Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bonaparte Writes Ottoman Grand Vizier

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. 3, pp. 171-178


Of a Letter from BONAPARTE to the GRAND VIZIER, dated 4, 1213 (Mahometan Era).


THE object of the present letter, addressed to Your Excellency, and transmitted by the hands of the Effendi made prisoner at Aboukir, is to furnish you with a faithful view of the state of things in Arabia; and, by putting an end to the war which has taken place between the Sublime Porte and the French Republic, to give peace to those two powers.

Alas! Why, after having been friends for so many years, do they now find themselves at war? Is it because the boundaries of the two States are so distant from each other that they fight? Is it because the Courts of Germany and Russia border on the territories of the Sublime Porte that they have united themselves with it?

Your Excellency cannot be ignorant that the French Nation, without exception, is extremely attached to the Sublime Porte. Endowed as Your Excellency is with the most distinguished talents, and acquainted with the real interests of Courts, can it have escaped you that the Russians and Austrians have conspired, once for all, against the Sublime Porte, and that the French, on the contrary, are using every possible effort to counteract their wicked designs? Your Excellency knows that the Russians are the enemies of the Mussulman Faith, and that Paul the Third(2), Emperor of Russia, as Grand Master of Malta, that is to say, Chief Knight, has solemnly sworn enmity to the Mussulmen. The French have abolished the Order of Malta, given liberty to the Mahometan Prisoners detained there, and have the same belief as themselves, that “There is no God but the true God(3).” It is then very strange that the Sublime Porte should declare war on the French, its real and sincere friends; and contract alliances with the Russians and the Germans, its declared enemies.

When the French were necessarily of the sect of the Messiah, they were the friends of the Sublime Porte; now, that they are, as it were, united by the same religion, that Power declares war against them(4)!! The Courts of England and Russia have led the Sublime Porte into an error. We had informed It by letters of our intended expedition into Arabia; but those Courts found means to intercept and conceal our papers(5); and, as if I had not proved to the Sublime Porte that the French Republic, far from wishing to deprive it of its domains, had not even the smallest intention of making war on it; His Most Glorious Majesty, Sultan Selim, gave credit to the English, and conceived an aversion for the French, his ancient friends. Is not the kind treatment which the ships of war and merchantmen belonging to the Sublime Porte, in the different ports of Arabia, experienced at my hands, a sufficient proof of the extreme desire, and love of the French Republic, for peace and amity? The Sublime Porte, without waiting for the arrival of the French Minister Descorches, who had already left France for Constantinople, and, without inquiring what were the motives for my conduct, declared war against the French, with the most unaccountable precipitation(6). Although I was informed of this war, I dispatched Beauchamp, Consul of the Republic in the Caravel, in full confidence of terminating it; and while I was expecting the answer of the Sublime Porte, by the same conveyance, I found that he had been thrown into prison, and Turkish troops dispatched to Gaza, with orders to take possession of Arabia.

Upon this I thought it more advisable to make war there than in the territory of Egypt; and I was obliged, in spite of myself, to cross the Desert.

Although my army is as innumerable as the sands of the sea(7), full of courage, inured to war in the highest degree, and victorious; although it is completely provided with every thing of which it can stand in need; though I have castles and fortresses of prodigious strength, and though the center, and the extremities of the Desert are fortified by batteries of cannon; although I have no fear nor apprehension of any kind, though I have no precautions to take, and that it is impossible for me to be overcome; nevertheless, out of commiseration for the human race, respect for those honourable ways of proceeding which are respected by all nations, and, above all, out of a desire to be re-united with the first and truest of our allies, His Most Glorious Majesty Sultan Selim, I now make manifest my disposition for peace. It is certain that the Sublime Porte can never realize its wishes by force of arms, and that its happiness can only be effectual by a pacific conduct. Whatever armies may march against Cairo, I can repulse them all.—And yet I will facilitate, as much as possible, every proposition which shall be made me tending to peace. The instant the Sublime Porte shall have detached itself from our enemies, the Russians and the English; there cannot be a doubt but that the French Republic will renew and re-establish, in the completest manner, the bases of peace and friendship with the Sublime Porte.

It will be better for you to cease your exertions in forming armies, and amazing provisions and warlike stores to no purpose. Your enemy is not in Arabia. He is in Bulgaria, at Corfou, and, by your mistaken policy, in the heart of the Mediterranean. Augment the number of your ships, put them in good order, and form a corps of able cannoniers. Let not the sacred banner of the Prophet be displayed against the French, but prepare yourselves to make use of it against the Germans and Russians, who, after smiling at the rupture, which has so inconsiderately and imprudently taken place between us, will suddenly raise their heads, and, with a loud and piercing cry, offer you the most burthensome propositions.

If you wish to have Egypt—tell me so. France has never entertained an idea of taking it out of the hands of the Sublime Porte, and swallowing it up. Give authority to your Minister, who is at Paris, or send some one to Egypt, with full and unlimited powers, and all shall be arranged without animosity, and to your wish.

Enter upon the way that will enable you to take vengeance of your enemies. Labour to consolidate and strengthen the foundations of the Ottoman Empire. Employ all your influence to prevent the acceptance of the propositions which will be made to you by your enemies, as well as to turn aside the terrible and destructive projects which they may unhappily have set on foot at this moment. Having had, during the past, so many motives to abhor the Russians, is it wise to abandon the Black Sea to them, and not rather to exact vengeance? Say but a single word on this last head, and I will exert myself for your advantage. The French army is by no means desirous of convincing the Ottoman forces of its discipline and courage; it would rather unite with them to punish their common enemy.

If Your Excellency, to whom I have addressed my wishes in this letter, will send for M. Beauchamp, who is on the Black Sea, and question him on the subject, I am persuaded you will abandon the unfavourable opinion you now have of me. If it depended on my exertions, the day on which I should be able to extinguish the flames of a war so absurd and so unbecoming both parties would be reckoned by me as the most happy of my life.



[British Translators' Notes]

(1)There are two copies of this curious State Paper. The one, faithfully translated from the Arabic by the Turkish Government, and transmitted from Constantinople; the other, loosely, but elegantly rendered from the same original by the French; and found amongst the Intercepted Papers.

Both are here given: but the first only is translated, as being infinitely more to be relied on than that so elaborately framed at Cairo, and expressly calculated for the meridian of Paris. The general tenor, however, of both is the same: and incidental variation or two will be noticed.

To remark upon the particular points of this paper would be endless. Whoever sits down to peruse it must prepare himself for all that ignorance, blasphemy, meanness and hypocrisy—all that misrepresentations, defeating its own purpose, and falsehood, so gross as to be felt, can suggest to a contracted and restless mind, incapable of directing any scheme of policy. Yet presumptuously venturing upon all.

(2)This Paul the Third is an Emperor of Bonaparte’s own creation. Since the French laid aside the Red Book, they have fallen into strange errors! One of their profound Legislators lately exclaimed, amidst the shouts of the admiring Senate: “What! Francis the First dare to brave the anger of the Great Nation! Well, he shall be Francis the Last!!!”

But how must the Grand Vizier (acquainted, as Bonaparte says he is, with the interests of Courts, and who must be supposed to be so, in some degree, whether he had said it or not how must he have smiled, with mingled pity and contempt, at the sottish stupidity, the whining and hypocritical cant of the person to whom the interests of a powerful nation were entrusted!

(3)A sentence taken from the Coran. In the original it is properly marked as a quotation.

(4)This precious sentiment is thus expressed in the intercepted translation: “So then, the Sublime Porte, which was the friend of France while she was a Christian Nation, has declared war against her, the instant she adopted, as it were, the Mussulman Faith!”

(5)This assertion is positively contradicted by Kleber: who labours to excuse the French Government to the Porte, for the omission of this information, by alleging the necessity of secrecy as to the object of the armament.

Kleber had Bonaparte’s letter before him when he introduced this remarkable deviation from it. What must have been that general’s opinion—what must now be the opinion of the world, of its veracity.

(6)The drudgery of remarking on this effusion of folly and wickedness in inconceivable. In consequence of the just indignation of the Porte at the invasion of Egypt, Descorches was dispatched to inform it of the amicable intentions of France in this act of unprovoked hostility. Yet Bonaparte has the stupid insolence to make the crime of the Porte to be, the not waiting for Descorche’s arrival!!!

(7)It is but just to observe, that there is a considerable variation in the sense of the corresponding passages in this and the intercepted copy. That says—“My army is strong, perfectly disciplined, and amply provided with every thing that can render it victorious over your armies, though they be as innumerable as the sands of the sea.” Whether this qui-pro-quo arises from the imperfect wording of the Arabic, or from an idea in Bonaparte, that the original rhodomontade was too extravagant for France, cannot be told. The Turks could have no temptation to exaggerate the absurdity of this matchless production. Enough remained, though this boast had been withdrawn, to provoke the bitter smile of the Ottoman Court. But what must have been the sensations of the Grand-Vizier, when he heard Bonaparte vaunt of the ample manner in which his army was supplied, when (As it appears from Kleber) he well knew it to be perishing with want; or of his being invincible, when the whole of his (the Vizier’s) long march, from Damascus to Gaza, had been over the mangled carcasses of the French, whom the General had left to the hyeanas of Syria, in his hasty and disgraceful flight.

With this observation this letter is left to the scorn of the world.

The English reader, when he compares it with BONAPARTE’S parting instructions to KLEBER, will not fail to be struck with the sincerity of an overture, which is not followed up at all except 1500 Frenchmen shall have died of the plague, in which, in that case, is to be followed up only by a negociation SURELY TO GAIN TIME.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Officer Descibres Desperate Situation in 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. 3, pp. 156-160



Cairo, October 13, 1799.

DOGUA(1), General of Division, to Citizen BARRAS, Director.

Citizen Director,

I HAVE written several letters to you since the arrival of the army in Egypt; I know not if any of them have reached you; very few private letters have arrived at the place of their destination(2).

I mentioned to you, in some of these letters, that I was exceedingly anxious to return to France; but this anxiety was subordinate to the desire of returning there in a flattering manner, and not with an air of having quitted the army through disgust or fickleness; or through fear, either of the plague, or of the numerous enemies, Ruffians, English, Turks, Arabs, and Mameloucs, which threaten Egypt in four or five different points—Alexandria, El Arisch, the Red Sea, and the Desert.

I seize the opportunity of your cousin’s return, to give you a few details respecting our actually situation, which, perhaps, has not yet been set before you in its true light. I had the command of two thirds of Egypt during the expeditions of Syria and Aboukir. I KNOW its produce, its resources, the strength of the places, which some people call fortresses, the roads by which they may be avoided, the disposition of the inhabitants, the state of the army, of the arsenals and the magazines, and the finances. I am about to present you with a rapid sketch of all these various objects; and you will then be enabled to judge if it be not absolutely indispensable for Government to come to our immediate assistance.

