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FrRevol_601-650.indd 12 3/16/12 1:15 PM CHAPTER XIII Return ofBonaparte. No, never shall I forget the moment when I learned from one of my friends, on the morning of the 6th of March, 181 ),1 that Bonaparte had disembarked on the coast of France; I had the misfortune to foresee instantly the consequences ofthat event, such as they have since taken place, and I thought that the earth was about to open under my feet. For several days after the triumph ofthis man the aid ofprayer failed me entirely, and in my trouble it seemed to me that the Deity had withdrawn from the earth and would no longer communicate with the beings whom he had placed there. I suffered in the bottom of my heart from personal circumstances; but the situation of France absorbed every other thought.2 I said to M. de Lavalette,3 whom I met almost at the hour when this news was resounding around us: "There is an end of liberty if Bonaparte triumphs, and of national independence if he is defeated." The event has, I think, but too much justified this sad prediction. It was impossible to avoid an inexpressible irritation before the return and during the progress of Bonaparte. During the previous month, all 1. In fact, Napoleon landed on March 1, 181 ;, at Golfe-Jean. See Furet, Revolutionary France, 275-So. 2. On March 10, t8t;, Madame de Stael and her family (with the exception ofAuguste) left Paris for Switzerland; Napoleon arrived in Paris ten days later. On behalf of the Emperor , Joseph Fouche, Duke ofOtrante ( 1759-t820), sent Madame de Stael a courteous note on March 24, followed by a similar letter signed by Joseph Bonaparte on April), in which Joseph Bonaparte quoted Napoleon as endorsing Madame de Stael's ideas. See Solovieff, ed., Madame de Staiil, ses amis, ses correspondants. Clzoix de !ettres (t:;:;8-t8t:;), 494· To Joseph Bonaparte she commented somewhat favorably on Napoleon's return (ibid., 493). 3· Antoine Chamans, Count of La Valette (1769- 1830), former close associate of Napoleon. Gz2 FrRevol_601-650.indd 13 3/16/12 1:15 PM CHAPTER XI I I. Return ofBonaparte those who had any acquaintance with revolutions had felt the air charged with storms; repeated notice of this was given to persons connected with government; but many among them regarded the disquieted friends of liberty as relapsing, and as still believing in the influence ofthe people, in the power of revolutions. The most moderate among the aristocrats thought that public affairs regarded government only, and that it was indiscreet to interfere with them. They could not be made to understand that to be acquainted with what is passing in a country where the spirit of liberty ferments, men in office should neglect no opinion, be indifferent to no circumstance, and multiply their numbers by activity instead of wrapping themselves up in a mysterious silence. The partisans of Bonaparte were a thousand times better informed on everything than the servants ofthe King; for the Bonapartists, as well as their master, were aware ofwhat importance every individual can be in a time oftrouble. Formerly everything depended on men in office; at present those who are out of office act more on public opinion than government itself, and consequently forecast better the future. A continual dread had taken possession ofmy soul several weeks before the disembarkation of Bonaparte. In the evening, when the beautiful buildings ofthe town were illuminated by the rays ofthe moon, it seemed to me that I saw my happiness and that ofFrance, like a sick friend whose smile is the more amiable because he is on the eve of leaving us. When told that this terrible man was at Cannes, I shrunk before the certainty as before a poignard; but when it was no longer possible to escape that certainty , I was but too well assured that he would be at Paris in a fortnight. The royalists made a mockery of this terror; it was strange to hear them say that this event was the most fortunate thing possible, because we should then be relieved from Bonaparte, because the two chambers would feel the necessity ofgiving the King absolute power, as ifabsolute power was a thing to be given! Despotism, like liberty, is assumed and is never granted. I am not sure that among the enemies ofevery constitution there may not have been some who rejoiced at the convulsion which might recall foreigners and...


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