The sloop of war Blossom arrived this morning from Brazil, bringing the Governor a packet of despatches from the English Chargé d'Affaires at Rio de Janeiro and some letters from my Lord Bathurst. M. de Montchenu has received by the same mail a letter, a copy of which I have the honor to send your Excellency. He hastened to have it read to Sir Hudson Lowe. But the latter far from communicating to us those of Mr. Chamberlain, frowned on our even speaking of them to him, and says not a word. This conduct is really indecent.
According to the letter from M. de Maler, French chargé d'affaires and consul-general in Brazil, dated Rio, December 3, 1817, two men had arrived at Pernambuco on the Portuguese vessel Rainba, and were immediately arrested by the governor, who suspected that they had come to take part in a rebellion there. One of these adventurers proved to be Colonel Latapie, who acknowledged that he was a Bonapartist. The other was an Austrian who had been a captain in the French cavalry. Sent to Rio, they were examined by the minister of state,
Senhor Bezerra, who was so intrigued by the mystery surrounding them that he undertook to set them at liberty if they would explain their errand. The colonel then acknowledged the part they intended to play in the Pernambuco revolt, which with other Frenchmen they had come aid, and then, after having established themselves in Brazil, they would use that country as the base for an expedition to St. Helena. "A large number of his comrades," wrote M. de Maler, "would gladly lay down their lives in the execution of this project, according to the colonel; they thought and dreamed of nothing else, and since they owed their all to the prisoner of St. Helena, they would surmount all obstacles to rescue him.
"Latapie refused to consider the project difficult, holding that anything was possible for such bold men, that they would surprise the garrison, that the first and only concern would be to see that Bonaparte escaped, while the assailants were fighting and being killed. He said that in order to succeed in landing on the island and eluding the vigilance of the cruiser and the lookouts, they had prepared several small steamboats which would be placed together on larger vessels, and these little boats would be put in the water at the proper distance in order to gain one of the capes of the island.
"I hastened to see Senhor Bezerra, who confirmed the whole story."
Marquis d'Osmond, French ambassador to the Court of St. James, wrote from London on September 11 a warning to Colonel Latapie's attempt. His information was to the effect that the rescuers would try to seize the Portuguese islet of Fernando Noronha and there would incite a revolt among the two thousand prisoners of the penal station, who were, he said, guarded by a very weak garrison. With that help, the expedition against St. Helena might become dangerous.
* * *
This letter, those of July 26 and October 26, are full of lies. I have shut myself up in my apartment for eighteen months in order to have shelter from the outrages of this officer. To-day my health is weakened; it no longer permits me to read such disgusting writings, Send me no more of them. Whether this officer believes himself authorized by secret and verbal instructions of his Minister, as he has allowed it to be understood, or whether he is acting on his own initiative, which might be deduced from the care he takes to disguise himself, I can only treat him as my assassin. If they had sent to this country a man of honor, I should have experienced at least some unhappiness, but they would have spared themselves the reproaches of Europe and of history, which this astute man's rubbish-heap of writings cannot deceive.
November 23, 1817.
I venture to add to this report my own notes on the Observations on Lord Bathurst's speech.
I have the honor to be, etc.
Notes on the "Observations"
"Name imposed on General Bonaparte." After great and eternal debates on this harassing subject, the Governor has consented no longer to qualify Bonaparte as General. But he calls him Napoleon Bonaparte simply, and that is as displeasing. "Bonaparte," M. de Montholon said to me one day, "without being Emperor of the French, is and always will be the Emperor Napoleon, as a bishop is still a bishop although he no longer has a bishopric, and a general remains a general although deprived of his command, or even out of service."
"But it is the devouring climate of the tropics that was needed." Bonaparte, who perhaps judges every one's principles and sentiments by his own, is firmly convinced that they have sent him to a rock, five hundred leagues from any land, simply to make him die by inches. No one can ever rid him of this idea.
"All the French who wish to return to their country must first run these dangers and undergo this excessive fatigue." Mme. Bertrand told me that she would like to return to Europe to educate her children; but that she shuddered at the very idea of those three frightful voyages. 1
"Attempts had been made through the medium of newspapers to hold communications with Bonaparte." They say that in the papers of Count las Cases a project has been discovered of correspondence through newspapers, but it was not carried out. It is morally impossible.