I shall say but little to you on the departure of the General. It was only communicated to those who were to accompany him. It was precipitated. The army was thirteen days without a Commander in Chief. There was not a sous in any of the military chests; no part of the service arranged; the enemy scarce retired from Aboukir was still before Damietta. Such was our situation at Cairo from the 18th of August to the 30th.

I confess to you, Citizen Director, that I could never have believed General Bonaparte would have abandoned us in the condition in which we were; without money, without powder, without ball, and one part of the soldiers without arms. Alexandria is a vast intrenched camp, which the expedition into Syria has deprived of a considerable portion of the heavy artillery necessary for its defence. Lesbe, near Damietta, is scarcely walled in; part of the wall of El Arisch is tumbling of itself. Debts to an enormous amount; more than a third of the army destroyed by the plague, the dysentery, by opthalmia, and by the war; that which remains almost naked, and the enemy but eight days march from us! Whatever may be told you at Paris, this description is but too true. You know me to be incapable of imposing on you by a false one.

A numerous army is assembling in Syria; fleets of which we know not the strength, threaten our coasts, which we know to be accessible in many places. The Commander in Chief cannot bring together more than 7000 fighting men; the enemy have it in their power to make three separate attacks at the same time—what can 7000 men (and those necessarily divided) hope to do?

We have against us the Mussulman fanaticism, which cannot be softened or diminished; the idea of a Christian government is a real torment for the people. The severest examples do not prevent the country people from rising against us at least report to our disadvantage, or at the most insignificant sirman dispersed against us.

The country, however, is very fine; the possession of it may be useful to the Republic in many points of view. The productions of every quarter of the globe may be raised here. If these advantages determine the Government to exert itself to preserve Egypt, there is not a moment to lose; men, arms, powder, lead, cannon-balls, &c. &c. must be sent us without the smallest delay.

If the Government cannot succour us, if it cannot appease the Ottoman Court, and recall it to its true interests; if, in short, we are abandoned here to ourselves, compelled to continue fighting, one against ten, to struggle with the most cruel maladies, all that France will ever see again of the “Army of Egypt,” will be the maimed and the blind, if the Turks should have the humanity to send them back. The rest will perish here, exhausted by their fatigues and their victories!

I repeat my solemn assurances, Citizen Director, that what you have just read is the most exact truth. A thousand reasons may have prevented its being hitherto fairly laid before you. I have done it, because I persuade myself that I could not have given you a more convincing proof of my sincere attachment; and because I owe these details of the “Army of Egypt” to the Government and to my country.

Health and respect.



[British Translators' Notes]

(1)Though last not least. If there be yet any doubts of the falsehood, incompetence, and unfeeling barbarity of Bonaparte, this excellent letter must effectually remove them. It is written by an officer high in command, confident in his knowledge, and appealing without hesitation to his established character for the credit of facts which Bonaparte will now find it impossible to palliate or deny.

(2)This alludes to a circumstance frequently hinted at in the course of this Correspondence. A very general persuasion prevailed in the army, that the letters of individuals were examined by Bonaparte’s orders; and, if found hostile to his views, kept back and destroyed.

A suspicion of this nature can neither be proved nor disproved here; indeed it so happens, that it is of no consequence either way, since the belief that he was capable of such a crime does him as little honour as the actual commission of it.

For the rest, it is needless to call the reader’s attention to slight remarks from the perusal of this most important document. It contradicts the General’s statements in every point, and that with a boldness derived from superior knowledge and truth: it arraigns the base and cowardly desertion of his army in terms strong and manly indignation; and it speaks of the sufferings and despair of that deserted army in a manner that, if there be one spark of feeling, one sentiment of honour yet left in France, will produce a cry of universal indignation and horror, and drive the “IDOL OF A FORTNIGHT” from his imaginary throne.

Monday, December 10, 2007

General Describes Deteriorating Condition of the Army

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. 3, pp. 95-99.




Head Quarters, Cairo, October 11, 1799.

DAMAS(1), General of Division, Chief of the Staff, General of the Army, to the MINISTER OF WAR.

I HAVE the honour of transmitting you, Citizen Minister, the Proclamation of General Bonaparte to the army on taking leave of it; and that of General Kleber on taking upon him the Command in Chief:

Also the orders of the day, and the four numbers of the Courier d’Egypte, which have appeared since that period:

The list of the general, staff, and commissioned officers of the different corps, who have died, up to this day:

The list of the promotions which Kleber, the Commander in Chief, has judged it indispensable to make for the good of the service.

The list of the general, staff, and commissioned officers of the different corps, who have died, up to this day:

The list of the promotions which Kleber, the Commander in Chief, has judged it indispensable to make for the good of the service. You will feel yourself the necessity of it in comparing those two lifts(2).

I entreat you, Citizen Minister, to request the Executive Directory to confirm these promotions, and to transmit me the definitive nominations.

I cannot send you a detailed estimate of the general situation of the army at present; because, when I took upon me the function of Chief of the Staff, I was not able to find the particular estimates from which it must necessarily be formed. I hope to be enabled to transmit it by the first courier.

It is also out of my power, at this moment, to collect those of the various corps of the army, scattered as they are over so prodigious an extent of country as that which we have to defend; and of whom the greater number are, besides, incessantly occupied in pursuing the Arabs, or in combating the wandering Beys and their partisans, whose numbers rapidly increase the instant we allow them a moment’s respite.

You may judge of the feeble state of the army, by its prodigious reduction since this time last year.

The number of effective men on the 22d of September 1798 was above 33,000(3); it is at present reduced below 22,000: from these must be taken 2000 sick and wounded, who are absolutely incapable of any duty whatever; besides 4000 utterly unable to take the field, or enter upon any active service. Most of these, though wounded, or labouring under diseases of the eyes, prefer staying at their quarters, to exposing themselves to the epidemic complaints which hospitals but too frequently generate in this country.

It results from this comparative statement, that the effective strength of the army is reduced a third within the last twelve months, and the actual number of those under arms decreased a full half.

The 16,000 men (comprising the forces of every description) which compose the army, are dispersed over a surface of country comprised within a triangle, of which the base extends from Marabout(4) to El Arisch, a line of near two hundred leagues, which is also the length of its two sides, of which that from El Arisch reaches beyond the first Cataracts (which may be considered as its apex), and the other from the Cataracts again to Marabout.

Experience fully proves, Citizen Minister, at this instant, that when the garrisons indispensably necessary for the security of the fortresses and the provinces are deducted form the number of men capable of bearing arms, it will be impossible to collect a force of 7000 men at any one point, to oppose the efforts of an enemy which menaces us with an irruption on every side.

I presume that the Commander in Chief, when writing to the Executive Directory, gave them more circumstantial information respecting the situation of the army, and every part of the colony.

Health and respect.



[British Translators' Notes]

(1)Damas has already appeared in the First Part of the Intercepted Correspondence. See his letter (p. 76), and what is there said of him. Though there seem to be a great degree intimacy between him and Kleber, yet he probably owes his advancement to the head of the Staff no less to his own merit than to the kindness of the Commander in Chief. He is, indeed, a very excellent officer.

(2)It has been judged proper to omit them both—the necessity of Kleber’s promotions is but too apparent form his own letter.

(3)In estimating the army that disembarked in Egypt as 42,000 (see the Second Part of the Intercepted Correspondence, p. 196), it is evident that no deception was practiced, no turn for exaggeration indulged. Even after the storming, as it is called, of Alexandria, a place so strong, that, according to Sonnini, the jackals used to leap in and out every night through the breaches in the walls, the numbers lost in crossing the Desert of the Nile, the bloody engagement on that river, and the numerous skirmishes which Bonaparte has dignified with the name of the Battles of the Pyramids, &c. &c. it appears that the effective force of the French still consisted of 33,000 men; a calculation that leave a deficit of 9000 for the sick (who appear, from Duval’s letter, Part I. P. 176, to be very numerous), the killed, and the wounded, in the short space of fifteen weeks! It is probable that none of Bonaparte’s admirers will be intrepid enough to deny this loss. But then, they will say, he acquired possession of the country by it. This may be granted them in their turn; and then it will only remain to inquire whether the loss of the 33,000 men that were left, and which is sure to be sustained in the evacuation of it, will not rather overbalance that boasted advantage?

(4)A small bay, a little to the south-west of Alexandria, where the French first landed.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Commissary Urges Negotiations with the British

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. 3, pp. 88-91.



E. POUSSIELGUE(1), Comptroller of the Expences of the Army, and Administrator-general of the Finances of Egypt, to Citizen MERLIN, Memmber of the Executive Directory.

Citizen Director,

SINCE the delivery to Citizen Barras of the first dispatch which I had the honour to address to you, the particular conferences which have taken place with the Effendi, who is returned from Damascus, have afforded us, notwithstanding the letter of the Grand Vizier, some glimpses of a plan of accommodating matters, which may, in its consequences, become extremely important for the Republic; its final success, however, depends entirely on the part which the English may think proper to take in it.

General Kleber is now engaged in arranging for the Directory the notes which contain the substance of the conference. To me it is evident that the Grand Vizier would be disposed to do every thing we could wish; if he were not afraid that the instant his communications with us were discovered, Ruffia would suddenly fall upon the Ottoman Empire, which is at this time in no state of defence. But, if the Porte were sure of a powerful alliance, which would support her feeble efforts at the outset, and finally render her victorious, she would not hesitate an instant in forming her resolution. After all, these measures, as I have already said, cannot be put in execution unless the English become a party in them, and unite with the Porte and with us.

Now as the French Republic has nothing to apprehend from the English, which is not trifling when compared with the losses she must inevitably sustain from the establishment of the Ruffians in the Mediterranean; as there is not a chance of recovering from the English any part of what they have taken from us during the present war, but by an immediate treaty, which should hold out to them equivalent advantages elsewhere; and, on the supposition that they would agree to no restitution, there would be no present purpose answered by continuing the war, and no inconvenience sustained by adjourning our claims (reclamations) to a happier period; the Executive Directory, if it should relish the plan resulting from the notes which General Kleber is preparing to send home, may early remove every difficulty; and by an alliance with England and the Porte, deliver, at one stroke, the French Republic from these two powerful enemies, and from all the others, whose fall their defection from the alliance would necessarily ensure.

At all events, IT IS INDISPENSABLE TO OPEN NEGOTIATIONS IN THE MOST EARNEST MANNER WITH THE ENGLISH AND THE PORTE; EVEN IF NO OTHER ADVANTAGE SHOULD RESULT FROM THEM THAN GAINING TIME, AND GIVING OFFENCE TO RUSSIA; such offence as should induce her to declare war against the Grand Seignior, to an opportunity of doing which she seems to look forward with impatience.

Health and respect.



[British Translators' Notes]

(1)The name of Poussielgue is familiar to the readers of the intercepted correspondence. They have seen and admired his accurate description of the victory of Aboukir: he appears here in a new light; and though his views for this country cannot be considered as evincing much knowledge of our character or connexions, yet his observations, as far as they respect France, must be allowed to be judicious. It would be superfluous to dwell on the importance of this letter, or to call the reader’s attention to the hopeless situation of the French affairs in the Mediterranean. The defultory whining of Le Roy showed that their commerce was annihilated there; the strong and conclusive representations of Poussielgue prove that their military influence will not long survive it.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Comptroller of Finances Confirms the Economic Disaster in 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. 3, pp. 84-85.




