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

300 At their head was General Hulin


March 20th Napoleon drew up the form of questions to be put to the prisoner. He now shifted the ground of accusation. Out of eleven questions only the last three referred to the duke's connection with the Cadoudal plot.[297] For in the meantime he had found in the duke's papers proofs of his having offered his services to the British Government for the present war,[298] his hopes of participation in a future Continental war, but nothing that could implicate him in the Cadoudal plot. The papers were certainly disappointing; and that is doubtless the reason why, after examining them on March 19th, he charged Real "to take secret cognizance of these papers, along with Desmarest. One must prevent any talk on the more or less of charges contained in these papers." The same fact doubtless led to their abstraction along with the _dossier_ of the proceedings of the court-martial.[299]

The task of summoning the officers who were to form the court-martial was imposed on Murat. But when this bluff, hearty soldier received this order, he exclaimed: "What! are they trying to soil my uniform! I will not allow it! Let him appoint them himself if he wants to." But a second and more imperious mandate compelled him to perform this hateful duty. The seven senior officers of the garrison of Paris now summoned were ordered not to separate until judgment was passed.[300] At their head was General Hulin, who had shown such daring in the assault on the Bastille; and

thus one of the early heroes of the Revolution had the evening of his days shrouded over with the horrors of a midnight murder. Finally, the First Consul charged Savary, who had just returned to Paris from Biville, furious at being baulked of his prey, to proceed to Vincennes with a band of his gendarmes for the carrying out of the sentence.

The seven officers as yet knew nothing of the nature of their mission, or of martial law. "We had not," wrote Hulin long afterwards, "the least idea about trials; and, worst of all, the reporter and clerk had scarcely any more experience."[301] The examination of the prisoner was curt in the extreme. He was asked his name, date and place of birth, whether he had borne arms against France and was in the pay of England. To the last questions he answered decisively in the affirmative, adding that he wished to take part in the new war against France.

His replies were the same as he made in his preliminary examination, which he closed with the written and urgent request for a personal interview with Napoleon. To this request the court proposed to accede; but Savary, who had posted himself behind Hulin's chair, at once declared this step to be _inopportune_. The judges had only one chance of escape from their predicament, namely, to induce the duke to invalidate his evidence: this he firmly refused to do, and when Hulin warned him of the danger of his position, he replied that he knew it, and wished to have an interview with the First Consul.

The court then passed sentence, and, "in accordance with article (blank) of the law (blank) to the following effect (blank) condemned him to suffer death." Ashamed, as it would seem, of this clumsy condemnation, Hulin was writing to Bonaparte to request for the condemned man the personal interview which he craved, when Savary took the pen from his hands, with the words: "Your work is done: the rest is my business."[302] The duke was forthwith led out into the moat of the castle, where a few torches shed their light on the final scene of this sombre tragedy: he asked for a priest, but this was denied him: he then bowed his head in prayer, lifted those noble features towards the soldiers, begged them not to miss their aim, and fell, shot through the heart. Hard by was a grave, which, in accordance with orders received on the previous day, the governor had caused to be made ready; into this the body was thrown pell-mell, and the earth closed over the remains of the last scion of the warlike House of Conde.

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