Regarding the placing of guards: At night the Longwood pavilion is surrounded with sentries. They are at the trees, at the doors and windows. M. de Montholon told me that he could see at least thirty from his room. When Bonaparte's evening is over, the French cannot cross the courtyard and make a step outside without being followed by a soldier, and General Gourgaud has assured me that he always presented his bayonet. From Longwood to the port of St. James it is less than six miles, and I have counted three officers' posts, three sub-officers', and fifteen men. The other roads and paths of the island are guarded the same. More than one third of the garrison daily does sentry duty. You stumble on them in the most unexpected places. They are posted on the high rocks, and since my arrival the strong wind has knocked over four or five.
If I were charged with guarding Bonaparte, the entire island would be his domain. By day, I would submit him to no direct surveillance. I would post all my guards on the coasts. The pleasure of walking would be infinitely increased, since no soldiers would be seen, nor anything that can sadden or humiliate a prisoner. In the evening I would establish at rifle-range from Longwood a cordon of troops, which nobody would pass without my knowledge. Any other measure of security in the interior of the island is useless and vexatious. The essential point about this rock, which is unapproachable and is only ten leagues in circumference, is to guard the coasts and the sea.
I asked the Governor why they did not establish the French at Plantation House. He told me: "It is because those people would damage it too much. The upkeep of the house, the garden, and the farms costs much money. It is a superb establishment, and it would mean too much loss for the India Company. Then," he added, "I should have to live at Longwood. Lady Lowe is not very well, and I will never sacrifice my wife's health to Bonaparte's whims." . . . Bonaparte insists on dislodging the Governor and demands Plantation House with all the insistence characteristic of him. I believe he will finally succeed.
During the last four months Bonaparte has twice changed his ways of living. In October and November he dined at half-past nine and went to bed at ten. Now he dines at three and has only one meal a day. On Sundays he invites the French to dine. On other days he dines alone, and as he no longer holds any soirées, Mmes. Bertrand and Montholon see him very seldom. In the night his valet Marchand reads to him, and he spends half the night in bed, half in a warm bath. In the daytime, when he feels energetic enough, he writes, plays chess, tries a little of everything, but really does nothing, yawns, and kills time.
In my notes on Montholon's letter of August 23, 1816, 1 said that Bonaparte read all the newspapers, that they sent him all that came. This information I had from the English authorities. But I found afterward that they gave him neither French papers nor those of the Opposition in England, with the exception of a few selected issues of the "Morning Chronicle." This only irritated him the more.
It is said in Europe that Lord Amherst had given the Prince Regent a letter from Bonaparte. That is false. There has been no letter sent from Longwood except that to Lord Liverpool, which I mentioned in my report No. 22. "The Emperor," Bertrand said to me, "has a proud and lofty soul. He is consistent in his opinions, and having once complained of the Prince Regent, he will not lower himself to write him. It is to the Emperor Alexander, if the occasion presented itself, that he would write of his misfortunes, for he admires that Prince. He has great confidence in his help and thinks him endowed with fine qualities." Bertrand tried to insinuate to me that they would gladly give me a letter for our august Sovereign. But I feigned not to guess his thought. However, Napoleon did not have a long interview with Lord Amherst on the affairs of Long wood. He described to him the character of the Governor, had him read his correspondence and the restrictions of October 9, 1816. "if you were in my place," he asked him, "would you go out, would you see people? What would you do? Speak frankly, as a man of honor," Count Montholon assured me that the noble lord answered, "I would do as you are doing."
When Bonaparte was told about the affair of Colonel Latapie, he refused to believe a word of it and said, "it is a fable that they have invented to give more authority to the vexations of Sir Hudson Lowe."
Gourgaud's Quarrel with Montholon and His Departure
The reports for the next few weeks are occupied for the most part with details of the growing unpleasantness between Gourgaud and Montholon. When the former, feeling that he was being worsted in the quarrel and that Napoleon was withdrawing his favor, asked permission to leave the island, the Emperor replied, "It isn't worth the trouble, my friend. Have a little patience. Twelve months more, and you will bury me."
In February the quarrel had reached the extent of a challenge sent by Gourgaud, which Montholon by Napoleon's orders was obliged to decline. The Emperor naturally feared the effect which such dissension, carried
to the point of a duel, would have in Europe; but apparently Montholon resented his master's restriction. Gourgaud, having left Longwood, was given by the Governor a little country house near Plantation House, and there he resided until his departure.
Balmain adds, on February 15. "The Bonapartist plots at Pernambuco have greatly excited the Governor. He works incessantly on the fortifications, is placing new telegraph posts and batteries in various places, and has doubled the guard at Longwood. I see him always on horseback, surrounded by engineers, and galloping in all directions. One cannot blame him for his extreme vigilance, but he is pushing it quite too far and is becoming ridiculous, for there is no real danger. What more could he do if he were in the presence of the enemy? One essential thing, which he scarcely seems to think of, is the provisioning of the troops. For about a month the soldiers have been on half-rations of bread, and the horses have no more forage. We lack everything on this rock and get along as if in the enemy's country, living from day to day; and it does not seem to disturb him at all, because he has only one idea in his head - the guarding of Bonaparte."
