Palais du Tribunat, No. 38, au premier
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Spring of Peace; Spring of War
The Peace of Amiens lasted just over a year, from March 1802 until May 1803 when Britain declared war again on France. Joseph Bonaparte, the First Consul's brother, and Lord Charles Cornwallis, Marquess Cornwallis--the same Cornwallis who had fought the Americans in their Revolutionary War--had signed the treaty after months of negotiations, which had started the previous November, with a truce having been set in October 1801. Looking back, the treaty seemed doomed at the start.
The treaty had no trade terms, the King of England gave up his hereditary claim to the French throne, and France kept all conquests made since 1793, giving up only its claims to the Papal States, Egypt, and the Kingdom of Naples. This left French troops occupying North Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands. Bonaparte also made no secret of his desire for France to continue expansion. However, in the spring of 1802, many in England choose to see the one bright thing about such a peace--it opened Paris to them again.
According to The Age of Napoleon, by J. Christopher Herold, "By September 1802, there were about ten thousand Englishmen in Paris alone. The social scene was more brilliant than it had been during the last years of the old regime. The great salons, including the celebrated one of Madam Récamier, were open to the more distinguished of the English visitors, and such new and dazzling places of entertainment as the Tivoli and Frascati's were open to all who wanted to see them."
At about this time, Francis W. Blagdon made a bold trip to Paris, crossing as soon as a truce had been announced and he could get a passport. His letters, collected in Paris As it Was as it Is, provide a look at the city and what he remembered of it from pre-Revolutionary days. He writes of Paris, "What a charming abode is Paris, for a man who can afford to live at the rate of a thousand or fifteen hundred pounds a year!" He exclaimed over the beauty of the Tivoli gardens, and wrote, "...at Frascati, you may, in that gay season, eat ices as good as those with which Cardinal de Bernis used to regale his visiters...."
He also notes, "The houses of the great are difficult of access, and those of the secondary class scarcely open with more ease than they did before the revolution. If proper attention be paid to all the letters which a stranger brings, he may be satisfied; though the persons to whom he is recommended, seldom think of taking him to the residence of any of their friends. Therefore, an English traveller, who wishes to mix much in French society, should provide himself with as many letters of recommendation as he can possibly obtain; unless, indeed, he has a celebrated name...."
For those who were happy with lesser amusements, the peace opened up the opportunity to see the early "aeronauts."
Andre-Jacques Garnerin, his wife Jeanne-Genevieve, and his niece Elisa performed balloon ascents and parachute descents in the Jardin de Tivoli.
But quite the most popular attraction had to be Bonaparte, who had himself proclaimed First Consul for life, and held court at the Tuileries Palace. "It was an impressive spectacle to see him in his gold-embroidered uniform of state walk briskly through the two ranks of guests, stopping here and there to ask a few brusque questions as if the visitors were so many generals," writes Herold.
Many admired Bonaparte. While he had done away with the egalitarian "Citizen" and "Citizeness" forms of address, he had also stopped the Revolution's bloody madness, which had spiraled out of control, taking the lives of aristocrats and revolutionaries. Bonaparte had begun public works, including that of renewing construction of the Louver in 1803, which had been opened by the Revolutionaries in 1793 as a public museum to display works 'liberated' from royal collections. His plans for Paris included new roads, canals, buildings, and laws, such as the Civil Code or Code Napoleon. But while Bonaparte brought structure, he also took away liberties. The press came under his direct control, and his code took any many of the rights women had gained under the Revolution. (It is said that he once told Madame de Stäle, "Women should stick to knitting." He believed a man should rule his home, and he should rule France.)
Like many liberal English Whigs, Charles Fox thought of Bonaparte as a man who could keep the freedoms France had gained under her Revolution and still keep order. Fox arrived in August 1802 with his wife to visit Lord and Lady Holland, who had traveled abroad due to a doctor's recommendations for their eldest son's health.
"The Hollands had found many old friends upon their arrival in Paris. Lafayette, Talleyrand, Madam de Flahault...Madame de Coigny, M. de Jaucourt, Gallois, Morellet, Rumford, Calonne and Bertrand, were amongst the number," writes the Earl of Ilchester in The Home of the Hollands: 1605 - 1820. "They had seen the First Consul at a parade on the day after their arrival, but only in the distance. Lady Holland then likened him to 'Kemble in Minature'."
The comparison of Bonaparte to a famous actor was apt. Bonaparte knew the importance of performances and public displays. Each month, he reviewed the troops on the fifteenth, and he looked for any reason for military parades.
After meeting Bonaparte, Lord Holland wrote of the man, "Bonaparte seems to govern entirely by himself, and considers his Ministers and men of business merely as clerks. He is undoubtedly impatient of contradiction, to a degree amounting not only to a blemish in his moral character, but to a weakness in his understanding. In every other respect, however little one may approve, every one must admire him. The Republicans who raised him, and the friends of rational liberty who first produced and afterwards suffered by the Revolution, are clearly the two descriptions of persons most dreaded and disliked by the Consul. He adopts the principals of the old Government in many respects, but he certainly has the advantage of not having his power necessarily connected with the restoration of feudal laws and all the abuses which they had produced..."