Cairo, October 10, 1799.

E. POUSSIELGUE, Comptroller of the Expenses of the Army, and Administrator-general of the Finances of Egypt, to the Commissioners of the National Treasury.

Citizen Commissioners,

I SHALL have no account to lay before you till my return to France, or till the freedom and safety of our communications shall be re-established. The present account will be concise: it will be found more detailed in that of your Paymaster-general.

I confine myself to assuring you, that it is not possible to exhibit better order in this department, more integrity and accuracy in the payments, or stricter observance of the rules prescribed by the laws, than your paymaster-general has already shown.

In spite of the most severe economy, the army is extremely in arrear: it already amounts to more than ten millions; and, as our resources are daily diminishing, this arrear must necessarily increase. You will be successively presented with the drafts which we have been obliged to give to different people whom we could by no means pay in specie; I entreat you earnestly to honour them duly, as well for preserving to the army the only means of obtaining credit that are left, as for doing justice to a set of men(1), who are here sacrificing their health, and supporting every kind of privation imaginable.

Health and respect.


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)Poussielgue alludes to those speculators, brokers, &c. who always attend the plundering expeditions of the French, and of whom so striking a description is given by Descorches. See the second part of the Intercepted Correspondence, p. 184.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Commissary Discusses British Blockade

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. 3, pp. 74-80.



Alexandria, October 1, 1799.

LE ROY, Commissary to the Marine in Egypt, to the Minister of Marine and of the Colonies.

Citizen Minister,

I MOST anxiously wish that the safe arrival of the four vessels under the command of Rear-admiral Ganteaume may have put you in possession of the short letter which I had just time to dispatch; duplicates of which were put on board them on the 22d of August, the day of their departure.

At all events, however, I send you a list of the names, &c. of those vessels:

Le Murion, of 28 guns, 18-pounders on the main-deck. Ganteaume, Rear-admiral; De la Rue, Captain.

Le Carrere, of 28 guns, 12-pounders. Dumanoir’le Pelley, General of Division.

(Both of these frigates are Venetian built; bolted with iron, and coppered here; the first on the 24th of October, and the second the 15th of November last.)

L’independent, Advice-boat, 4 six-pounders. Gaftaud, Ensign.

La Revanche, Advice-boat, 4 three-pounders. Picard, Ensign.

General Bonaparte took his passage on board Le Muiron. The Proclamations, which I enclose, first announced to the army his departure, and the appointment of General Kleber in his stead.

I should have been happy to send you a correct list of the passengers on board these four vessels; but the secrecy of their departure prevented the names from being entered on the registers of the proper office; and I have asked in vain for information from the officers of the present staff. You will find at the conclusion of my letter the only list which the first clerk of the Navy Office was able to procure me; and another made up on conjecture.

General Bonaparte and Rear-admiral Ganteaume will have given you better information than I can pretend to do on our internal situation. I shall merely confine myself to hazarding a few brief observations on the port of Alexandria.

Deprived of nearly all correspondence with France since our arrival in this country, we have the most undoubted proofs of the successful activity of the enemy in intercepting our communications. It strikes me therefore, that it would be exceedingly proper to dispatch, by a swift-sailing vessel, a cipher that would at once enable me to send you more detailed accounts.

From the time that General Bonaparte left us, the men on the look-out have discovered but three ships in the offing; and a boat which was suspected to have dispatches on board. We might easily have taken it, had we been provided with a few light, copper-bottomed vessels. It certainly does not fall within my department to say any thing respecting the naval forces. The sole means of giving effect to the successes of the land army; but I must, notwithstanding, do myself the honour to hint to you, that during those periods when the blockade is accidentally raised, a few corvettes, carrying from 12 to 16 guns, and coppered, might be successfully employed on expeditions of the utmost utility to the colony.

Here is the copy of a report made to the Directory by the Commander in Chief: “We have a confused account of an army collecting in Syria, under the immediate command of the Grand Vizier, composed first, of the troops which followed him from Constantinople; secondly, of those of Djezzar, Pashaw of Acre, and, thirdly, of the remainder of the Mameloucs, under Ibrahim, ancient Cheik-el-beled, or chief of the Beys.”

Whatever, Citizen Minister, may be the issue of our military operations, I cannot but think it of the utmost moment that the Executive Directory should appoint a commissary, with the requisite powers, to supply the void of the inspection, formerly confided to the ambassador at the Ottoman Porte. They should also consult on the means, either of diminishing the losses of the Levant trade; or rather of reproducing and invigorating it, at the period of peace: the employment and the subsistence of the fourteen provinces imperiously call for something of this kind.

These useful functions, Citizen Minister, should be confided in some former manager of these establishments; one habituated to repair the evils which a war of invasion, and its attendant consequences, inevitably bring on foreign trade. It will be also essentially necessary to define with rigorous exactness the limits of authority in each department. Military ardour enters little into the system of a counterpoising power: it sacrifices every thing to the calls of the moment; it lays its hands on the civil officers of every description. Soldiers forget what influence a respect for the laws and a love of order has on the event of things; they listen only to an interested ambition, and occasion, without intending it, disorders of the most irreparable kind. I have seen myself, an officer, in other respects a valuable character, insist upon commanding the harbour, the troops, and the workmen! Did a Rear admiral chance to drop in; their authorities instantly clashed: confusion succeeded to confusion; and private interest, which alone pursues its object with steadiness, took advantage of these multiplied pretensions of the different orders in the Mediterranean, and the re-establishment of trade in that sea, cal for the most prompt, decisive, and judicious measures.

Health and respect.


P.S. Since my letter was finished, I have had an opportunity of procuring some information form the captain of a ship, who has frequented the ports of the Levant. The merchants have constantly rejected my application.

Our merchandise was usually exchanged in Egypt for the merchandise of the country, which consisted of the productions of Yemen, and those of the interior of Africa.

The Beys took from the traders the articles of which they stood in need; but always on credit. They paid for them at their leisure; so that there are considerable debts still out-standing in most of the commercial towns of the country; some arising from exchanges which have not been completed, and others from former demands.

In the present situation of things, it would seem to be no less an act of prudence than of justice to empower an agent of Government to lay before them the account-books of the different houses in advance, that an estimate may be formed of what is due to the whole body, and proper measures taken to recover it.

With respect to the other ports of the Levant, nothing but peace can enable the merchants to get in what is due to them. The object of Government should be to furnish them with the degree of protection necessary to support and enforce their claims.


Monday, December 3, 2007

Report Outlines Debt Bonaparte Accumulated in 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. 3, pp. 57-60.


Army of the East.

French Republic.

ESTIMATE of the different sums due on the 23d of August 1799, the Period at which General KLEBER took upon himself the Command of the Army.

PAY of the army -- -- 4,015,000

Extraordinaries -- -- 576,000

Difference of pay, between the law of the 2d Thermidor, in the year 2, and that of the 23d Floreal, in the year 5, due to part of the army -- -- 802,332

Artillery -- -- 91,214

Marine, military, and merchant service, by a rough calculation -- -- 3,962,124

Military subsistence -- -- 1,198,973

Clothing -- -- 144,381

Military Hospitals -- -- 311,277

Military Convoys -- -- 177,098

Military Posts -- -- 5,432

To the Interceptor of the saddle manufactory -- -- 12,601

To the Interceptor of the boot manufactory -- -- 6,000

To the Commissaries at Suez – 7,014

To certain French, Turks, and Greeks, who have furnished provisions at Alexandria and elsewhere -- -- 41,980

To Citizen Rosetty for provisions for the army, when on its march to Rhamanie -- -- 3,222

Total -- -- 11,315,252


Since the army quitted France, the expenditure has exceeded the receipts by 11,315,252 livres—this debt, then, must inevitably continue increasing. At our first arrival here, requisitions were made in all the towns for the immediate subsistence of the troops. They have never been paid for.

Extraordinary contributions were levied upon the merchants, tradesmen, &c.

The assets of the Mameloucs were also seized on our arrival; their wives been made to pay an extraordinary imposition.

The receipts of the last year were greater than those of the present can possibly be. The inundation has failed, and many villages have been deprived of water.

The debt above stated, does not include what is due to the provinces for the supplies in kind, with which the troops were furnished during their march.

It is evident from these observations, that, as long as the army of Egypt is engaged in hostilities, there can be no foreign trade; nor can the receipts be possibly made to answer the expenses. It is peace alone which can place the receipts on a satisfactory footing.

Certified by me,

E. POUSSIELGUE, Commissary-general, &c. to be conformable to the respective lifts delivered to me at Cairo, Oct. 7, 1799.

Examined by the Commander in Chief,


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Kleber Addresses French Soldiers after Bonaparte Leaves

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. 3, pp. 55-56.


Head Quarters, Cairo, August 31, 1799.

KLEBER, Commander in Chief, to the ARMY SOLDIERS!

MOTIVES of the most imperious nature have determined the Commander in Chief, Bonaparte, to return to France.

The dangers incident to a voyage undertaken in no very favourable part of the year(1), on a narrow sea, covered with the enemies’ fleets, were too feeble to arrest him. Your happiness was at stake!

Soldiers! A powerful reinforcement, or a glorious peace, is at hand: a peace worthy of you and your achievements, is on the point of restoring you to your country.

In taking upon myself the charge with which Bonaparte was intrusted, I was neither unaware of its importance, nor of the toil and danger attending it; but on the other hand, when I considered your gallantry, so often crowned with the most brilliant success; your unwearied patience in braving every calamity, and supporting every privation; when I considered, in short, all that might be done or attempted with such soldiers, I lost sight of every thing but the advantage of being at your head, and the honour of commanding you; and I felt myself inspired with a new vigour.

Soldiers! Rely upon what I say; your urgent wants shall be the never-ceasing object of my most earnest solicitude.


By order of the Commander in Chief, the General of Division, and Chief of the Staff,


A true copy.

DUMAS, Adjutant General.

A true copy.


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)The 22d of August may seem to those acquainted with the Mediterranean, no very unfavourable season for putting to sea; but the north west winds, which almost constantly prevail there about this period, make the voyage to France extremely tedious, and fully justify Kleber’s observation. For the rest, this ADDRESS, delivered while that General was yet smarting from the recent perfidy of Bonaparte, may be recommended to the reader as a model of generosity, manliness, and true military honour.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Kleber Condemns Bonaparte in Letter to the Directory

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. 3, pp. 38-52.




Head Quarters, Cairo, October 7th, 1799.

KLEBER(1), Commander in Chief, to the DIRECTORY.

