joubert, Championnet, Moreau and Bernadotte naturally inspired. "Indeed," continued Barras, "Bernadotte is as good as Bonaparte; he has as much talent. I have sounded him, and his answer was, that he regarded Carnot as the most excellent of men, and would never consent to aid in his destruction." But for this answer, I should not have troubled my head about Bona