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The Life of Napoleon I (Volume 1 of 2) by Rose

He persists in believing that Ajaccio is French at heart


game of truly Macchiavellian skill is now played. The French commissioners, among whom the Corsican deputy, Salicetti, is by far the most able, invite Paoli to repair to Toulon, there to concert measures for the defence of Corsica. Paoli, seeing through the ruse and discerning a guillotine, pleads that his age makes the journey impossible; but with his friends he quietly prepares for resistance and holds the citadel of Ajaccio. Meanwhile the commissioners make friendly overtures to the old chief; in these Napoleon participates, being ignorant of Lucien's action at Toulon. The sincerity of these overtures may well be called in question, though Buonaparte still used the language of affection to his former idol. However this may be, all hope of compromise is dashed by the zealots who are in power at Paris. On April 2nd they order the French commissioners to secure Paoli's person, by whatever means, and bring him to the French capital. At once a cry of indignation goes up from all parts of Corsica; and Buonaparte draws up a declaration, vindicating Paoli's conduct and begging the French Convention to revoke its decree.[19] Again, one cannot but suspect that this declaration was intended mainly, if not solely, for local consumption. In any case, it failed to cool the resentment of the populace; and the partisans of France soon came to blows with the Paolists.

Salicetti and Buonaparte now plan by various artifices to gain the citadel of Ajaccio from

the Paolists, but guile is three times foiled by guile equally astute. Failing here, the young captain seeks to communicate with the French commissioners at Bastia. He sets out secretly, with a trusty shepherd as companion, to cross the island: but at the village of Bocognano he is recognized and imprisoned by the partisans of Paoli. Some of the villagers, however, retain their old affection to the Buonaparte family, which here has an ancestral estate, and secretly set him free. He returns to Ajaccio, only to find an order for his arrest issued by the Corsican patriots. This time he escapes by timely concealment in the grotto of a friend's garden; and from the grounds of another family connection he finally glides away in a vessel to a point of safety, whence he reaches Bastia.

Still, though a fugitive, he persists in believing that Ajaccio is French at heart, and urges the sending of a liberating force. The French commissioners agree, and the expedition sails--only to meet with utter failure. Ajaccio, as one man, repels the partisans of France; and, a gale of wind springing up, Buonaparte and his men regain their boats with the utmost difficulty. At a place hard by, he finds his mother, uncle, brothers and sisters. Madame Buonaparte, with the extraordinary tenacity of will that characterized her famous son, had wished to defend her house at Ajaccio against the hostile populace; but, yielding to the urgent warnings of friends, finally fled to the nearest place of safety, and left the house to the fury of the populace, by whom it was nearly wrecked.

For a brief space Buonaparte clung to the hope of regaining Corsica for the Republic, but now only by the aid of French troops. For the islanders, stung by the demand of the French Convention that Paoli should go to Paris, had rallied to the dictator's side; and the aged chief made overtures to England for alliance. The partisans of France, now menaced by England's naval power, were in an utterly untenable position. Even the steel-like will of Buonaparte was bent. His career in Corsica was at an end for the present; and with his kith and kin he set sail for France.

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