THE Commander in Chief, Bonaparte, quitted this country for France on the morning of the 23d ult. without saying a word of his intention to any person whatever. He had appointed me to meet him at Rosetta on the subsequent day! I found nothing there but his dispatches. Unable to divine whether the General has had the good fortune to reach Toulon, I think it incumbent on me to send you a copy of the letter by which he transferred to me the command of the army, as also of another which he had addressed to the Grand Vizier at Constantinople, although he knew perfectly well, that this officer was already arrived at Damascus(2).

My first cares have been directed to obtain an accurate knowledge of the present condition of the army.

You know, Citizen Directors, and you have it in your power to procure the requisite statements; you know, I say, the actual strength of the army at its arrival in Egypt: it is reduced a full half!—and we occupy all the capital points of the great triangle, from the Cataracts to El Arisch, from El Arisch to Alexandria, and from Alexandria again to the Cataracts; meanwhile it is no longer a question, as it once was, of contending with a few hordes of dispirited Mameloucs; but of resisting and combating the united efforts of three great powers, the Porte, England, and Ruffia.

The absolute want of arms, of gunpowder, of cannon and musket-balls, presents a picture no less alarming than the prodigious and rapid diminution of our numbers. Our attempts to establish a foundry have failed of success; and the manufactory of powder, which we set on foot at Illhoda, has not hitherto kept pace in any degree without our expectations; in all probability it never will. Add to this, that the repairing of our small arms proceeds but slowly; and that, to give the necessary activity to these various undertakings, money and means, of which we have neither, are absolutely indispensable.

THE TROOPS ARE NAKED—and this privation of clothing is the more calamitous, as it is perfectly ascertained in this country, to be one of the most active causes of the dysenteries and ophthalmies which constantly prevail here. The first, in particular, has operated with an alarming effect this season, on bodies already weakened and exhausted by fatigue. The members of the Board of Health remark (and never fail to mention it in their reports), that although the army is so much diminished, the number on the sick left is considerably larger this year, than at the same period of the last.

General Bonaparte, previous to his departure, had, it is true, given orders for new clothing the army: but for this, as well as for a great many other projects, he contented himself with the mere orders(3):--the poverty of the finances (which is a new obstacle to be combated) reduced him, doubtless, to the necessity of adjourning the execution of this useless design.

Now I have mentioned the finances, I feel it my duty to say somewhat more in the subject.

General Bonaparte exhausted the extraordinary resources within a few months after our arrival! He levied at that time as extensive a military contribution as the country could possibly support! To have recourse a second time to this expedient, now that we are surrounded with enemies from without, would only pave the way for an insurrection the first favourable moment.

Notwithstanding all this, Bonaparte, at quitting us, did not leave behind him a SINGLE SOUS in the military chest, nor any thing capable of being turned into money! He left, on the contrary, a debt of near ten millions, more than a whole year’s income in the present state of things: the pay of the army alone is in arrear full four millions.

The present state of the inundation makes it impossible to recover the deficiencies of the year just expired, and which, if it were not so, would scarce answer the expenses of a month: we cannot, therefore, enter again on the collection of the taxes till the end of November; and even then it is clear to me, that we shall not be in a condition to attend sufficiently to it, because we shall have our hands full of fighting. In a word, the Nile being very low this year, many provinces, deprived on the inundation, will claim the customary exemptions, to which we cannot, in common justice, object.

Every syllable, Citizen Directors, which I here advance, I can authenticate either by verbal processes, or by estimates of the different services regularly signed.

Although Egypt is to all appearance tranquil ,it is nothing less than in a state of submission; the people are restless and uneasy, and in spite of all we can do to the contrary, persist in looking upon us as the enemies of their property: their hearts are incessantly open to the hopes of a favourable change.

The Mameloucs are dispersed, but not destroyed. Mourad Bey is still in Upper Egypt with a body of men sufficiently numerous to find constant employment for a considerable part of our forces. If we should quit him for an instant, his little army would increase with inconceivable rapidity, and he would descend the Nile and harass us at the gates of this capital, where, in spite of the most vigilant attention, they have constantly found means, to this very hour, to procure him supplies of arms and money.

Ibrahim Bey is at Gaza with about two thousand Mameloucs; and I am informed that thirty thousand men, part of the army of the Grand Vizier and Dgerzzar Pasha, are also arrived at the same place. The Grand Vizier left Damascus about three weeks ago; he is at present encamped near Acre: finally, the English are masters of the Red Sea.

Such, Citizen Directors, is the situation in which General Bonaparte has left me to sustain the enormous burden of commanding the army of the East! HE SAW THE FATAL CRISIS APPROACHING(4): your orders have not permitted him to surmount it. That such a crisis exists, his letters, his instructions, his negotiation lately set on foot, all contribute to evidence; it is of public notoriety, and our enemies appear to me no less perfectly informed of it than ourselves.

“If this year,” says General Bonaparte, “in spite of all my precautions, the plague should break out in Egypt, and carry off more than fifteen hundred men, &c. I then think that you ought not to venture upon another campaign, and that you are sufficiently justified in concluding a peace with the Ottoman Porte, even though the evacuation of Egypt should be the leading article, &c.”

I have pointed out this passage to you, Citizen Directors, because it is characteristic in more than one point of view(5); and, above all, because it clearly shows you the real situation in which I am placed. Of what consequence are fifteen hundred men, more or less, in the immense space of country which I have to defend, and against an eternal repetition of attacks?

The General further says, “Alexandria and El Arisch are the two keys of Egypt(6).” El Arisch is a paltry fort, four days journey in the Desert; the prodigious difficulty of [illegible] it, will not allow of its being garrisoned by more than two hundred and fifty men. Six hundred Mameloucs and Arabs might, whenever they pleased, cut off all communication with Catiez; and as, when Bonaparte left us, this garrison had but a fortnight’s provision in advance; just that space of time, and no more, would be sufficient to compel it to capitulate without firing a shot! The Arabs alone were capable of furnishing regular convoys of provisions through these burning deserts: but they have been so often over-reached and defrauded, that, far from offering us their services, they now keep aloof and conceal themselves; besides, the arrival of the Grand Vizier, who inflames their fanaticism and overwhelms them with presents, will equally tend to incline them to desert us(7).

Alexandria is by no means a fortress; it is a large intrenched camp. It was, indeed, tolerably well defended by a numerous heavy artillery; but since we lost it in the disastrous invasion of Syria, and since General Bonaparte has taken all the cannon belonging to the shipping, to complete the equipment of the two frigates with which he sailed for France, this camp can make, in fact, but a feeble resistance(8).

General Bonaparte deceived himself with regard to the consequences which he expected from his victory at Aboukir. He cut to pieces(9), it is true, near nine thousand Turks who had landed there: but what is such a loss as this to a great nation, from whom we have violently torn the fairest portion of its empire, and whom religion, honour, and interest, equally stimulate to avenge its injuries, and to re-conquer what it has been thus deprived of? As a proof of what I say, this victory has not retarded for a single instant, either the preparations or the march of the Grand Vizier.

In this state of things, what can, and what ought I to do? I think, Citizen Directors, that I should continue the negotiations entered upon by Bonaparte; though the result should be merely the gaining a little time, I should even then have sufficient reason to be satisfied with it. I have enclosed you the letter(10) which, in consequence of this determination, I wrote to the Grand Vizier; sending him at the same time, a duplicate of that from Bonaparte(11).

If this minister meets my advances, I shall propose to him the restitution of Egypt on the following conditions(12):

“The Grand Signor shall appoint a Pasha, as before.”

The Beys shall give up to him the Miri, which the Porte has had always de jure, and never de facto.”

“Commerce shall be reciprocally open between Egypt and Syria.”

“The French shall continue in the country, occupy the strong holds and the forts, and collect all the duties and customs, till the French government shall have made peace with England.”

If these summary preliminaries are accepted, I shall think I have rendered my country a greater service than if I had obtained the most brilliant victory. But I fear they will not be attended to: if the haughtiness of the Turks opposes no obstacle, I shall still have to combat the influence of English gold. Happen what may, I will endeavour to direct myself by circumstances.

I know all the importance of the possession of Egypt. I used to say in Europe, that this country was for France the point of fixture, by means of which she might move at will the commercial system of every quarter of the globe; but to do this effectually, powerful lever is required, and that lever is a navy. OURS HAS EXISTED! Since that period, every thing has changed; and peace with the Porte is, in my opinion, the only expedient that holds out to us a method of fairly getting rid of an enterprise no longer capable of attaining the object for which it was undertaken.

I shall not enter, Citizen Directors, into the details of all the diplomatic combinations which the present state of Europe might furnish: this is not my province. In the forlorn situation in which I stand, and so far removed form the centre of action, I can scarce give a thought to any thing but the safety and honour of the army which I command: happy if, in the midst of my distresses, I should have the good fortune to meet your wishes; at a less distance from you I should place all my glory in obedience.

I have annexed to this an exact climate of the more material articles of which we stand in need for the service of the artillery; and also a summary recapitulation of the debt contracted and left unpaid by General Bonaparte(13).

Health and respect.


P.S. At this instant, Citizen Directors, just as I am making up my dispatches, I learn that fourteen or fifteen Turkish vessels are at anchor before Damietta, where they are waiting for the fleet of the Captain Pasha, now at Joppa, and having on board, as I am told, from fifteen to twenty thousand land forces; besides these, there are still fifteen thousand men at Gaza, and the Grand Vizier is marching from Damascus. A few days since, he sent us back a soldier of the 25th demi-brigade, who had been made prisoner in the neighborhood of El Arisch; after having showed him all his camp, he desired him to acquaint his comrades with what he had seen, and to tell their commander to tremble. This seems to announce either the confidence which the Grand Vizier has in his forces, or a wish to enter upon an accommodation. With respect to myself, it will be absolutely impossible for me to get together more than five thousand men capable of taking the field against him: notwithstanding this, I will try my fortune, if I do not succeed in gaining time by my negotiations. Dgezzar has withdrawn his forces from Gaza, and marched them back to Acre.


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)This is the first letter that has yet appeared from Kleber, and it is such as might have been expected from one of his distinguished reputation. It is sensible, and manly; forming a complete contrast in every respect to the letter of Bonaparte, of which it is a shrewd and impartial critique.

To point out that superior penetration and good sense of Kleber, would be superfluous; but it may not be so to compare his manner of proceeding with Bonaparte’s treatment of Brueys. That unfortunate man, after being reluctantly detained on the coast of Egypt by Bonaparte’s express and reiterated orders, was no sooner dead, than Bonaparte published, in the face of all Europe, that he had fallen a victim to his own obstinacy, and contempt of authority!—though the remonstrances of Brueys, and Bonaparte’s rejection of them, both existed, to convict him of so base, cowardly, and malicious calumny. While Kleber, with the calm dignity of a soldier, and a man of honour, indulging in no random speculations, patiently reviews the General’s statement, which he transmits to the Directory, with his own remarks, always intelligent and convincing;--that they may be enabled to judge of the facts on which they are founded, and the opinions from which they are drawn.