Balmain quotes Gourgaud's first letter to Montholon, full of self-pity, devotion to the Emperor, and hatred for the man who has sowed dissension between them:
Forced to leave the Emperor, to whom I have sacrificed my whole existence, I will go only after having avenged myself on the success of your plots. Or else I shall perish, but at least in a manner more honorable and worthier a real man than that which you have shown up to now; and whatever be my fate, I shall carry with me the esteem of all good people.
When it became apparent that Montholon could not, if he would, meet Gourgaud's wishes, the latter wrote a farewell letter to Napoleon, which the Emperor answered as follows:
I thank you for the sentiments which you express to me in your letter of yesterday. I regret that the disease of the river which is so fatal in this climate necessitates your departure. You are young. You have talent. You are to enjoy a long career. I wish it to be happy. Never doubt the interest which I take in you.
Balmain reports a conversation between Napoleon and Gourgaud, of which he was told by Bertrand. "I have served you," Gourgaud said, "with zeal and fidelity. I have sacrificed to you my liberty and my entire existence. And you abandon me."
"Bah," replied the other, "what are your losses, your misfortunes? Your lot is happy. I have lost my empire, my glory. There are reverses for you, and I say nothing. But you are soft and weak. You make me pity you."
Naturally Gourgaud then became desperate, and in turn blamed all those who were in better favor, going as far as to challenge first Bertrand, then Las Cases, then Montholon. It was finally thought that he was losing his mind. The more Napoleon and his suite snubbed him, the more Lowe praised him, but Balmain is sure that that was only because Gourgaud was so docile and pliable.
On March 14 Balmain wrote:
General Gourgaud left this morning for England and was not first sent to the Cape of Good Hope, which is a mark of great favor. It is said at St. Helena that he has a secret mission from Bonaparte, that his trouble-making at Longwood was pure comedy, a clever way of taking in the English. I am not of that opinion. Gourgaud knows little of men and less of their ways.
Gourgaud's financial troubles occupy much space. When he left the island he had only seventeen pounds. "Bonaparte offered him a gift of five hundred, which he refused, saying, ‘I will owe his Majesty only his pension of twelve thousand francs, which will serve for the needs of my family.' ‘Those five hundred pounds,' he told me, ‘are too little for my needs and not enough for my honor. The Emperor gave as much to his groom and to the valets who returned to France; Las Cases got two hundred thousand francs. You might remind Bertrand that I am in a position to play the Emperor a scurvy trick if I were so inclined, that I could reveal a good many secrets. My Longwood diary would be worth fifteen thousand pounds in London, and he had better not go too far.' "
Of Gourgaud Bonaparte said to Bertrand: "Speak to me no more of that man; he is mad. He was jealous, in love with me. Que diable, I am not his wife and can't sleep with him. I know he will write these things against me, but I don't care. If he is received in France, he will be shut up, hung, or shot."
* * *
Gourgaud had many interviews with M. de Stürmer, who reported them word for word to Prince Metternich. He has let me take a copy of what he wrote.
"What did Bonaparte say about the death of Princess Charlotte?" 2
"He regards it as one more misfortune. Every one knows that the Princess of Wales has an almost fanatical admiration for him. He hoped that when her daughter came to the throne she would try to have him transferred to England. 'Once there,' he said, 'I am saved.' On learning the news he said to me: 'Well, there is an unforeseen blow. It is thus that providence plays with all my projects.' "
"Does he speak sometimes of his future?"
"He is convinced that he will not stay at St. Helena, and continues to believe that the Opposition will prevail."
"What does he think of the Bourbons?"
"He seems to think that Louis XVIII is a revolutionary and is exposing himself by his conduct to the greatest dangers. 'It is not thus,' he said, 'that dynastic changes are brought about. Prudence ordained that he should distrust all my marshals. He should not have included in his government any element which had not belonged to his party. Labédoyère and Ney 3 were not the only dangerous ones.' "
"Does he speak of his wife and his son?"
"He complains of Marie Louise. He thinks she should never have left Paris in 1814. He is convinced that he would still be on the throne if he had married a Russian grand duchess. He speaks often of his son."
"Do you think he can escape from St. Helena?"
"He has had the opportunity ten times, and he still has it at this moment."
"I confess that that does not seem possible."
