« AnteriorContinuar »
the details had only been partially given, and with so great an addition of fiction, that it was quite impossible to tell with certainty what had really passed upon the occasion. The publication of the work before us puts an end to all doubt upon this subject, supplying the particulars of this chapter, the last in the history of Napoleon's public life, with the minuteness which was desirable, and under the sanction of the very best authority, the distinguished officer to whom he surrendered himself, and whose conduct, at once firm, judicious, and delicate in an extraordinary degree, while it proves him to have been every way desirous of so great an honour, forms a striking contrast to the demeanour of some others afterwards employed in the custody of the illustrious captive.
Captain Maitland had, immediately after the event, thrown together, in the form of a narrative, the notes and memoranda which he made at the moment. Among other reasons for undertaking this task, he candidly mentions one to have been, the desire of correcting the many misrepresentations that appeared ' at the time respecting the conduct of Buonaparte,' as well as his own behaviour towards him. He adds, that he has carefully avoided yielding to the bias in Napoleon's favour, which it was impossible even for a British officer not to feel, from his
fascinating qualities.' This narrative having been shown to several friends, he is now induced, by their very proper advice, to make public. It is written clearly and sensibly, without any pretensions or any affectation, and does him no little credit even as an author; a praise very inferior to that which his conduct, recorded in it, commands for his character as a man, and the promptitude and sagacity with which he performed his official duty.
We shall pass over the detail of the different advices and orders received by Captain Maitland, the communications made by him, and his various arrangements to prevent the Emperor's escape, during the six weeks that elapsed from his arrival on the coast, to the 10th July. He had very precise orders to prevent the escape; and if he should take the Emperor, to bring him to the nearest port in England with all possible • expedition;' transferring him to his own ship,' and there • keeping him in careful custody.' The possibility of a voluntary surrender seems never to have been comtemplated ; and Captain Maitland is therefore perfectly entitled to say, that such an event was not provided for by his instructions. On the 10th July, General Savary and Count Las Cases came on board his ship, the Bellerophon, with a letter from General Bertrand, stating the Emperor's intention of proceeding to
America, and requesting to be informed whether the British Government would give him a passport, or would obstruct his voyage in a French frigate, or in a neutral vessel. His answer was, that the hostilities prevented any French ship from pas, sing, and that without orders from the Admiral on the station, he could not suffer the Emperor to pass in any vessel, under • whatever flag.' The following conversation took place between General Savary and the Captain; we give it, because, by our author's most candid statement, it appears that the idea of asking an asylum in England was first suggested by him.
• During the time the Frenchmen were with me, I received some French newspapers from Sir Henry Hotham ; but my time was so fully occupied in writing to him, and in discussions with my visitors, that it was not in my power to read them: I therefore drew them back to the subject that had occasioned their visit, and said, “ Supposing the British Government should be induced to grant a passport for Buonaparte's going to America, what pledge could he give that he would not return, and put England as well as all Europe to the same expense of blood and treasure that has just been incurred ?”
• General Savary made the following reply :-" When the Emperor first abdicated the throne of France, his removal was brought about by a faction, at the head of which was Talleyrand, and the sense of the nation was not consulted ; but in the present instance, he has voluntarily resigned the power. The influence he once had over the French people is past; a very considerable change has taken place in their sentiments towards him, since he went to Elba; and he could never regain the power he had over their minds; therefore he would prefer retiring into obscurity, where he might end his days in peace and tranquillity; and, were he solicited to ascend the throne again, he would decline it.”
“ If this is the case," I said, “ why not ask an asylum in England ? ” He answered, “ There are many reasons for his not wishing to reside in England : the climate is too damp and cold ; it is too near France ; he would be, as it were, in the centre of every change and revolution that might take place there, and would be subject to suspicion ; he has been accustomed to consider the English as his most inveterate enemies, and they have been induced to look upon him as a monster, without one of the virtues of a human being." pp. 33–35,
On the 14th, and before the Admiral's answer had arrived, Count Las Cases came again, accompanied by General Lallemand, and stated the Emperor's disposition to go either in a French, an American, or even a British ship of war,' as our Government might choose. The Captain's answer was, that he had no authority to make any such arrangement, nor did • he believe that the Government would consent to it, but that - he would venture, on his own responsibility, to receive him « into his own ship, and carry him to England'-adding, however, that he could enter into no promise as to his reception
there, tion of the Britinded, plausibly rried to Engla
there, as he could not even be sure of meeting with the ap
probation of the British Government for receiving him.' It may certainly be contended, plausibly enough, that this seemed to imply that the Emperor, if so carried to England, would not be at the absolute disposal of the Government, otherwise what doubt could Captain Maitland have of his conduct being approv, ed by a government which only wanted to obtain uncontrouled dominion over the person of Napoleon ? Las Cases, before quitting the Bellerophon, intimated his strong belief that the Emperor would come on board; and from this circumstance, as well as the date of the celebrated Letter to the Prince Regent, the day before the interview, it is natural to conclude with our author, that the resolution had been already taken. The Captain, in answer to a question from General Lallemand, whether there was any risk of those who might accompany the Emperor, being given up to the French Government, answered, • Certainly not the British Government could never think
of doing so, under the circumstances contemplated in the 6 present arrangement.' A project of escape, by being concealed in a cask with air-tubes, on board of a Danish ship, was abandoned, from the apprehension that, should it fail, the attempt might be deemed a forfeiture of the Emperor's claims to good treatment; and Las Cases returned the same day with a letter from Bertrand, referring to the conversation with the Captain in the morning, as had been reported to Napoleon, and announcing the Emperor's determination to come on board early next morning, and receive the passport which he had asked for America. • Mais au défaut du sauf conduit, il se
rendra volontiers en Angleterre, comme simple particulier, pour y jouir de la protection des loix de votre pays.' The letter to the Prince was sent at the same time by General Gourgaud; and to keep unbroken the chain of evidence on which the decision of the question between our Government and the Emperor must depend, we shall here insert it, although familiar to the reader.
