Monday, September 17, 2007

General Bonaparte Writes his Brother from Egypt

From: Copies of original letters from the army of General Bonaparte in Egypt, intercepted by the fleet under the command of Admiral Lord Nelson. With an English translation (London, J. Wright, 1798-1800, 3 vols.), vol. 2, pp. 100-102


Of the Extracts from General BONAPARTE'S Letter to his Brother. See the Fac Simile, No. 1.

Cairo (7 Therimdor), July 28th.

To Citizen JOSEPH BONAPARTE, Deputy to the Council of Five Hundred, at Paris.

YOU will see in the public papers the relation of the battles, and of the conquest of Egypt, which has been sufficiently disputed to add another leaf to the military glory of this army. Egypt is the richest country in the world, in wheat, rice, pulse, and cattle. Barbarism is at its height. THERE IS NO MONEY IN THE COUNTRY; (1) NO, NOT EVEN TO PAY THE TROOPS. I THINK OF BEING IN FRANCE IN TWO MONTHS -- --

Take your measures so that I may have a country seat at my arrival, either in the neighborhood of Paris, or in Burgundy: I RECKON ON PASSING THE WINTER THERE -- --

[British Translators' Notes]

(1)THERE IS NO MONEY IN THE COUNTRY! It is worth observation, that this sentence was written the very day after Bonaparte had declared in his official letters, to all Europe, that on the bodies of the two thousand Mameloucs, who fell in the "battle of the Pyramids," his soldiers had found 20,000,000 livres in specie!!! (First Part, p. 64)

But this is not all,--it appears from the next line that Egypt was expected to furnish money for the troops. This is a precious circumstance, and affords matter for deep reflection.

Bonaparte left France, perhaps, without a single day's pay for his army. The plunder of Malta, except a few ingots which were distributed amongst the merchants of Alexandria, with a view of being speedily reclaimed, was on board the L'Orient; and with the expected treasures of Cairo, and the grand caravan, was, undoubtedly, destined to swell the private fortunes of the General and his confidents: while the troops were to be left as in Swabia, and Franconie, and Brabant, and Holland, and Italy, and Swisserland, to support themselves by wresting from the inhabitants, who are thus, in mockery, made "free, and prosperous, and happy," the miserable reliques of the rapacity of the officers, and the agents of Government!

If the reader has noticed the Introduction to the First Part of this Correspondence, he has seen that we unequivocally declined inserting such of Bonaparte's letters, as from their nature did not materially interest the Public. One sentence, indeed, we quoted (Introduction p. xvii.) from the letter before us; and here we should have rested, had not the French (see the Decade Philosophique, No. 12.) made an ungenerous use of our reserve, and insinuated that we had no authority for the passage in question, because we forebore to produce the letter of which it made a part.

"Quant a Bonaparte," say the French critics (speaking of what was advanced in the Introduction respecting the plan of getting rid of the Italian army) "il s'est prete a ce petit arrangement en se proposant d'abandonner au premier instant ses camarades,
pour revenir passer l'hiver en Bourgogne." This is quoted with a triumphant sneer, as a fabrication, perhaps of the English editor's, too atrocious to be attributed to a person of Bonaparte's well known justice and humanity. Good! we have now given an extract from one of the General's letters, in which the obnoxious expression occurs twice in the compass of a few lines; the atrociousness, therefore, (if there be any, which we are not inclined to deny) must be transferred elsewere.

Now we are on this subject we shall take the opportunity of making a short remark.

When the First Part of this Correspondence was committed to the press, no particular pains were taken to establish its authenticity. It certainly did not enter into our contemplation, that any description of persons could be weak or wicked enough to deny, what was so incontestably proved by internal evidence, (to say nothing of the Original Letters having been always open to inspection), and the event has proved, that any explanation on our part, would have been altogether a work of supererogation,--for, except the Morning Chronicle which "has taken a retaining fee," to deny sturdily whatever compromises the honour of France, and the editors of the Decade Philosophique, who limit their doubts to the single passage we have mentioned, doubts which they will now wish, perhaps, they had either no entertained, or not expressed; we know of no one that has called the authenticity of the Letters in question. Should there, however, be such a person, we will once for all, solemnly assure him, that we have given them in all and every part precisely as they came from the hands of the original writers, without alteration, or addition of a single syllable, and with merely such occasional omissions as we have already mentioned, and as a regard for the delicacy of our readers seemed to render indispensable.

1 comment:

Hellmut said...

I am loath to join the anti-French sentiment that prevails in the United States but the claim that Napoleon was a humanitarian is precious. That myopic view is sustainable only if one is high from French patriotism.

May be, you could loan your critic a coffee table book of Goya's works. It might help him or her to appreciate that Spaniards, Dutch, Germans, and Russians paid a horrific price for the glory of empire and republic.