"What is not possible when one has millions at one's disposal? Although I have to complain of the Emperor, I shall never betray him. I repeat, he can escape alone and go to America whenever he wishes. I will say no more about it."
[He has told this to others; namely, that Bonaparte might escape in a basket of soiled clothes, or in a cask of beer, or a case of sugar; that these means had all been proposed, and considered at Longwood. He has repeated these foolish things to many people, always adding that he would never betray the Emperor. But he has given no further details.]
"If he can, why does he not do it?"
"We have all given him that advice, but he has always rejected our arguments. However unhappy he is here, he secretly enjoys the sense of importance which is evident in his being guarded so closely and the constant interest which all the European Powers take in him. Several times he has told us: ‘I cannot live as a private personage. I would rather be a prisoner than to be free in the United States.' "
"Does he continue to write his history?"
"He works on it intermittently, but my guess is that he will never finish it. When we ask him if he does not want history to depict him such as he really was, he answers that it is often better to let it be guessed than to leave nothing to the imagination. Since he does not believe his destiny to be yet achieved, he does not care to unveil plans the execution of which has not been entirely accomplished, plans which some day he can again take up, with success."
"Which one of you drew up the observations on Lord Bathurst's speech?"
"The Emperor himself. He dictated most of it to us. It would be better to drop the whole thing there; but you often see in London letters supposed to be written by captains of merchant vessels, which speak a great deal of the Emperor. They are by him. The style is naïve, the details childish, the conception poor."
"What is his attitude with the people of his suite?"
"That of an absolute monarch. I have often seen him play chess five hours consecutively and keep us standing all that time watching him."
At Warsaw Bonaparte used to say, "From the sublime to the ridiculous it is only a step." At St. Helena he repeats a hundred times a day, "From the Capitol to the Tarpeian Rock it is only a step." When he is in good humor and likes to chat, which does not often happen, he signs to Bertrand and Montholon to sit near him, and never fails to say, "Prends un siège, Cinna, prends et sur toute chose . . ." 4 He likes French tragedy, especially Racine's "Iphigénie," which he recites rather well; when his humor changes, and he is bored, he walks around the billiard-table, throwing the balls around with his hands, and sings a little Italian air, "Fra Martino, suona la campana." Sometimes he has his valet Marchand called, and talks to him of the petty gossip of the town, or else about the details of the kitchen and the household.
"No," I said, "it is impossible. It would be failing in my duty."
"Not at all," he replied. "For the Emperor Napoleon would disclose some important revelations to the Emperor Alexander. The point is not so much of aiding an unfortunate man but serving Russia. He will read this letter with pleasure and will be delighted with it. Not to send it to your Court is to neglect your interests, and to sacrifice them to the English. I might remark also that the Emperor paints a picture of you which would make your fortune."
"I promise," I told him, "to report to my Court what You have verbally communicated to me. But I cannot transmit the letter; I have no right; if I did, I should be disavowed."
"Nonsense," he cried, "they might disavow you at St. Helena, for form's sake, by in Russia you would be rewarded. Consider the matter further." Whereupon he left me.
. . . When asked by Napoleon Bonaparte to tell him candidly whether he ought to consider me as surgeon d'une galère or as medical man in whom he could repose confidence, I replied that I was not surgeon d'une galère; that I was a surgeon and not a spy and one in whom I hoped he might place confidence; that my principles were to forget the conversations I had with my patients on leaving the room, unless as far as regarded my allegiance as a British officer to my Sovereign and country, and that my orders only obliged me to one thing: to wit, to give immediate notice to the Governor in case of any serious illness befalling him, in order that the best medical advice might be promptly afforded.
When minutely interrogated by you, sir, as to the number of interviews and the subject of conversations I have had, and when informed by you, sir, that I was no judge of the importance of the subjects of any conversations I might have, that I had no business to set up my own judgment upon the nature of them, that you might think several things of great importance which I might consider as trifling, I have had the honor to reply that if I was not at liberty to exercise any discretion as to the importance or otherwise of such conversations as I might be present at, there was evidently no other alternative than that of reporting to you every syllable which passed, the doing of which would place me in the situation of a man acting a most dishonorable part; in fact that I would be a spy and a mouton [e.g., a sheep], that such conduct would cover my name with well merited infamy and render me unfit for the society of any man of honor.
He who, clothed with the specious garb of the physician, insinuates himself into the confidence of his patient and avails himself of the frequent opportunities and frailties, which his situation necessarily presents, to wring (under pretense of curing or alleviating his infirmities, and in that confidence which has been from times immemorial reposed by the sick in persons professing the healing art) disclosures of his patient's sentiments and opinions for the purpose of afterward betraying them, deserves most justly to be branded with the appellation of mouton.
