Napoleonic Literature
Napoleon in Captivity:
The Reports of Count Balmain
Russian Commissioner on the
Island of St. Helena 1816-1820

No. 1

January 19, 1819.
In the course of a long interview which I had with Sir H. Lowe last month, he tried, in order to prevent me from going to Longwood, to show me that everything done there revolved around myself. "Bonaparte," he said, "believes himself sustained and defended by the Russian Commissioner. That makes him capricious and intractable." After having vainly tried to prove him wrong, I took the generous decision to help him get what he wanted from me - to break with the French. For an entire month I have seen none, not even at a distance, and learn no news of the prisoner of Europe. When I ask the English authorities they answer always: "He exists. We know no more." I was as if incomunicado, seeing only the Governor and his staff, and daring to walk only near Plantation House. Finally I discovered, by pure chance, that there had never been so much argument, intrigue, and gossip at Longwood as during the time when the Russian Commissioner had been invisible. This is a summary of what has happened:

(1) Napoleon, after having promised to live in his new house as soon as he had the keys, declared suddenly that it was badly arranged, improperly located, and uninhabitable.

(2) He had several official notes written to the Governor, very imperious, and forbade the French to sign them. They were all returned to him.

(3) He called upon him imperiously to return to him a family portrait, which, having arrived at St. Helena under a false address, had been intercepted last October. This portrait was immediately sent him.

(4) He protested, in insulting terms, against the seizure of the letters from Balcombe, and desired that all this banker's accounts at Longwood should be settled without further delay.

(5) On the night of the sixteenth of this month, having experienced a violent headache and vertigo, he had Mr. Stokoe called, who ordered loss of blood, a hot bath, and a dose of Cheltenham salts. Since then he has become fond of him and is insistent on attaching him to his service. This is not, however, easy to arrange.

Since I seem to have given the Governor a sufficient proof of the small influence which I enjoy at Longwood, I count on returning there within a few days.

I have the honor to be, etc.
*    *    *

Napoleon's sudden friendship with Stokoe was not to last, for in his next letter, January 25, Balmain reports that he has just heard of the surgeon's recall, "the Admiral having judged it more prudent to separate him from St. Helena." Stokoe was a great friend of both O'Meara, who had recommended him to the French, and Balcombe.

*    *    *

No. 3

January 30, 1819.
. . . Here is the second English doctor dismissed from Longwood. With the exception of Baxter, who the French say is a poisoner, Verling, whom they will not see, and Livingstone, 1 who is an accoucheur, there is none other to give them.

Of late Napoleon has had the fantastic idea of making himself a shepherd. He is buying all the fine lambs of the island and likes to pasture them before his window. To keep them from climbing the rocks and getting lost, he has hung a little bell around their necks, and at night shuts them up in a little yard.

Admiral Plampin's squadron, which last year was partially renewed, is now composed of eleven vessels: to wit, the Conqueror (74 guns) [and ten other ships ranging from thirty-four to ten guns].

There is again a great lack of provisions, forage, money, and other necessities at St. Helena. It is the seventh or eighth since I have been here and it will not be the last, because Sir Hudson Lowe is not an administrator. He digs trenches, constructs parapets, is always getting ready for a battle, but neglects to build a storehouse.

I have the honor to be, etc.
*     *     *

Napoleon and the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle


The Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, in the fall of 1818, was the first in a continuing series called in the first instance to consider the various revolutions in Spain, Portugal, and Italy, which were making a mock of the Congress of Vienna. Aix-la-Chapelle was followed by Troppau (1820), called to consider the Neapolitan revolt, Laibach (1821), which took steps to suppress that uprising, and Verona (1822), which called in the French army to put down the Spanish revolt.

To Charlemagne's ancient city came Metternich, Richelieu (an invited guest only), Castlereagh and Wellington, Hardenberg, Nesselrode and Capo d'Istria, in order to decide the question of withdrawing the armies of occupation from France, and the nature of the modifications to be introduced, as a consequence, into the relations of the "Allied" Powers toward each other and toward France. The main outcome was the signature of two instruments - (1) a secret protocol confirming and renewing the Quadrilateral Alliance; (2) a public declaration of the intention of the Powers to maintain their intimate union "strengthened by the ties of Christian brotherhood," of which the object was the preservation of peace on the basis of respect for treaties. Many miscellaneous subjects were also discussed which had been left unsettled by the Congress of Vienna or had arisen since, and among them was the treatment of Napoleon. Madame Mère wrote a pathetic letter to the allied sovereigns, and the English Whigs did what they could.

But, despite the hopes which Balmain's reports show to have been placed in the czar by the exiles, Alexander took the leadership in pronouncing against the fallen emperor, and the following protocol (given here, in translation, in the form in which Lowe quotes it to Balmain) was drawn up.

*     *     *

Protocol No. 42

Separate Article Regarding Napoleon Bonaparte,
Aix-la-Chapelle, November 21, 1818

The Russian Plenipotentiaries read a Memoir the purpose of which was to give information on the points of view with which their Cabinet regards the position of Napoleon Bonaparte on the island of St. Helena, the spirit of the instructions regulating the conduct of his Britannic Majesty's governor toward this prisoner, and the untruthful reports circulated regarding him by an active malevolence, inspired by a spirit of political prejudice or hostility.