Bonaparte took on the trappings of royalty that suited him, and he ruled as he saw fit. And the contrast between a First Consul who spoke of peace and yet prepared for war lent Paris an edge of excitement.
Along with new roads and buildings and its salons, Paris was a city of troops and spies. Not everyone loved their First Consul. There had been one plot in 1800 with an explosion set in the Rue St. Nicaise that had failed to kill Bonaparte.
Other plots continued. Royalists wanted to restore the monarchy, republicans who felt betrayed by Bonaparte's dictatorship looked for their chance to eliminate the man, and jealous generals who had watched Bonaparte's rise through the ranks sought their own opportunity to rule in his stead. Bonaparte knew he had enemies, and he intended to always be one step ahead of them, with his police and those few advisors he trusted. He dealt with the extremists of the Revolution, with uprisings in France, and with the royalist Chouans all with the same brutal, quick military action to kill opposition. Literally.
In Holland and the Netherlands, travelers saw the scars of war. In Paris, royal palaces lay empty, stripped bare, or had been converted into hotels and mansions for the new elite. The Palais-Royal, built for Cardinal Richelieu and then made a palace for royalty, had already been converted into a series of shops by Philippe, the Duc d'Orléans. Gambling houses and brothels thrived here. The Place de Grève, next to Paris's City hall, the Hôtel de Ville, was the traditional spot for executions, and a guillotine continued in use here until 1830. But it was the Place de Concorde where the king and queen had lost their heads to Madame Guillotine, and where, it was said, the stench of blood had been so strong that cows refused to cross the square. Despite the French police, Paris had its share of pickpocket's and thieves as well.
Still, the mood of English visitors was to enjoy the moment, not to find problems or bring up unpleasant history.
Far better to mingle in a fashionable Paris café with dashing French soldiers and charming French women who still considered themselves liberated by the Revolution. Or to bribe one's way into the First Consul's reception to glimpse the famous man and his generals. Or to be daring and risk the latest discovery and current rage and have one's child vaccinated.
Blagdon writes of attending plays by Molière, and notes, "The thèâtre des arts or grand French opera, the opera buffa or Italian comic opera, the théâtre Feydeau or French comic opera, and the théâtre Français, chiefly engage my attention."
Bladgon goes on to give the direction for diverse entertainment, including:
Théâtre des Arts, Rue de la Loi
Bal masqué de l'Opéra, Rue de la Loi
Bal du Sallon des Étrangers, Rue Grange Batelière
Soirées amusantes de l'Hôtel Longueville, Place du Carrousel
Phantasmagorie de Robertson, Cour des Capucines
Tivoli, Rue de Clichy, S.
Frascati, Rue de la Loi, S.
Cabinet de démonstration de Physiologie et de Pathologie, au
Palais du Tribunat, No. 38, au premier
Palais du Tribunat, No. 38, au premier
Madam "Josephine" Bonaparte ruled as well, and her taste set the fashion, with her aristocratic breeding, her charm and elegance. She was not thought beautiful by all, however. Lady Holland wrote of her after being presented, "Her figure and tournure are perfect, her taste in dress exquisite, but her face ! ghastly, deep furrows on each side of her mouth, fallen in cheeks, shocking, disgusting, a worn-out hag, prematurely gone, as she is not above 40 years old."
Perhaps Madame Bonaparte worried for her future. She had been born Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie. She was a widow, older than Bonaparte, with two children and extravagant tastes. Her affairs with other men after becoming Madame Bonaparte nearly led to divorce in 1799, and marked a change between her and her husband. But she also had assets--tact that Bonaparte lacked, aristocratic blood and connections, and Bonaparte in some measure considered her his good luck charm.
Beyond the social scene, the main attraction of Paris, for the English who had lived under blockades and lack of trade goods for years, had to be the shopping.
Lord Holland wrote, "The sums expended on dress are quite incredible, and the richness of the shops in those articles, as well as in furniture, exceeds not only all description we have ever heard in England but anything the most expensive persons there can imagine."
As spring faded into summer in 1802, however, news turned troubling.
In August, Bonaparte put down an uprising in Switzerland. Reports filtered back of atrocities committed there by French troops. Bonaparte then went on to annex Piedmont. To quell revolts in French-held Haiti, Bonaparte ordered the re-institution of slavery--this less than a year after he had given freedom to all slaves in St. Domingo.
These actions did not violate the treaty, but they gave Britain an excuse to be nervous and put off its evacuation of Malta, its Mediterranean port.
Many began to believe that while Bonaparte spoke of peace and freedom, his continued military actions made it impossible to believe his words. English opinion turned against him. Criticism of the peace and its terms grew louder in the English Parliament and in the English Press. The Prime Minister, Addington, came under attack. The great navel hero Nelson even criticized peacetime cuts in England's greatest defense, her fleet. Caricaturists such as James Gillray continued to savage Bonaparte for his attacks on other nations; Bonaparte responded by banning English papers in France.
In November, Lord Whitworth went to Paris as the English Ambassador to speak with Bonaparte about his actions.
But while Bonaparte had ordered the French fleet to be expanded to sixty-six ships of the line, he made no move to war. And so, at the end of 1802, the English stayed in Paris, enjoying the delights, still shopping and indulging, and putting off tomorrow for another day.