I have had the honor to inform you, sir, that Napoleon Bonaparte, after having satisfied himself of the truth of the assertion that written reports of the state of his health were made by me without his privity, refused, although then very ill, to consult me for several days, and from his well known character there is no doubt that he would have refused all medical aid whatsoever if his surgeon was obliged to be a spy.
Count Bertrand has signified to me that with respect to the title it might be easy to arrange matters by making use of no proper names in the reports, and by substituting in lieu thereof the word "personage" or "the patient"; that provided this was done, previous consent being obtained, and the original deposited with one of
the French suite, there would be no objection to written reports of the state of Napoleon Bonaparte's health being made.
. . . It is with infinite pain, sir, that I feel myself obliged to refer to the ignominious treatment which I have suffered from you in your own house, especially
upon two occasions. Were I culpable, even a court-martial could not authorize the intemperate and opprobrious epithets so liberally bestowed upon me, being twice turned out of doors in the presence of witnesses, the last time not without some apprehension on my part of experiencing personal violence. I have, sir, had the honor of serving my country in the Royal Navy for several years, until now without censure, and perhaps not without some little commendation, and must protest against any person, however superior to me in rank, making use of language and treatment toward [me] unworthy of and degrading to an officer.
I have, etc.
When in 1815 Count Bertrand asked me to accompany Napoleon Bonaparte as surgeon, I declared to Admiral Lord Keith and Captain Maitland that I would accept of the situation on certain conditions; viz., that I should be continued upon the navy list in my rank as surgeon, with my time going on, that it should be permitted me to resign should I find the situation not to be consonant to my wishes, that I should not be considered dependent upon or paid by Napoleon, but as a British officer employed by the British Government, and consequently not subject to any restriction imposed upon French prisoners. The subsequent arrangements made by the Admiralty shew that these conditions were approved of.
In June, 1817, you, sir, manifested some intention of imposing upon me the same restrictions as the French prisoners were subjected to; I had then the honor to communicate to you the stipulations which I had made and the conditions under which I had accepted the situation, adding that I would prefer giving in my resignation to submitting to any such restrictions. I therefore consider, sir, your order of the 10th of this month as a demand for my resignation, and I have the honor, now, sir, to tender it to you, and also to demand permission to return to England.
I have, etc.
I have, etc.
Dr. O'Meara informed me yesterday that in consequence of an order from you, he feels constrained to leave the island. I beg you to consider that Mr. O'Meara was given us by your Government, on our request, and as a substitute for a French doctor; that he enjoys our confidence; that the Emperor has been ill for seven months with a chronic liver disease, fatal in this country, which is caused by the lack of exercise, which he has not been able to take for two years, and by the way in which you constantly abuse your powers; that things have reached the stage where the patient needs to be cared for every day; that for two years you have wanted to expel Mr. O'Meara and to replace him by Mr. Baxter; that in spite of your repeated pleas the Emperor has refused to receive that doctor, who inspires him with an invincible repugnance. Consider that if you remove Mr. O'Meara, without replacing him by a French or Italian doctor, of known reputation, you will oblige this Prince to die deprived of all help. His agony will be more painful; but the pains of the body are temporary, while the opprobrium which a conduct so inhuman will impress upon the character of your nation will be eternal.
I am charged with stating (1) that Dr. O'Meara is the only physician of those on this rock in whom the patient has confidence; (2) that we protest against his expulsion, on whatever Pretext it is disguised.
I have the honor to be, etc.
"There is a vessel leaving to-day for England. Write a report for your Government. But I cannot give you any more bulletins. O'Meara is out, and Baxter is in disgrace with the French. I cannot give you a word about his health. He sees nobody, and I hardly know whether he is even living. What do you think of his illness?"
"They tell me that he is suffering in his head, liver, and stomach, that Montholon spends the entire night at the bedside putting warm cloths on his stomach."
"Dr. O'Meara committed unpardonable mistakes. He kept those people in touch with everything that was happening in the town, in the country, on board vessels. He hunted out news for them and flattered them disgracefully. Moreover, he gave to an Englishman secretly, from Bonaparte, a tobacco-box. What treachery! And is it not shameful that the greatest of all Emperors should try to disregard regulations whenever he possibly can?"
"You don't think, do you, that that is part of a plot, a scheme of escape; or isn't it just a little caprice?"
"Caprice? A hero, a world prodigy, uses just such little tricks as these to corrupt and seduce Englishmen. It is an abomination."
"Has Dr. O'Meara," I asked him, "violated the regulations?"
"No, not exactly."