(2)It is not easy to account for this vagary of Bonaparte’s: the most natural way of obtaining his purpose, would certainly have been to look for the Vizier where he was sure to be found. Kleber apparently feels some resentment at this trifling with the miseries of the army, by a feeble attempt at procrastination.

(3)Kleber has fallen into a slight mistake here. Bonaparte did not absolutely content himself with ordering the clothing—no, he went farther—he set the Savans of the Egyptian Institute upon consulting what coloured cloth was best adapted to the climate: and these venerable sages, after discussing at great length the merits of several, of which there was not an ell in the country, ultimately fixed upon a gris-de-lin, of which there was still less! Nor did the General stop even here: he asserted in his dispatches that many thousand ells of this cloth (so judiciously chosen) had been delivered to the army! The readers of the Jacobin newspapers here cannot yet have forgotten their generous triumph at this inconvertible proof of the improving condition of the “Army of the East!”

The conclusion of this paragraph is an evident sarcasm. Kleber knew that Bonaparte was as well acquainted with the state of the finances before these orders as after them. He knew too, what all the world besides knows, that they were only given to procure a momentary popularity, and carry on that system of fraud and hypocrisy with which he began, and with which he will most assuredly end.

(4)Here is the key to Bonaparte’s flight. With respect to the orders Kleber mentions, he must either speak ironically, or, which is more probable, to convey an idea that the insinuation couched under the word [illegible] in Bonaparte’s letter, was false, and justified by no authority from home; he puts Bonaparte and the Directory at issue upon the point; and as it must be manifest who is really culpable, it is, perhaps, fortunate for the former that his present usurpation sets him above the immediate dread of the guillotine, for an act of equal treachery and disobedience.

(5)The general opinion of the good sense and humanity of Kleber would be ill justified, if he had omitted to set a mark of reprobation upon the passage he has quoted: it is, indeed, characteristic of Bonaparte! It is marked with his usual contempt of human sufferings, with his lavish expenditure of blood, and with his wanton sacrifice of his followers to projects at once useless and unattainable!

It is permitted to hope, however, that the more serious views of Kleber will induce him to close the disastrous scene, though a few less than fifteen hundred men should be the victims of the next pestilence.

(6)The statement which follows of the real strength and importance of El Arisch, and which differs so materially from that of Bonaparte’s is corroborated by a general officer in a letter which will be found.

There is no doubt of its accuracy, and it bears hard either on the veracity or the military skill of Bonaparte. The latter (of the former there are no doubts) has long been somewhat problematical; and the attentive readers of this correspondence will probably be inclined to think not much more highly of it than Kleber appears to do, or the very judicious officer, to whole strictures we allude.

(7)There are two roads from Syria to Egypt; so that it is by no means necessary to pass by El Arisch. Both these roads furnish water; one of them has just been discovered.—Note of Kleber.

(8)This circumstance is not less characteristic than the one so properly pointed out by Kleber a few pages above: to provide for his own personal safety at the expense of that of the whole “Army of the East,” is only a part of that narrow and selfish system on which he has always acted. But does any thing in it relish of the great general? Or can his most enthusiastic admirers see any thing that did so in his unfurnishing the only defensible place in his possession (of the importance of which he takes care to remind Kleber), for the sake of a wild and desultory expedition, he knew not where, at the hazard of leaving it an easy prey to the first enemy that might be apprized of its unprotected condition?

It is scarcely possible, on reading these and similar passages, not to call to mind the sensible exclamation of Lacuee; “Oh! How many false reputations were acquired in Italy! And how many pedestals will now rest without statues!”

(9)This does not mean absolutely cut to pieces, but destroyed as a bdoy, and indeed it appears from Bonaparte’s dispatches to the Directory, that more than two thousand of those who had disembarked were prisoners. From this General’s well-known talents for exaggeration, a reasonable hope might be entertained that when he stated the loss of the Turks at eighteen thousand men, he had merely put down a cipher too many; this hope is now done away by the unsuspected evidence of Kleber, which unfortunately reduces Bonaparte’s number only one half. The rest of Kleber’s information is of the most important and consolatory nature. The army of which Bonaparte and Berthier represent the whole to have been destroyed, was merely a detachment, it appears, from a much greater force; which, without any sensible diminution of its numbers or resolution, was still hovering near the place of action, and alarming the French for the safety of Brulous and Damietta!

(10)See No. XVI.

(11)See No. XIV.

(12)Of these conditions, the first is unnecessary, the second impracticable the third nugatory, and the forth inadmissible. It is evident, however, the Kleber expected nothing from them; they are merely projected in obedience to the commands of Bonaparte, to whom this excellent officers pays the same deference as if he were still at the head of the army. Indeed the whole of his conduct, as it appears in this well-written letter, is admirable in the highest degree; he feels that he is betrayed, yet not a murmur escapes him on his own account; and though he holds it a part of his duty to expose the weakness of which Bonaparte either was, or affected to be ignorant, he determines to hazard more, perhaps, than his own better judgment approved, to carry his instructions into executions with the smallest deviation possible.

(13)See No. VI.

(14)See No. VII.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Bonaparte Dispatches Kleber Before Fleeing 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. 3, pp. 14-27.


Alexandria, August 22d, 1799.

BONAPARTE, Commander in Chief, to General KLEBER.

ANNEXED to this, Citizen General, you will find an order for you to take command of the army. My constant apprehensions lest the English fleet should again appear on the coast, compel me to hasten my voyage by two to three days.

I take with me Generals Berthier, Lannes, Murat, Andreoffi, and Marmont; Citizen Monge, and Citizen Bertholet.

Enclosed you will find the English and Francfort papers (1) up to the 10th of June. You will see by them, that we have lost Italy! That Mantua, Turin, and Tortona are in a state of blockade. I have some grounds to flatter myself that the first of these places will hold out to the end of November(2); and I trust, if fortune smiles upon me, to be in Europe before the beginning of October.

You will also find enclosed, a cipher for your correspondence with the Government; and another, for your communications with me.

I entreat you to dispatch Gimot some time in the month of October(3), together with the baggage which I have left at Cairo, and my domestics. I should, however, have no particular objection to your taking as many of them as may suit you, into your own service.

It is the present intention of Government, that General Desaix(4) should set out for Europe in November next, unless something of consequence should arise here to detain him.

THE COMMISSION OF THE ARTS shall return to France on board a flag of truce, which you will demand for this purpose, comfortably to the late cartel, some time in the month of November, immediately after they have completed the object of their mission. They are at present engaged in putting up a finishing hand to it, by an examination of Upper Egypt. Nevertheless, if you think that any of them will be of service to you, you may put them in requisition without scruple(5)!!!

The Effendi who was made prisoner at Aboukir, is set out for Damietta. I have already written to you to send him to Cyprus: he takes with him a letter for the Grand Vizier, of which I enclose you a copy(6).

The arrival of the Brest fleet at Toulon, and of the Cadiz fleet at Carthagena, leaves no kind of doubt of the possibility of transmitting to Egypt the muskets, sabers, and pistols, balls, &c. of which you stand in need, and of which I am provided with a very exact enumeration; together with a sufficient number of recruits to supply the losses of our two campaigns. Government itself, I presume, will, by that conveyance, acquaint you with its intentions: as for myself, both in my public and my private capacity, I promise to take every measure for enabling you to hear frequently from France(7).

If, by a series of the most extraordinary events, none of these attempts should succeed, and you should neither receive reinforcements, nor intelligence from France by May next; and if this year, in spite of all your precautions, the plague should break out in Egypt and carry off more than fifteen hundred of the troops(8)—a considerable loss in addition to that which the events of the war will daily occasion—I think that you ought not then to venture upon another campaign, and that you are sufficiently justified in concluding a peace with the Ottoman Porte; even though the evacuation of Egypt should be the leading article. It will merely be necessary for you to postpone the execution of it (if such a thing is possible) till the period of a general peace.

No one, Citizen General, has better means of judging of the importance of Egypt to France, than yourself. The Turkish empire, menaced with ruin on every side, is crumbling to pieces at this moment; and the evacuation of Egypt on our part, should be so much the more unfortunate, as we should be sure to see, ere long, this fine province fall into the hands of some other European powers.

The intelligence of the good or ill fortune which may attend the Republic in Europe, will, of course, have its due influence in determining your future measures.

If the Porte should reply to the overtures I have made for peace, before my letters from France can reach you, it will be, in that case, necessary for you to declare, that you have all the powers with which I was entrusted. Even then upon the negotiation; adhere strenuously and constantly to the assertion which I have advanced, that France never had the least idea Of TAKING EGYPT FROM THE GRAND SEIGNIOR!!! Require the Ottoman Porte to separate itself from the Coalition, to grant us the free commerce of the Black Sea, to set at liberty all the French in confinement, and lastly, to agree to a suspension of hostilities for six months, that there may be a sufficient time for the mutual exchange of ratifications.

Supposing, however, that you should find yourself in such circumstances as you conceive make it necessary to conclude the treaty with the Porte; you must then make that power understand that you cannot execute your part of it, before it be ratified (at home); and that, according to the usual practice of all nations, the interval between the signing and ratifying of a treaty, is always considered as a suspension of hostilities.

You are acquainted, Citizen General, with my way of thinking respecting the interior policy of Egypt. Act in whatever manner you please, the Christians will still be our friends; it will be necessary, however, to prevent them from growing too insolent, lest the Turks should conceive the same fanatic prejudice against us as against them, which would destroy every possibility of a reconciliation: this fanaticism must at all events be laid asleep, until we have an opportunity of extirpating it entirely(9). By gaining the good opinion of the powerful Cheiks at Cairo, we shall secure that of all Egypt; and of all the chiefs which its inhabitants may rally under, there are none less to be apprehended by us than the Cheiks, who are all timorous, unacquainted with arms, and, like all other priests, know how to inspire the people with fanaticism, without being fanatics themselves(10).

With respect to the fortifications, I consider Alexandria and El Arisch as the two keys of Egypt. I had once an idea of forming, during the approaching winter, several redoubts of palm-tree(11); two from Salich to Caslies, two from Caslies to El Arifch: of these last, one was to be placed on the spot where General Menou discovered a spring of tolerable water.

Brigadier-general Sanson, commander of the corps of engineers, and Brigadier-general Sougis, commander of the Artillery, will furnish you with the necessary details of their respective departments.

Citizen Poussielgue has had the sole management of the finances; I have found him extremely active, and in every respect a person of merit; he begins to have some insight into the chaos of the administration of this country. It was my intention, if nothing occurred to prevent me, to attempt this winter a new system of taxation, which would, by degrees, relieve us from our present dependence on the Copts: before you undertake it, however, I advise you to make it the subject of long and deliberate meditation; it is safer to begin an operation of this nature a little too late, than a little too soon.

