For an overview by video, scroll down for a clip from a PBS documentary on Bonaparte in Egypt.
Bonaparte's secretary, Louis de Bourrienne, wrote an adulatory and often mendacious biography of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Bonaparte as a Young Officer.
From the Gutenberg scanned text of Phipps's 19th century translation of vol. 2, here are his comments about Bonaparte's victory in Italy (1796-1797), his treaty of peace with the Austrian Empire (which had held northern Italy), his triumphant return to Paris to see the Directory (France's centrist government in the aftermath of Robespierre's Terror), and his ambition to become a Director. When that ambition proved premature, he says, Bonaparte considered leading an invasion of Great Britain. Plan B was already an attack on the Ottoman province of Egypt.
The day of the 18th Fructidor [4 September 1797, the date of a soft coup by the Directory in Paris against the resurgent right wing in parliament and the provinces] had, without any doubt, mainly contributed to the conclusion of peace [with Austria] at Campo Formio. On the one hand, the Directory, hitherto not very pacifically inclined, after having effected a 'coup d'etat', at length saw the necessity of appeasing the discontented by giving peace to France. On the other hand, the Cabinet of Vienna, observing the complete failure of all the royalist plots in the interior, thought it high time to conclude with the French Republic a treaty which, notwithstanding all the defeats Austria had sustained, still left her a preponderating influence over Italy.
Besides, the campaign of Italy, so fertile in glorious achievements of arms, had not been productive of glory alone. Something of greater importance followed these conquests. Public affairs had assumed a somewhat unusual aspect, and a grand moral influence, the effect of victories and of peace, had begun to extend all over France. Republicanism was no longer so sanguinary and fierce as it had been some years before. Bonaparte, negotiating with princes and their ministers on a footing of equality, but still with all that superiority to which victory and his genius entitled him, gradually taught foreign courts to be familiar with Republican France, and the Republic to cease regarding all States governed by Kings as of necessity enemies.
In these circumstances the General-in-Chief's departure and his expected visit to Paris excited general attention. The feeble Directory was prepared to submit to the presence of the conqueror of Italy in the capital.
It was for the purpose of acting as head of the French legation at the Congress of Rastadt that Bonaparte quitted Milan on the 17th of November . But before his departure he sent to the Directory one of those monuments, the inscriptions on which may generally be considered as fabulous, but which, in this case, were nothing but the truth. This monument was the "flag of the Army of Italy," and to General Joubert was assigned the honourable duty of presenting it to the members of the Executive Government.
On one side of the flag were the words "To the Army of Italy, the grateful country." The other contained an enumeration of the battles fought and places taken, and presented, in the following inscriptions, a simple but striking abridgment of the history of the Italian campaign.
150,000 PRISONERS; 170 STANDARDS; 550 PIECES OF SIEGE ARTILLERY; 6OO PIECES OF FIELD ARTILLERY . . .
ARMISTICE WITH THE KING OF SARDINIA; CONVENTION WITH GENOA; ARMISTICE WITH THE DUKE OF PARMA; ARMISTICE WITH THE KING OF NAPLES; ARMISTICE WITH THE POPE; PRELIMINARIES OF LEOBEN; CONVENTION OF MONTEBELLO WITH THE REPUBLIC OF GENOA; TREATY OF PEACE WITH THE EMPEROR OF GERMANY AT CAMPO-FORMIO.
LIBERTY GIVEN TO THE PEOPLE OF BOLOGNA . . . LOMBARD . . . [etc.]
SENT TO PARIS ALL THE MASTERPIECES OF MICHAEL ANGELO, OF GVERCINO, OF TITIAN, OF PAUL VERONESE, OF CORREGGIO, OF ALBANA, OF THE CARRACCI, OF RAPHAEL, AND OF LEONARDO DA VINCI.
Thus were recapitulated on a flag, destined to decorate the Hall of the Public Sittings of the Directory, the military deeds of the campaign in Italy, its political results, and the conquest of the monuments of art. . .
The General now renewed, though unsuccessfully, the attempt he had made before the 18th Fructidor to obtain a dispensation of the age necessary for becoming a Director. Perceiving that the time was not yet favourable for such a purpose, he said to me, on the 29th of January 1798, "Bourrienne, I do not wish to remain here; there is nothing to do. They are unwilling to listen to anything. I see that if I linger here, I shall soon lose myself. Everything wears out here; my glory has already disappeared. This little Europe does not supply enough of it for me. I must seek it in the East, the fountain of glory. However, I wish first to make a tour along the coast, to ascertain by my own observation what may be attempted. I will take you, Lannes, and Sulkowsky, with me. If the success of a descent on England appear doubtful, as I suspect it will, the army of England shall become the army of the East, and I will go to Egypt."