"Have you asked him about that, and has he acknowledged it?"
"No, I have not yet asked him directly. I have my reasons."
"May I speak to you frankly? Tell you my candid opinion, not as Russian Commissioner - for I haven't the right - but as a friend?"
"I shall be greatly obliged to you."
"If Dr. O'Meara is guilty, accuse him and try him publicly, so that in St. Helena, Longwood, and Europe they may know what he has done and why you have punished him. But if he is innocent and should be reproached only for peccadillos, forget about the affair and set him at liberty. Remember that if Bonaparte dies without having seen a doctor, as he seems determined on doing, the English will be accused of having poisoned him, and it will be easy for the Bonapartists to produce false witnesses in France and other places against you. And millions of men will henceforth look upon you as his assassin."
This observation impressed the Governor. He fell into a reverie, then thanked me cordially for my frankness, and left. Two days after this interview Dr. O'Meara was set at liberty and restored to full possession of his rights. Bonaparte received him with joy and has already taken a dose of mercury.
* * *
During the winter and spring of this year there was evident some uncertainty among the three commissioners, on account of the lack of sure news of Napoleon's health, as to whether they were wholly fulfilling their duty. If the governor himself was none too sure, their amazement and indignation may be imagined. Occasionally he gives them brief news of a medical nature, but indicates his own lack of trust in it by qualifying it as coming from O'Meara. Having these details "from Dr. O'Meara [June 5], a man under suspicion and devoted to the French, he could not guarantee them. The result is, that since Mr. Lowe cannot get along with any one, and sees treason and traitors lurking everywhere, Europe cannot know what its prisoner is doing."
* * *
Note from the Governor to the Commissioners of the Allied Powers
If I have been in error in the objections I have shewn to any communication with the followers of Napoleon Bonaparte, when he has himself declined to receive or acknowledge the Commissioners of the Allied Powers, on my offer of presentation to him; and that the conduct of his principal followers and attendants has been at the same time such that it has required the utmost forbearance not to have removed them long since from the Island, the objections are still of such a nature as to remain unabated.
Viewing the communication, notwithstanding, that has ensued, c and the inefficacy of the arguments I have offered against it, I feel urged to express to you that as it hitherto has not had my acquiescence, so do I still, under actual circumstances, desire to withhold my assent to it, not being sensible that I therein manifest any objection which is opposed to the due execution of the instructions which you yourself possess.
I beg leave at the same time to express my perfect readiness to present you to Napoleon Bonaparte himself, d whenever so required by you, and if he [sic] should arise any obstacle to your personal introduction to him, or that from any motive of your own, you should forbear from urging it, I beg to assure you of my particular desire as well as my readiness to give you every e information respecting him whenever you may do me the honor to ask it of me.
I have, etc.
Not wishing to leave St. Helena without seeing Napoleon, M. Stürmer begged Sir H. Lowe to do his best to procure him the occasion, and promised to submit to all the regulations prescribed in similar cases to the simplest tourists. The latter, though not desirous of helping his ambition, went with him to Longwood. But instead of making the customary application to Bertrand, he charged Major Gorrequer with arranging the affair with Montholon. This tactless proceeding angered Napoleon and procured for them the letter of which I send a copy.
Recently, being without news of Longwood, I tried to get some from the Governor. I suspected that he had none himself, but he had written me in his note of June 4, "I beg to assure you of my particular desire as well as my readiness to give you every information respecting Napoleon Bonaparte whenever you may do me the honor to ask it of me," and I wanted, by taking him at his word, to see how he would get out of it and to enjoy his embarrassment. He brought me himself his answer, which is nothing but nonsense. Your Excellency will find herewith a copy.
Napoleon is indignant that Austria should have recalled her Commissioner. He has intimated to me through Montholon that he rejoiced at keeping me near him, that I exercised on this rock a controlling influence which, though indirect, was very essential to his safety, that he still hoped from the magnanimity of our August Master that he would never abandon an unhappy Prince, that he adjured him by the memory of old friendship to release him from this frightful exile and to give him another, less unhealthy; - which, being the arbiter of Europe, he could easily do, and generations yet unborn would admire his noble conduct toward a man who had carried fire and sword to the heart of his empire. At the same time he permitted Montholon to give me various curious and interesting notes and documents, among them (1) anecdotes of his marriage with Marie Louise; (2) a story of the battle of Waterloo (the one which General Gourgaud wishes to publish in France is not the correct one); (3) a review of the campaigns of Frederick the Great (Napoleon's hero); (4) the campaign of 1814 and secret details of his return to Paris in 1815.
