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

In trying to disprove his complicity with the terrorists

then deluging Paris with blood.

Outwardly he appeared to sympathize with it. Such at least is the testimony of Marie Robespierre, with whom Buonaparte's sisters were then intimate. "Buonaparte," she said, "was a republican: I will even say that he took the side of the Mountain: at least, that was the impression left on my mind by his opinions when I was at Nice.... His admiration for my elder brother, his friendship for my younger brother, and perhaps also the interest inspired by my misfortunes, gained for me, under the Consulate, a pension of 3,600 francs."[29] Equally noteworthy is the later declaration of Napoleon that Robespierre was the "scapegoat of the Revolution." [30] It appears probable, then, that he shared the Jacobinical belief that the Terror was a necessary though painful stage in the purification of the body politic. His admiration of the rigour of Lycurgus, and his dislike of all superfluous luxury, alike favour this supposition; and as he always had the courage of his convictions, it is impossible to conceive him clinging to the skirts of the terrorists merely from a mean hope of prospective favours. That is the alternative explanation of his intimacy with young Robespierre. Some of his injudicious admirers, in trying to disprove his complicity with the terrorists, impale themselves on this horn of the dilemma. In seeking to clear him from the charge of Terrorism, they stain him with the charge of truckling to the terrorists. They degrade him from the level of St. Just to that of Barrere.

style="text-align: justify;">A sentence in one of young Robespierre's letters shows that he never felt completely sure about the young officer. After enumerating to his brother Buonaparte's merits, he adds: "He is a Corsican, and offers only the guarantee of a man of that nation who has resisted the caresses of Paoli and whose property has been ravaged by that traitor." Evidently, then, Robespierre regarded Buonaparte with some suspicion as an insular Proteus, lacking those sureties, mental and pecuniary, which reduced a man to dog-like fidelity.

Yet, however warily Buonaparte picked his steps along the slopes of the revolutionary volcano, he was destined to feel the scorch of the central fires. He had recently been intrusted with a mission to the Genoese Republic, which was in a most difficult position. It was subject to pressure from three sides; from English men-of-war that had swooped down on a French frigate, the "Modeste," in Genoese waters; and from actual invasion by the French on the west and by the Austrians on the north. Despite the great difficulties of his task, the young envoy bent the distracted Doge and Senate to his will. He might, therefore, have expected gratitude from his adopted country; but shortly after he returned to Nice he was placed under arrest, and was imprisoned in a fort near Antibes.

The causes of this swift reverse of fortune were curiously complex. The Robespierres had in the meantime been guillotined at Paris (July 28th, or Thermidor 10th); and this "Thermidorian" reaction alone would have sufficed to endanger Buonaparte's head. But his position was further imperilled by his recent strategic suggestions, which had served to reduce to a secondary _role_ the French Army of the Alps. The operations of that force had of late been strangely thwarted; and its leaders, searching for the paralyzing influence, discovered it in the advice of Buonaparte. Their suspicions against him were formulated in a secret letter to the Committee of Public Safety, which stated that the Army of the Alps had been kept inactive by the intrigues of the younger Robespierre and of Ricord. Many a head had fallen for reasons less serious than these. But Buonaparte had one infallible safeguard: he could not well be spared. After a careful examination of his papers, the Commissioners, Salicetti and Albitte, provisionally restored him to liberty, but not, for some weeks, to his rank of general (August 20th, 1794). The chief reason assigned for his liberation was the service which his knowledge and talents might render to the Republic, a reference to the knowledge of the Italian coast-line which he had gained during the mission to Genoa.

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