Our ships of war will certainly make their appearance this winter, either at Alexandria, Brulos, or Damietta. You must have a battery and a signal-tower at Brulos. Endeavour to get together five or six hundred Mameloucs, in such a manner that, when the French fleet arrives, you may be able to lay your hands upon them at the same instant of time, either at Cairo or in the other provinces, and fend them off immediately for France(12). If you cannot procure Mameloucs, such Arab hostages, Cheiks al Beled as may then be in custody, no matter on what account, will answer the end as well. These people, landed in France, and detained there for a year or two, will contemplate the grandeur of the nation; they will acquire, in some degree, our manners and our language, and when they return to Egypt, will prove to us so many partisans.

I have already repeatedly written for the company of comedians; I will take particular care that they shall be sent(13). This appears to me an article of the utmost consequence, not only for the army, but for the purposes of effecting something like a change in the moral habits of the country.

The important situation of Commander in Chief, which is now devolved upon you, will afford you ample opportunities of displaying those talents with which nature has endowed you. The interest taken in every thing which passes here, is active and lively; and the consequences resulting from it will be immense, whether considered with respect to commerce or to civilization. This is assuredly the epoch from whence revolutions of the most extraordinary nature will take their date.

Accustomed to look for the recompence of the toils and difficulties of life in the opinion of posterity, I abandon Egypt with the deepest regret(14)! The honour and interests of my country, duty(14), and the extraordinary events which have recently taken place there; there, and there alone, have determined me to hazard a passage to Europe, through the midst of the enemy’s squadrons. In heart and in spirit I shall still be in the midst of you! Your victories will be as dear to me as any in which I may be personally engaged; and I shall look upon that day of my life as ill employed, in which I shall not do something for the army of which I leave you the command; and for the consolidation of the magnificent establishment, the foundation of which is so recently laid.

The army I entrust to your care, is entirely composed of MY OWN CHILDREN. I have never ceased, even in the midst of their most trying and difficult dangers, to receive proofs of their attachment(15); endeavour to preserve them still in those sentiments for me. This is due to the particular esteem and friendship I entertain for you, and to the unfeigned affection I feel for them!


A true Copy,


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)It would seem from this (and indeed the whole tenour of this correspondence proves it) that the Directory gave themselves as little trouble about Bonaparte, as if he had not obliged them by sacrificing his gallant army to their common views. But for these papers (which were most probably given to him by some unsuspecting British tar, who had better have kept them himself), he would have been ignorant of what was doing in Europe. He refers Kleber no information from the Directory; HE MENTIONS NO ORDERS FOR HIS RECALL—which would have been a sufficient plea, and which would not have failed to urge, if he had received any—but bottoms the whole, upon the accidental acquisition of a few newspapers! Even in his farewell address to the army, he gives no other reason for his return, but the news; though such a circumstance must have been to them a most cruel insult; as their preference in Europe must have been full as necessary as his own.

(2)Bonaparte may be pardoned for this conjecture, formed from an estimate of the time which it took him to reduce it, in his boasted campaigns. Mantua was invested by him for the first time on the 4th of June 1796; it did no surrender till the 2d of February in the following year, a space of eight months; nor then to the fire of the besiegers, but to that with which no courage, nor obstinacy, can contend—an absolute want of food! Compare this with the recovery of the same town, in the present campaign. It fell, with a garrison of thirteen thousand men, after a close and vigorous siege of only eleven days! Indeed, if the Austro-Russian campaign in Italy be compared with those of Bonaparte, the latter dwindle into insignificance. With an immense army, powerfully reinforced by the discontented and vicious of all nations, whom he attached to his standard by the lure of novelty and indiscriminate plunder, Bonaparte over-ran Italy in two years: let it be remembered, however, that all its fortresses (with the exception of Mantua) were pusillanimously or insidiously delivered to him, before he had even captured the paltry town of Ceva, the first garrison in Piedmont; while the Austro-Russians have reconquered the same country in the short space of nine months, with the addition of Alexandria, Tortona, &c. and the almost impregnable fortresses of Coni and Turin; the last of which had been treacherously seized by the execrable Joubert.

This, though pretty generally known, is mentioned here, for the exclusive benefit of Bonaparte’s Jacobin admirers; who, reduced to despise, with the rest of the world, his legislative talents, pretend to found his claims to empire on his rapid and unrivaled victories!

(3)The General had forgotten that he promised the soldiers (whom he took leave of with such heart-felt regret) that he would return to them forthwith.

(4)This is a person who, according to the joint reports of Bonaparte and himself, has annihilated Mourad Bey, and his handful of Mameloucs, several times over. It will be seen presently, however, that they are still alive and merry; preparing to do as much for him in their turn. Desaix was looked upon in France as one of the best officers in the service.

(5)Would not one imagine this humane savant-driver was talking of camels or buffaloes, instead of the men whose immortal labours in Egypt were to astonish the world, and illustrate France with a full display of the recondite lore of Hermes Trifmegiftus? Put them in requisition without scruple! Unfortunate beings! This s the very thing that he had before done to them in France!

This paragraph is highly worthy of serious consideration of the Jacobins: since of all the brilliant qualities of Bonaparte, none (with the exception of his humanity) has been so long and so loudly dwelt upon by them, as his singular love of learning, and learned men!

(6)See No. XIV.

(7)After noticing the various wants of the French army, the reader may be curious to know what Bonaparte has done in either of his capacities to relieve them. It may be told in three words. He has raked the kennels of Paris for a number of prostitutes more pestilential than the plague, to send them; and he has put in requisition a few miserable companies of strolling players, who may probably arrive time enough to see the curtain drop for ever on the tragic-comedy of his expedition.

(8)The cool calculation of 1500 men, which this “hope and consolation” of the rancorous “school of humanity” thinks a reasonable quantity to die of the plague, is chiefly noticed here, as furnishing a tolerable criterion for estimating the numbers that fell in the former season. As an useless sacrifice of so many hundred human beings, it is scarce worth mention in the history of a man, who has spilled more blood wantonly than any commander of ancient or modern times.

(9)Our General “has a meeting, and, no doubt, you all have sense enough to find it out; though, it must be confessed, it is not very obvious. The truth seems to be, that with an abundant degree of cunning (and this, and a fierce and savage courage, will, upon examination, be found to make up the whole of his character), he was bewildered himself in the variety of his objects. The Christians, by whom probably Bonaparte means the Copts, are to be trampled upon to gratify the Turks, whose fanaticism is to be indulged, that it may be the more easily destroyed some time hence by the French, who are at present treating for the entire evacuation of the country! Such are the contradictory reveries with which Bonaparte labours to confound Kleber, and to conceal his own want of rational and enlarged ideas on a subject so infinitely interesting and important.

(10)Bonaparte’s ignorance is inconceivable. He has been amusing himself for fifteen months with hunting out and destroying Arabs, Turks, and Copts; and yet he seems to know as little of their distinct polity as if he had never left home. Who ever heard before of Cheik priests? A Cheik is an Arabian chief, neither timorous nor acquainted with arms, as he had frequently found to his cost. It is not improbably that Bonaparte means by his Cheiks the Coptic clergy! Mean what he will, however, the sneer at priests comes with an admirable grace from one who has just paid them such extraordinary compliments in his proclamation to the royalists of La Vendee. An Atheist at Paris, a Catholic at Rome, a Mussulman at Grand Cairo, and a hypocrite every where, it is to be hoped his insidious language will be treated as it deserves; and that what is here laid of priests will be duly weighed by as many of those brave and faithful people as have at some unsuspicious moment been gratified by an encomium on their church, as deceitful, they will now see, as it was impious.

It is pleasant to reflect that the communication with the Vendeans, &c. is now so easy and so frequent, that this publication will probably reach them before it is heard of at Paris.

(11)This was an idea truly worthy of Bonaparte. To destroy the palm-trees would as effectually depopulate many parts of Egypt, as if he had turned the course of the Nile; thousands of the natives who inhabit the borders of the deserts have no other subsistence but dates for a great part of the year. But what is this to Bonaparte? To destroy and to reign are all he asks; it matters not over what or whom.

(12)It is impossible to conceive a scheme of blacker or more diabolical perfidy than Bonaparte here plans for Kleber.

Five or six hundred innocent people, living without suspicion or fear under the protection of the French, are to be torn from their country, their families, and friends, and hurried off to France under a pretence equally absurd and iniquitous.

Fortunately, Bonaparte left a man behind him but little inclined to be the agent of his villany. How must this gallant and discerning soldier have felt the insult here offered him? How must he have smiled with contempt at this mixture of indiotism and frenzy? This order for him to exasperate the country by an act of wanton barbarity, at the time he was instructed to treat about leaving it in peace! Bonaparte allows that those Mamelouc missionaries could not finish their Parisian educations in less than a year or two, and yet he has just before granted a delay of only six months to conclude the agreement which is to shut the French out of Egypt for ever.

With respect to the Arab hostages, Cheiks, or any thing else instead of Mameloucs; if such a motley crew were not designed to gratify his own vanity, they could only serve to remind the Parisians of the ever-memorable procession of the “Orator of the human race,” Anacharfis Clootz. At any rate, the idea of bringing about a great change in the country by their means, is completely ridiculous, and truly worthy of the man who conceived it.

(13)That is the only one of all his numerous promises that Bonaparte has condescended to recollect. He thought of it, we see, in Egypt; and, not to disparage his talents for invention, might be indebted for the idea to Voltaire, who advised us (not seriously, it must be confessed) to send a few opera-dancers to St. Vincents, to soften and subdue the Caraibs.

(14)What have we here? A mortified Carthusian? Meek and lowly servant of an unambitious republic, he makes no boastful claims to the admiration of the present age; he fights battles, he overturns states, he wades through human blood, from shores of Genoa to the Adriatic; he flies from one ravaged quarter of the globe to lay waste another, without motive or end;--and he tells all this in a jargon that Captain Bodadil would have laughed at. What then? His toil, like virtue, is its own reward, and he aspires only to the grateful notice of prosperity! All this is as perfectly true, as that he abandoned Egypt with regret, or that Keleber believed him when he said so.

(15)Of what materials must this man’s heart be made? Even Satan is represented by Milton as bursting into such tears as angels fled, at the recollection of what he had brought on his followers, yet—faithful how they stood. But Bonaparte seems absolutely incapable of any impressions of pity or remorse; he is an anomalous being, such as neither history nor fiction has yet dared to exhibit.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bonaparte Flees Egypt and Promotes Kleber

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. 3, pp. 5-6.


Head Quarters, Alexandria, August 23, 1799.

BONAPARTE, Commander in Chief, to the ARMY.

IN consequence of the news from Europe, I have determined to return immediately to France. I leave the command of the army to General Kleber: they shall hear from me speedily: this is all I can say to them at present. It grieves me to the heart to part from the brave men whom I am so tenderly attached; but it will be only for an instant; and the General I leave at their head is in full possession of the confidence of the Government and of mine.


By order of the Commander in Chief, and of the General of Division, Chief of the Staff,


A true copy,

SONNET, Adjutant General.

A true copy,



This address to the army was not delivered by Bonaparte. It was enclosed in the letter to Kleber, to be read to them after he was gone!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Kleber Briefs the Directory on Intercepted Letters

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. 3, pp. 2-3.