To collect and copy all these notes I should have to have more time than I dispose of, and also to see the French at Longwood and to receive them at my house.
I cannot close this report without having the honor to inform your Excellency that last month I was seriously ill and that my nerves are still suffering. If the Imperial Ministry judges wise to continue me in this post beyond three years, I should no longer be in a condition to acquit myself of it. The devouring air of this rock is killing me. Even my mind seems weakened.
Letter from Count Montholon to Sir Hudson Lowe
You could, sir, not expect any favorable result from the proposal which you are now making that the Emperor should receive Baron Stürmer in the presence of an English officer. This application would be importunate and out of place. You would obtain no new reply, since you have known for some time that on that condition he would deprive himself of the happiness of receiving his mother, his wife, or his son.
I extract the following from the ministerial newspaper, the "Courier":
April 27, 1818. The following paragraph relative to Bonaparte is taken from a work just published. As Bonaparte hates Sir H. Lowe, the latter does not unnecessarily trouble him with his presence but delivers all notices to him by Sir Thomas Reade, whose polished manners, good-humoured disposition, and knowledge of the Italian language, which Gen. Bonaparte is said to prefer to French in conversation, makes him a pleasant messenger. Sir Thomas has therefore had more opportunities of becoming acquainted with him in the various affections of his mind than most Englishmen with whom he has conversed.
The whole thing is false. Sir Thomas Reade is the friend, the intimate counselor, in fact the only confidant, of the Governor, and accordingly communicates with no one at Longwood. He knows a little Italian, but has not studied it; and he is not a "pleasant," cultivated man; in other words, a typical John Bull. Napoleon scorns to see him or talk to him, and the English fear him.
Longwood is having printed in Europe two manuscripts both quite interesting. One is entitled "Manuscrit Venu de I'lle d'Elbe, par le Comte—" and treats of the events of 1814 and 1815. The other is a second "Manuscrit Venu de Ste.-Hé1ène, par le Comte— Auteur du 1er Manuscrit Venu de Ste.-Hélène." It is an account of the battle of Waterloo.
They are by Napoleon himself. I have just been told so, very confidentially, and I guarantee the fact to your Excellency. The first "Manuscrit Vemi de Ste.-Hélène" is not by him. But he has adopted its ideas, and the second is a supplement.
In pursuance to an order from my Lord Bathurst, dated May 16, 1818, communicated yesterday to Dr. O'Meara, he has left Longwood this morning forever and is returning to Europe. The same day he received a letter from the Lords of the Admiralty praising his zeal and his conduct and testifying to his capacity, allowing him to expect another appointment, honorable and lucrative. The Governor, on learning that he had kept a diary of Napoleon's illness, directed him positively to leave a copy, or extracts, with Dr. Baxter. But he would not part with it. "Content yourself," he said, "with the unofficial bulletins deposited with Bertrand. They are not false or prejudiced. And if you do not believe them, you would not believe my diary."
M. de Montchenu has asked the King his Master, as reward for his services at St. Helena, promotion to the rank of Lieutenant-General, the red ribbon, and an increase of five hundred pounds sterling annually. And from the Emperor Francis twelve hundred pounds sterling, salary as Austrian Commissioner. If he gets all that, we must agree that he has done very well indeed.
Letter from Count Montholon to Sir Hudson Lowe
I have the honor, etc.
If Napoleon Bonaparte denies access to any other persons than Count Bertrand and yourself, reflect, sir, on the responsibility which may thus attach to you. g I am perfectly prepared to meet any which may fall to my share.
I have, etc.
Neither O'Meara's departure from the island, nor even the publication of his notorious book, "A Voice from St. Helena" (1822), by any means ends his connection with St. Helena history or with Hudson Lowe. In a famous lawsuit the latter brought action for libel against the Irishman on the publication of the book. The evidence on the side of Lowe was overwhelming, but his counsel seem to have been criminally careless and negligent in letting the case drag on, until finally the statute of limitations applied and the suit was dropped; nevertheless O'Meara was condemned to pay the costs.
Lowe, says Norwood Young, was made the scapegoat. The government had not the courage to give him the promotion he had so abundantly earned, for fear of arousing further clamor. 9 Bathurst recommended him for the pension which in normal circumstances would have been bestowed, but Lord Liverpool would do nothing for the unlucky man. As no answer to O'Meara's charges was forthcoming, it was supposed that none could be offered, until Forsyth's work was issued in 1853. Once for all this book exposed the worthless nature of O'Meara's statements, but they had enjoyed an unchallenged inning of thirty-one years, and naturally the rejoinder was slow in making its way. Even Lowe's severest opponents now admit that nothing in the "Voice" which relates to Lowe is worthy of any notice, unless corroborated by reliable authority. The book is at once one of the most maliciously false and one of the most successful that has ever been published.