" Altesse Royal, “ En butte aux factions qui divisent mon pays et à l'inimitié des plus grandes puissances de l'Europe, J'ai terminé ma carrière politique, et je viens comme Thémistocle m'asseoir sur le foyer du peuple Britannique. Je me mets sous la protection de ses loix, que je réclame de votre Al, tesse Royal, comme au plus puisant, au plus constant, et au plus géné: reux de mes Ennemis, “ Rochefort, 13 Juillet, 1815,
Signé, « Napoleon.” Captain Maitland read the letter addressed to himself, and
said that he would receive the Emperor on board, and send General Gourgaud on to England—but added that, which relieves himself from all share of blame in the affair, “ Monsieur • Las Cases, you will recollect that I am not authorized to • stipulate as to the reception of Buonaparte in England, but o that he must consider himself entirely at the disposal of his « Royal Highness the Prince Regent.” He answered, “ Į am • perfectly aware of that, and have already acquainted the • Emperor with what you said on the subject.” It must be observed, that this declaration and the answer are perfectly consistent with the supposition, that the only question between the parties was, as to the degree of liberty which Napoleon should enjoy in England. In what manner the Frenchmen understood it, is clear from this, that Captain Maitland found them prepared, and in a way which he describes, for an attempt at escaping in the event of Las Cases's mission to the « Bellerophon not being successful.' Now, what does this mean? What could be understood by success, except a reception that would secure the Emperor's at least remaining in England, whether prisoner or not? How could the mission be less successful than by its terminating in the Emperor's reception, not only as a prisoner, but a prisoner absolutely at his enemy's disposal, with respect to the place of his prison, as well as his treatment in it?
At break of day on the 15th, the French brig of war, having the Emperor on board, was seen standing out towards the Bellerophon; and Captain Maitland perceiving the Superb, with Admiral Hotham's flag in the offing, and likely to reach him before the brig could, from the failure of the ebb tide, sent his barge to the latter, and brought Napoleon on board the Bellerophon a little after six o'clock.
• On coming on board the Bellerophon, he was received without any of the honours generally paid to persons of high rank ; the guard was drawn out on the break of the poop, but did not present arms. His Majesty's Government had merely given directions, in the event of his being captured, for his being removed into any one of his Majesty's ships that might fall in with him ; but no instructions had been given as to the light in which he was to be viewed. As it is not customary, however, on board a British ship of war, to pay any such honours before the colours are hoisted at eight o'clock in the morning, or after suņset, I made the early hoạr an excuse for withbolding them upon this occasion.
· Buonaparte's dress was an olive-coloured great coat over a green uniform, with scarlet cape and cuffs, green lapels turned back and edged with scarlet, skirts hooked back with bugle horns embroidered in gold, plain sugar-loaf buttons and gold epaulettes ; being the uniform of the Chasseur à Cheval of the Imperial Guard. He wore the star, or grand cross of the Legion of Honour, and the small cross of that order ; the Iron Crown ; and the Union, appended to the button-hole of his left lapel. He had on a small cocked hat, with a tri-coloured cockade; plain gold-hilted sword, military boots, and white waistcoat and breeches. The following day he appeared in shoes, with gold buckles, and silk stockings—the dress he always wore afterwards, while with me.
On leaving the Epervier, he was cheered by her ship's company as long as the boat was within hearing ; and Mr Mott informed me that most of the officers and men had tears in their eyes.
General Bertrand came first up the ship's side, and said to me, 6 The Emperor is in the boat." He then ascended, and, when he came on the quarter-deck, pulled off his bat, and, addressing me in a firm tone of voice, said, “ I am come to throw myself on the protection of your Prince and laws." pp. 69-71.
Here we may give Captain Maitland's general testimony to the unexceptionable demeanour of the Emperor while he continued with him, in circumstances surely quite sufficient to try any man's equanimity. After mentioning a conversation with Las Cases, which led to giving up the whole cabin to Napoleon, before he came on board, our author alludes to the vile fabrications of some newspapers, who represented him as having s taken possession of it in a most brutal way, saying, Tout ou rien pour moi ; ? and adds this remarkable declaration, I here " therefore, once for all, beg to state most distinctly, that from " the time of his coming on board my ship, to the period of « his quitting her, his conduct was invariably that of a gentle, ! man; and in no one instance do I recollect him to have made - use of a rude expression, or to have been guilty of any kind $ of ill-breeding.?
The Admiral came on board to pay his respects to Napoleon, and was asked by him to dinner, with his suite; for during his stay with Captain Maitland, he was treated as a sovereign, and did the honours of the table as if he had been at home. The Admiral invited him to breakfast with him next morning, and received him with great distinction, manning the yards when he arrived, and allowing Captain Maitland to do the same upon his return to the Bellerophon. The Emperor's manners and conversation, his affability to all, without the least want of dignity, and his quickness and intelligence on every subject, appear to have produced their entire impression in his favour. It has been said by the dealers in slander and falsehood, already referred to, that he laid himself out for courting the goodwill of the crew. Our author's testimony seems to dispose of that charge.
• When he returned to the quarter-deck, he questioned the Admiral and myself very minutely, about the clothing and victualling of the sea