Head Quarters, Cairo, October 9, 1799.

KLEBER, Commander in Chief, to the EXECUTIVE DIRECTORY.

THE Citizen Barras(1) being particularly known to me by his fidelity, his extreme attachment to the Government, his love for the Republic, and for truth; I thought, Citizen Directors, that I could not fix on a more proper person to send home with my first dispatches to you, out of cipher. I have ordered him to throw them overboard(2), in the event of his being closely pursued by the enemy; and he is sufficiently acquainted with their contents to be able to give you a verbal account of them, if it should be necessary. I entreat you to place the same confidence in him which I have been induced to do, from observing the uprightedness of his conduct since he has been in this country.

Health and respect.


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)Cousin to the ci-devant Director of that name.

(2)This was done, but some of the El Vincejo's men instantly jumped into the boat, and saved them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

British Editors Include a Diatribe on Bonaparte's "Wickedness and Fraud"

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. 1, pp. I-XX.


THE Correspondence, of which the following Letters make a part, was intercepted at different periods, by the Turkish and English ships of war. It consists of Official and Private Letters, whose contents, perhaps, like those of a thousand others, which have at various times, fallen into the hands of our cruisers, would have remained a secret to all but Government, had not the French, by holding out, first, a false account of the motive of this famous Expedition, and then, by spreading the most absurd and exaggerated accounts of its success; rendered it necessary to undeceive Europe, (still trembling at the tale), by proving from their own statements, that what began in wickedness and fraud, was likely to terminate in wretchedness and despair.

The Publication being thus determined upon, the next step was to make such a selection from the voluminous Correspondence in the hands of Government, as, without gratifying an idle curiosity, or indulging a prurient inclination for scandal and intrigue, should yet leave nothing to be desired with respect to the real situation of the Army in Egypt; its views and successes, its miseries and disappointments. For this purpose, every thing that was not illustrative of one or other of those objects was suppressed: all private Letters, unless intimately connected with the end in view, were passed over; and even those of Bonaparte (which have been so shamefully misrepresented, and commented upon by those fervid champions of decency, the Opposition Writers(1)), though not strictly and absolutely private, yet containing nothing that could materially interest or inform the public, were laid aside with the rest. We trust that we have not admitted any thing that can raise a blush on the cheek of our readers, either for themselves or for us.

We might here close our Introduction, but as the Egyptian Expedition has awakened curiosity, and been the theme of much wonder, and applause, and error, and misrepresentation; we do not think we shall render an unacceptable service to the reader, by enlarging a little on the subject.

The French have long turned their eyes towards Egypt. The sanguine disposition of their Consuls in the Levant, had ministered with admirable effect, to the credulity, and avarice, and ambition, of this restless nation, by assuring them that Egypt was the Paradise of the East, the key of the treasures of the Indies; easy to be seized, and still more easy to be kept! There was not a Frenchman under the old regimen, who was not fully persuaded of the truth of all this; and certainly they have lost nothing of their ambition, their avarice, and their credulity, under the new.

What plans the Monarchy might have devised for gaining possession of this “Paradise,” we know not. It could not hope to effect it by force.—But the present rulers of France, who have trampled on the powers of the Continent too long, and with too much impunity, to think it necessary to manage them now, could have no apprehensions of resistance to their measures, and were not likely to be scrupulous in the choice of means, to effect whatever purpose they had in view.

Egypt, however, though said and believed to be a rich country, promised no immediate supplies of plunder; and the project for seizing it would still have remained in the port-folio of Citizen Talleyrand, had not a circumstance happened that made its speedy adoption a measure of necessity.

Every one knows that the Directory long since engaged to make a free gift to the army, of a thousand livres, at the conclusion of a general peace. This engagement, like many others, it seemed to have forgotten; till the necessity of attaching the troops to their interests, and thus enabling them to perfect the Revolution of the 18th Fructidor, made it necessary for the Triumvirate to renew their promise, and to revive the languid expectations of the army.

None contributed more to the success of this fatal day than the army of Italy, which, to the eternal disgrace of Bonaparte, was permitted to overawe the councils, and to assume to itself the whole power of the state.

Such a service could not be overlooked: their claim to a portion of the milliary became doubly valid, and as the war in Italy was now supposed to be at an end, thousands of them returned to France to claim it.

Here began the difficulties of the Directory. They had no money to give; but it was not expedient to confess it: and the expedition to Egypt was, therefore, brought forward, as an excellent expedient for quieting the present clamour, and providing for forty thousand veteran troops, inured to plunder, and impatient of controul; who were too sensible of their merits, to be quietly laid aside; and too urgent in their demands, to be cajoled with empty promises.

Hence arose the expedition to Egypt. The plunder of the Venitian docks and arsenals, had fortunately furnished them with a vast quantity of naval stores, and with several ships of the line, frigates, &c. With the former, they fitted out the vessels in the port of Toulon; and they collected transports from every quarter. While these preparations were going on, the cupidity and ardour of the troops were artfully inflamed by ambiguous hints if an expedition that was to eclipse, in immediate advantages, the boasted conquests of Cortes and Pizarro.

To promote the farce (for such we are persuaded it was), artists of all kinds, chymists, botanists, members of the pyro-technical school in prodigious numbers, and we know not what quantities of people calling themselves Savans, were collected from every part of France, and driven to Toulon in shoals.—When all these were safely embarked, Bonaparte assembled the Italian army, (amounting to 22,0000 men), and after gravely promising them on his honour, which he observed had ever been sacred, that they should each receive on their return money enough to purchase six acres and a half of good land, took them on board, and tranquilly proceeded to bury them all in Egypt.

On his route he collected near twenty thousand more of the army of Italy—sturdy beggars, who might have disquieted the Directory if they had been suffered to remain in Europe, and who will now contribute with their fortunate comrades, to fatten the vultures of Grand Cairo.

We shall not stop to notice the capture, as it is called, of Malta(2), nor the various gambols that were played by this unwieldy armament in the Mediterranean, but having conducted it in safety to Alexandria, return to make a few miscellaneous observations on its outset, supposed destination, &c.

The first circumstance that strikes us, is the extreme ignorance of the French, with regard to the country they were going to desolate and destroy. They had no connections with its ports for ages, and yet they appear to have known no more of its interior, than the inhabitants of the moon. This want of knowledge was universal—from the Commander in Chief(3) to the meanest soldier in the army, all was darkness, and blind confidence in the blindest of guides!

The “Savans” were not a whit better informed than the rest—like Phaeton,

“They hop’d, perhaps, to meet with pleasing woods, And stately fanes, and cities fill’d with gods:--“

and like him too, we imagine, they have found a general conflagration, and a river!

Now we have mentioned these men, it may not be amiss to inquire into the services the general literature of Europe is likely to derive from their exertions: services, be it remembered, for which the Directory, who forced them on board, have already received the felicitation of all the “friends of liberty.”

The inquiry will be short. All the mention we find of them, from the hour of their embarkation to the present, is contained in Berthier’s letter to the Consuls of the Roman Republic. “The Savans Monge, Benolet, Boursienne, &c.” says he, “fought with the greatest courage; they did not quit the General’s side during any part of the action, and they proved by their exertions, that in combating the ENEMIES OF THEIR COUNTRY(4), every Frenchman is a soldier,” &c.

Thus we find that the “enlightened geniuses of the eighteenth century,” who were to explore the construction of the Pyramids, to dive into the Catacombs, to wind through the mazes of the sacred labyrinth, to dig up the mystic volumes of Hermes, and, in a word, to roam “with free foot” from the Cataracts to the seven mouths of the Nile; are become men of blood, obliged to cling to the troops for protection, and unable to advance a single step to the right or left, beyond the reach of the musquetry or cannon of the army!

But the imbecility displayed in the outset of this strange expedition, is not more extraordinary than the obstinacy with which it had been held up to the admiration of Europe. Either ignorance, or fear, or Jacobism, has been always at hand—to suggest the greatness of plan, where there was little, in fact, but blind hazard—to whisper a combination of means amidst the want of every thing, and to promise infallible success to men whose every step was attended with destruction and despair! While the army was yet on its way to the place of its destination, the old plans of the French Government were in every mouth; and the wisdom was loudly applauded which was to attach the Beys to the invader, crush the dominion of the Porte, and secure the country for ever to the “Great Nation.”

Bonaparte arrives, and reverses the whole scheme. The Beys are now to be crushed, because they alone have the power to resist: and the sovereignty of Constantinople is to be upheld, because it is inefficient. The applause was louder than before! “Better and better still,” cried the sagacious discoverers of deep design in all the bedlam tricks of France; “that country will gain more this way than l’other—“Vive la Republique!”

Again, when it was found that no impressions but those of hatred and hostility, were made on the natives of Egypt, and that the conqueror barely held the ground on which his army halted, we were suddenly made acquainted with another and a greater scheme; which we were seriously assured was the only genuine one, and which could not fail of success! What was not done in Egypt, might be done in Persia. The inhabitants of the southern coasts of that country were opportunely discovered to have the primitive religion of the Arabs, before it was infected with Mahometanism; and with them, “through the means of their venerable Patriarch,” Bonaparte, it was known, had long since been in correspondence. The clue of the mighty maze which had so much puzzled mankind, was at length discovered! Arabia was to be restored to liberty and happiness, by the arms of France, acting on one side of it, and by these innumerable and faithful auxiliaries, on the other. The rest was plain enough. Arabia being once organized, and in possession of a Directory and two Councils, a free passage to India was afforded, of course, through Mekran, the region of friends and philosophers, and the “tyrant of the sea,” driven with disgrace from Calcutta!

It would be superfluous to send our readers to any author of credit, for a refutation of all this absurdity; which yet has been dwelt on, by the friends of France, with complacency and delight—but if they should happen to look into Niehbur, they will find, that there really are some wild Arabs, a poor, and miserable, and half naked people, who wander up and down the coasts of Arabia Proper, and live on putrid fish! These Icthyophagi are the enlightened savages, who, in conjunction with Bonaparte, are to diffuse the knowledge of liberty and virtue through the Eastern world!

But it is not only the profoundity of the General’s plans of conquest, that is so highly and so justly celebrated: his capacity of legislating for the countries he subdues, receives an equal share of applause; and his admirers would think they insulted his reputation, if they forbore to mention, that he added the political sagacity of Solon, to the military science of Alexander.

The reader will find (No. X.) a Letter from Bonaparte, containing, what he calls, his “Provisional Organization of Egypt;” if he will look carefully into this, and into another curious Paper (Appendix, No. VIII.) he will be inclined, we think, to abate something of his admiration for this new Solon.

The tenaciousness of the Eastern people for their customs is proverbially great; yet they are to change them at a word! The simplicity and invariable uniformity of their dress is no less striking; ages pass away, and find it still the same; yet they are now, in obedience to they know not what orders, to trick themselves suddenly out in tri-coloured shawls and scarfs, and ribands, like the tawdry Jack Puddings of the Executive Directory.

