Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bonaparte Orders Dissidents Beheaded

From A Selection from the Letters and Despatches of the First Napoleon. With Explanatory Notes By Denis Arthur Bingham. (London: Chapman and Hall, Ltd., 1884), pp. 218-219. Comments below between the text of the letters is by Bingham.

CAIRO, 31st July, 1798.

Your presence, Citizen General, is again necessary at Rosetta for some days, for the organisation of that province.

The Turks can only be kept in order by means of the greatest severity ; every day I have five or six heads cut off in the streets of Cairo. We have been obliged to spare the inhabitants up to the present, in order to obliterate the terrible reputation which preceded us. To-day, on the contrary, we must assume the tone necessary to make ourselves obeyed ; and for them to obey is to fear. . . .


On hearing of the disaster of the Nile Bonaparte, in order not to discourage his army, affected to treat the destruction of the French fleet lightly, saying that the English would force him to accomplish greater things than he had proposed.

CAIRO, 15th August, 1798.

The situation in which you find yourself, Citizen General^ is horrible. If you did not perish, fate must destine you to revenge our navy and our friends; receive my congratulations (in anticipation). This is the only agreeable sentiment I have experienced since the day before yesterday, when I received at thirty leagues from Cairo your report, forwarded to me by General Kleber.

I salute and embrace you.


Bonaparte was much disappointed with the obstinacy of other towns which rejected his overtures, and on the slightest complaint they were to be burned down, &c.

CAIRO, 1st August, 1798. . .

General Dumuy will disarm the town of Damanhour, and will cut off the heads of the five chief inhabitants, one amongst the worst men of law, and four others, who have most influence with the population, should be selected. After this he will send twenty-five hostages to Cairo, &c., &c.


Frequent orders of this description were despatched by Bonaparte to his various lieutenants.

In a long despatch to the Directory, giving an account of the situation, the General-in-Chief criticised the conduct of Admiral Brueys, adding—

"If in this fatal event he committed errors, he expiated them by a glorious death. The fates wished in this, as in many other circumstances, to prove that if they have accorded us the preponderance on the Continent, they have given the empire of the seas to our rivals. But, no matter how great this reverse, it cannot be attributed to the inconstancy of fortune; she has not abandoned us yet; far from that; she has favoured us in this operation more than ever. When I arrived before Alexandria, and learned that the English had passed that place a few days before with a superior force, in spite of the tempest which reigned, and at the risk of being shipwrecked, I landed. I remember that when all was ready for disembarking, a vessel of war was signalled in the distance; it was the Justice (1) -- coming from Malta. I cried, Fortune, will you abandon me? What, only five days ! I marched all night, and attacked Alexandria at break of day with 3,000 men worn out with fatigue, without guns, and almost without cartridges."

1) A French frigate coming from Malta.

1 comment:

moineau said...

yesterday i was able to see your presentation on c-span. i want to thank you for helping me keep informed through this and democracy now! in this difficult time of being american.