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

Augereau was certain to act with energy


But,

while Lavalette was left to trim his sails as best he might, Augereau was certain to act with energy. Bonaparte knew well that his Jacobinical lieutenant, famed as the first swordsman of the day, and the leader of the fighting division of the army, would do his work thoroughly, always vaunting his own prowess and decrying that of his commander. It was so. Augereau rushed to Paris, breathing threats of slaughter against the royalists. Checked for a time by the calculating _finesse_ of the triumvirs, he prepared to end matters by a single blow; and, when the time had come, he occupied the strategic points of the capital, drew a cordon of troops round the Tuileries, where the Councils sat, invaded the chambers of deputies and consigned to the Temple the royalists and moderates there present, with their leader, Pichegru. Barthelemy was also seized; but Carnot, warned by a friend, fled during the early hours of this eventful day--September 4th (or 18 Fructidor). The mutilated Councils forthwith annulled the late elections in forty-nine Departments, and passed severe laws against orthodox priests and the unpardoned _emigres_ who had ventured to return to France. The Directory was also intrusted with complete power to suppress newspapers, to close political clubs, and to declare any commune in a state of siege. Its functions were now wellnigh as extensive and absolute as those of the Committee of Public Safety, its powers being limited only by the incompetence of the individual Directors
and by their paralyzing consciousness that they ruled only by favour of the army. They had taken the sword to solve a political problem: two years later they were to fall by that sword.[86]

Augereau fully expected that he would be one of the two Directors who were elected in place of Carnot and Barthelemy; but the Councils had no higher opinion of his civic capacity than Bonaparte had formed; and, to his great disgust, Merlin of Douai and Francois of Neufchatel were chosen. The last scenes of the _coup d'etat_ centred around the transportation of the condemned deputies. One of the early memories of the future Duc de Broglie recalled the sight of the "_deputes fructidorises_ travelling in closed carriages, railed up like cages," to the seaport whence they were to sail to the lingering agonies of a tropical prison in French Guiana.

It was a painful spectacle: "the indignation was great, but the consternation was greater still. Everybody foresaw the renewal of the Reign of Terror and resignedly prepared for it."

Such were the feelings, even of those who, like Madame de Stael and her friend Benjamin Constant, had declared before the _coup d'etat_ that it was necessary to the salvation of the Republic. That accomplished woman was endowed with nearly every attribute of genius except political foresight and self-restraint. No sooner had the blow been dealt than she fell to deploring its results, which any fourth-rate intelligence might have foreseen. "Liberty was the only power really conquered"--such was her later judgment on Fructidor. Now that Liberty fled affrighted, the errant enthusiasms of the gifted authoress clung for a brief space to Bonaparte. Her eulogies on his exploits, says Lavalette, who listened to her through a dinner in Talleyrand's rooms, possessed all the mad disorder and exaggeration of inspiration; and, after the repast was over, the votaress refused to pass out before an aide-de-camp of Bonaparte! The incident is characteristic both of Madame de Stael's moods and of the whims of the populace. Amidst the disenchantments of that time, when the pursuit of liberty seemed but an idle quest, when royalists were the champions of parliamentary rule and republicans relied on military force, all eyes turned wearily away from the civic broils at Paris to the visions of splendour revealed by the conqueror of Italy. Few persons knew how largely their new favourite was responsible for the events of Fructidor; all of them had by heart the names of his victories; and his popularity flamed to the skies when he recrossed the Alps, bringing with him a lucrative peace with Austria.


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