All the complicated relations which bind the society among which the General is thrown, are either unknown or unheeded by him; one or two general and barren provisions are made to represent all those moral habits and local regulations which, with an infinite variety, distinguished the formed government of this people.

But a remedy is at hand: if his laws will not do of themselves, force will speedily make them effectual. The military, under the command of a French officer, are directed to be called in on every occasion (p. 71.); this is the grand specific for all! After a disgraceful and futile attempt at civil wisdom, the whole is resolved into violence, and the code of the legislator is thrust down the throat of the people by the bayonet of the Conqueror!

But what could be expected from a man who had already betrayed his incapacity in similar attempts in Europe? Let his stupid admirers (for we must now be serious), let his stupid admirers call to mind his Italian “organizations” (the worthy prototypes of his Egyptian ones), repeatedly changed by himself, and the instant he was out of sight disdainfully changed by others. There too was the same poverty of conception. From his traveling cloke-bag, he privately drew out the MODEL OF ALL LEGISLATION—THE CONSTITUTION OF 1795. This was copied for great and small, and applied in all situations, and to every people! Antiquity knew nothing of this sweeping mode of legislation; they shewed a condescension to the different customs and prejudices of those who fell under their management; and a cluster of small and contiguous powers were judiciously and humanely indulged with the possession of those laws which had long been dear to them, and which removed them from each other in principles and manners, as far from “the center to the pole.”

But Italy, which, in the judgment of our philosophists, had once exhibited this weakness, was now to be taught a better lesson. All moral consideration were to be superseded by the supreme wisdom of the cloke-bag; and Republics, Monarchies, and whatever else might be the distinctions of Aristocratic government, were to be swept away with the besom of 1795. What shall be the Constitution of Genoa? A Directory and two Councils. What of Mantua? A Directory and two Councils. What again of Bolognia? You are very tiresome: look into page—of the Constitution of 1795; what does it say? Once more, a Directory and two Councils. Thus it is. Ventum est ad summum fortuna; and we make laws quicker and better than the ancients—Achivis doctius unctis! One undistinguished rule domineers over all the varied application of political wisdom, and Minos, and Solon, and Lycurgues, are vanquished by a single roll of paper triumphantly carried through Europe, and speaking alike (whether intelligibly or not) “to all people, and nations, and languages and tongues.”

From the legislative pretensions of Bonaparte, we might now descend to the consideration of the fraud, and hypocrisy, and blasphemy, and impiety, and cruelty, and injustice, which he has never ceased to display since the commencement of this famous Expedition; but we are better pleased to leave them to the faithful page of the historian, which we are satisfied will one day hold them to the just contempt and execration of all mankind.

We shall indulge ourselves, however, with an observation or tow on his cruelty. We select this vice, because Bonaparte has been celebrated by the ignorant and malevolent of this country, for nothing so much as for this humanity! One man, of whom we should say, if we could for a moment believe in the metempsychosis, that the spirit of Bishop Bonner had taken full possession, has had the consummate folly to affirm, that Bonaparte, “his consolation and his triumph,” preferred the preservation of one citizen, to the melancholy glory of a thousand victories.

Where did this scribbler, who form his study insults the feelings of his countrymen, and boasts of his satisfactions in the success of their enemies, collects his proofs of the tender concern of Bonaparte for the life of a Citizen? Was it at the bridge of Lodi, where he sacrificed six thousand of them to the vanity of forcing a pass which he might have turned without the loss of a man? Was it--? But why multiply questions, when there is not, perhaps, a reader of a common newspaper in Europe (this pestilent foe to the honour of his country excepted), who does not know that Bonaparte has wantonly spilt more blood than any Attila of ancient or modern times, who, with the same means, has had merely the same ends to effect.

We may, perhaps, at some future time, take up this topic at great length; meanwhile we shall content ourselves with referring to Boyer’s Letter (No. XXII.), and return to the subject of the Expedition.

We have called it a farce—we might, with more justice, have called it a tragedy—It is, we are persuaded (but here we beg to be understood as speaking only our private and individual opinion) a deep-laid plan, of which the only actors in the secret are the Directory and Bonaparte, and, perhaps, Berthier. The main plot was to get rid of the Italian army: the subordinate one to conquer and plunder what they could: if Egypt fell—so much the better; if it did not—so much the better still. The denouement was skillfully effected either way, and the Government equally relieved!

But why then all this expence, this hazard of their sole remaining fleet, this exposure of their best and most skilful officers, of their profoundest philosophers, of their most scientific men of every kind?—These we confess are weighty and rational objections, and if we could not answer them to our own satisfaction, we would without hesitation, renounce the opinion we have given, and adopt that of our opponents in its stead.

We begin, then, with premising that the Directory do not set much store by their Savans; they have exported several head of them to Cayenne, a spot still worse than Egypt; and made a great consumption of them at home, in noyades, fusillades, &c. &c.—these, therefore, may be safely put out of the question.

With respect to the expence—to say nothing of the hopes of repaying themselves by the plunder of Malta, and Grand Cairo(5); it was surely worth something to effect the important ends they had in view. The “hazard of their fleet,” indeed, seems a more serious matter; but let it be remembered, that the Directory had no idea that we could possibly send a squadron into the Mediterranean (a sea which we had then abandoned for near two years), strong enough to attack it: and here let us pay the tribute of applause so justly due to the secrecy, and skill, and promptitude, with which this most important measure was effected.

With regard to the “exposure of their best officers”—and here we make our chief stand—we say, that the Government had no such design. They were sent, it is true, because the army would not move without them; but we have proof, little short of mathematical certainty, that they were speedily meant to be recalled to France. It appears from some of Bonaparte’s letters, that he had not the slightest idea of wintering in Egypt. “I shall pass,” says he, “the cold months in Burgundy, where I wish you would look out some little place for me”—Here, then, is the solution of the whole enigma. Bonaparte was to leave his devoted followers to moulder away in the undisturbed possession of Egypt, and under some plausible pretence to return to Europe with his ablest officers, and with, perhaps, a handful of the most ductile and tractable of his troops.

This plan, and no other, accounts for his keeping the fleet on the coast, in spite of the remonstrances of Brueys, and the evident danger to which it was exposed—it was to carry back the “Conqueror of Egypt” in triumph to France: and the Admiral, who was wholly unacquainted with his design, fell a sacrifice at last, to a perfidy which he could not comprehend.

THE FIRST OF AUGUST ruined all these fine spun schemes; and Bonaparte fell into the toils he was spreading for others! All return is now impossible, except as a fugitive, or a prisoner. He may enter into the chambers of the Pyramids, and hold conversations on the tomb of the Cheops, with Imans, and with Muftis; he may organize, and conquer, and plant botanic gardens, and establish menageries; he may pass from the Delta to the Thebaid, and from the Thebaid to the Delta, with his train of tri-coloured Cheiks, and be hailed as the ALI BONAPARTE of the country—all is still but folly: his final destruction can neither be averted nor delayed; and his unseasonable mummeries will but serve to take away all dignity form the catastrophe of the drama; and render his fall at once terrible and ridiculous.

Before our readers accuse us of being too sanguine in our expectations, or too precipitate in our judgment, let them carefully peruse the following Correspondence. They will find every officer in the army dissatisfied with his situation, and impatient to return to France: execrating the climate and the country, and lamenting the folly that left him to embark in so wild, and absurd, and hopeless an expedition. They will find the whole army without tents, baggage, or ammunition, without medicines, or wine, or brandy; with few of the necessaries, and none of the comforts of life.

This WAS a faithful picture of their situation before the destruction of their fleet—what IT IS since, they may easily conjecture. If, then, they will add to this accumulation of misery and despair, the inveterate hostility of the Arabs, the treachery of the Egyptians, and the destructive warfare of the Mameloucs, together with the nauseous and peculiar diseases of the country, the intolerable heats, and pestilential winds, the devouring myriads of venomous insects, and the stench and putrefication of ten thousand stagnant pools, they will not, we imagine, be much inclined to dispute the justice of our conclusions.

With respect to the Letters we have given, they were selected, as far as was consistent with our plan, with an eye to variety. They are, with few exceptions, extremely well written, and do credit to the epistolary talents of the authors: nor is this their highest merit; they are friendly and affectionate; and we see with pleasure that the cold-blooded rant of a detestable and impious philosophy, has not yet succeeded in extinguishing the social feelings!

One word more. We had very different motives from those of raising a laugh, when we admitted into the collection, the Letters of Guillot, Le Turcq, &c. We had it in contemplation to shew, that from the highest to the lowest, from the best informed to the most illiterate, the sentiment of discontent and disgust is universal; that, far from harbouring a thought of sitting down in Egypt, not an individual in the army (so far, at least, as had come to our knowledge) but turns with fond anxiety towards home, and thinks, with horror and despair, of a residence in this “Terrestrial Paradise,” even for a few weeks!


[British Translators' Notes]

(1)The following paragraphs are taken from the Morning Chronicle. We might have produced a hundred more of the same kind, but these we think will be sufficient to convince the reader, of the “superior delicacy” of that paper. When he has considered them well, he will not be disinclined, perhaps, to felicitate the French ladies, on the letters of their lovers and friends having luckily escaped such “delicate,” and honourable hands!

“It is not very creditable to the generosity of Office, that the private letters from Bonaparte and his Army to their friends in France, which were intercepted, should be published. It derogates from the character of a nation to descend to such gossiping. One of these letters is from Bonaparte to his Brother, complaining of the profligacy of his wife; another from young Beauharnois, expressing his hopes that his dear Mamma is not so wicked as she is represented! Such are the precious secrets which, to breed mischief in private families, is to be published in French and English!” [Nov. 24]

“After the public have been so long agitated with anxiety and speculation respecting Bonaparte and his Expedition, they are at length to be gratified with the scandal and intrigue of which the private Letters from the General and his Officers are full.” [Nov. 25]

“The private correspondence of Bonaparte’s Officers, is a curious specimen of public intelligence. It reminds us of the weak and impolitic Ministry who persecuted WILKES. When their fund of malice was nearly exhausted, they gave out that he had written an indecent poem, which certainly has as much to do with the question of general warrants, as Madame Bonaparte’s chastity has to do with her husband’s Expedition through Egypt!” [Nov. 26]

(2)That event had been secured before Bonaparte left Toulon, by the intrigues and largesses of Poussielgue: these have been since laid upon by the Bailli Teignie, and others; and made the subject of a formal accusation against the Grand Master Hompsech, by the Knights who have taken refuge in Germany, Russia &c.

(3)In a letter of Bonaparte’s to the Directory; dated July 6th, he says “this country is any thing but what travelers, and story tellers represent it to be.”

(4)The cant of the French is even more shocking than their enormities. They invade a friendly country, which they wantonly devote to pillage and devastation; and the leaders of this lerocious horde of savages have the detestable insolence to call the unoffending people whom they are exterminating for the crime of endeavouring to protect their lives and properties, and who are utterly and alike ignorant of them their sanguinary employers—“THE ENEMIES OF FRANCE.”