A Brazilian Interlude
Balmain's support of O'Meara had estranged him from the governor, and it is evident from now on that a considerable strain is being put upon his nerves. From August to November of this year he spent in a journey to Rio de Janeiro. He was suffering from the "near view" of local affairs, with no possible distraction. After staring at the same object too long, the sight becomes stony. Sir Hudson Lowe was often attacked, naturally enough, by the same distemper; no man in his position could have escaped it. Balmain had the sense to see that a change would do him good, and when he returned from his holiday he admitted that matters now assumed a different aspect. Reade reported to Lowe that Balmain had said to him that "since his return from Rio de Janeiro he had quite altered his opinion in regard to the French people at Longwood. He now thought them a 'curious set' [this was his expression], but particularly Count Montholon, whom he described as a very intriguing character."
At Rio, Balmain was presented to the king 10 by the Russian chargé d'affaires. Perhaps with the recollection of the attempt at escape planned by Colonel Latapie, the king expressed the fear that Napoleon was too near Brazil. Balmain reassured him with a description of Lowe's precautions.
" 'I have heard,' the King remarked to me, 'that the Governor is not a good man.'
" 'On the contrary,' I answered, 'he is an excellent man, one who gives himself tremendous trouble for the sake of the tranquillity of both the New and the Old World.'
" 'Well,' he said, 'I am obliged to him for it.'
" I have been much surprised at the friendliness, and also the extreme timidity, of this monarch."
The resumption of Balmain's reports was delayed until December 14, since no vessel left the island for six weeks.
* * *
The building of the new pavilion of Longwood has been begun. It is a hundred steps from the old, of a regular architecture, and good-looking. Napoleon will have five bedrooms there. I believe it will be completed within eighteen months.
I have the honor, etc.
"It is a lie, a calumny," cried M. de Montholon. "They try to make you believe all that, in order to conceal criminal designs. I give you my word of honor, and am ready to seal it with my blood, that there has been not the slightest plot, nor political correspondence, nor money, sent anywhere. O'Meara has been of no more service to us than to you. What he has done, said, and written is personal to the Governor, aimed at him alone."
"And this liver disease," I added, "this 'chronic' and 'dangerous' disease, they laugh at it now, as well as your official and unofficial bulletins. Those who have seen the patient at his window or door-step say that he looks very well."
The whole of this conversation was promptly repeated to Napoleon, who naturally became very angry. He again accused Dr. Baxter of drawing up false bulletins, and, recollecting having seen him a few days before at Longwood, he had him forbidden access for good. Perhaps I was wrong in coming out thus against O'Meara, since it has drawn on us a war of correspondence, which apparently will soon figure in the English papers. But it seemed to be my duty, as Russian Commissioner, to point out openly an obvious infraction of the regulations, and especially in M. de Montholon's presence. The Governor quite agrees with me.
I have the honor, etc.
* * *
The "war of correspondence" centered, naturally, around the "neglect" of the Emperor's health after O'Meara's departure. Doctors Verling and Baxter were constantly in readiness to give him aid, but the former met with no greater favor than the latter. Montholon returned to the governor a letter from Sir Thomas Reade, because "the Emperor, as you know, receives no communication unless signed by you." This letter was in turn sent back because it was written in the name of the "Emperor." So the childish and futile exchange continued. Montholon gleefully pointed out Lowe's inconsistency by referring to a number of occasions when the latter had received letters wherein the "Emperor" was mentioned, and insinuating that letters were returned only when he was unable to answer them and were accepted when he was able to reply.
* * *
Sir H. Lowe says he does not know what is meant by "libellous assertions." Yet he spreads rumors throughout the island that he has discovered criminal correspondence tending to facilitate Napoleon's escape, i and even a political correspondence with Europe. These two assertions are both libellous. If he had made public what he has intercepted, we should have answered him specifically, but this he has not done. . . .
Count Bertrand has assured me that many Englishmen, out of hatred toward the Governor, had helped, were helping, and would always help Napoleon to communicate secretly with his friends in Europe. It is said that among the letters intercepted at St. Helena there was one from Balcombe which ends, "Those two D . . . Rascals (Sir H. Lowe and his only friend Sir T. Reade) will be soon recalled." It is certain that there is an important party, both here and in London, which is working to have him recalled. I believe that all the intrigues of Balcombe, O'Meara, etc., have no other object. Note of Balmain on another observation of Montholon in the same letter. Return to paragraph text.
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