And the Plenipotentiaries of the other Courts, entirely sharing the principles and views of the Russian Cabinet and judging useful to announce explicitly their opinions, both on the facts recorded in the last communications of the British Plenipotentiaries and on
he ideas presented with as much truth as force in the said Memoir, have unanimously recognized and declare in consequence:

(1) That Napoleon Bonaparte has placed himself by his conduct outside the pale of the law of nations, and that the measures of precaution taken with regard to him, and all such of that nature as may be authorized, depend entirely upon the discretion and prudence of the Allied Powers.

(2) That the Convention of August 2, 1815, expressly constitutes him a Prisoner of the Powers signatory to the Treaty of March 25, 1815.

(3) That as a result no one among them can be permitted, and still less that Power who is the depository, to depart from the engagement made, or to expose it, by any considerations whatever, to be frustrated, to the detriment of the public peace.

(4) That the precautions ordered in the original Instructions of the Government of his Britannic Majesty and renewed by the despatch of Lord Bathurst to Sir Hudson Lowe of September 1, 1818, a have obtained the unanimous approval of the Powers signatory to the said Convention, and that they also approve the adjustments [ménagements] which humanity and generosity can suggest in the execution of these Instructions, in view of the position in which H.R.H. the Prince Regent now finds himself through the fact that Bonaparte surrendered to the British Government.

(5) That as long as the Commissioners of the Powers which drew up the Treaty of August 2, 1815, prolong their sojourn on the island of St. Helena, the Governor of the island will be invited to place them in a full position to fulfil their mission by those means which he may judge most fitting.

(6) That all correspondence with the Prisoner, remission of money, or any communication whatsoever, which shall not have been submitted to the inspection of the British Government, will be regarded without exception as directed against the public safety, and whoever renders himself guilty of such an infraction will be denounced and prosecuted by legal means.

*     *     *

The receipt of this protocol at St. Helena ushers in a new phase in the history of the captivity. It was, of course, received at both Plantation House and Longwood as the final and irrevocable decision of Europe as to the fate of Napoleon. Most of the disturbers - certainly most of those who could be effective - had gone. From December, 1816, to August, 1818, Las Cases, Malcolm, Balcombe, Stürmer, and O'Meara had all left the island; and a time of peace ensued. The drama now marches on, heavily and unrelieved, to its inevitable and not far distant climax. The recurring note of the chorus is supplied by the increasing and always more pessimistic references to the fallen emperor's health.

*     *     *

No. 4

March 1, 1819.
The last packet from Europe brought us the London papers of July and August. Napoleon, convinced that the Allied Sovereigns, especially the Emperor of Austria, were beginning to take his side against the Governor of St. Helena, was awaiting them with extraordinary impatience, and had his suite translate word for word all the articles of the agreement of Aix-la-Chapelle. He was much dissatisfied, for the "Morning Chronicle," his most zealous defender, hardly speaks of it. The "Courier" crushes him with reproaches and insults. And the "Observer" of August 12 is quite clear that it is our August Master who is handing him over to his destiny. He has again shut himself up in his workroom and sees nobody, so that it is impossible to know what he is doing, and whether he is well or ill.

The extract from my Lord Bathurst's letters, which Sir H. Lowe was ordered to communicate to the French, in reply to their observations on his Lordship's speech of March 18, 1817, is printed in one of these papers and has created a sensation at St. Helena. Since the condition of things here is so contrary to that which my Lord Bathurst apparently wishes to establish, everybody is surprised and scandalized. When speaking to the Governor about this extract, I asked him if he expected to obey his instructions and at last to raise the inpenetrable barrier of Longwood. He answered, with a little hesitation, that the French had not drawn up the list of people of the island who were to be admitted to their society. The list has been made out since last June, and it is headed by Messrs. Montchenu, de Gors, and myself. He remarked that he himself had presented a list of fifty people and was waiting for it to be approved or rejected. They tell me positively that he has not presented anything of the kind. "Far from opposing innocent parties and soirées, and distinguished travelers from visiting his prisoner, he has always tried to facilitate them. His conduct toward Admiral Malcolm and the Commissioners of the Allied Powers, who belong to that class and have a right to his confidence, give the lie to that assertion."

"They tell me," I said, "that you have forbidden the officers of the Sixty-sixth to converse with Mme. Bertrand and that they avoid meeting her as much as possible."

"No," he cried, "it is not true, it is a calumny. My officers would not dare to show such conduct, neither toward her husband."

And since the twenty-sixth he has been worrying me incessantly on these chance meetings. The other day he begged me by all that I held most holy not to see them or speak with them. What can one think of such actions? And what folly to want a thing and yet not to want it at the same time!

Last week, having to settle with Mme. de Montholon an expense account in connection with my trip to Rio, I expressed the desire of calling on her. He thereupon wrote me half a dozen notes and letters, which expose his tortuous policy. I am fully convinced that his reports to my Lord Bathurst are similarly a tissue of subtleties and ambiguities, wherein one can see nothing clearly, judge nothing, or come to any intelligent decision. That is why everything is in confusion here.

I have the honor, etc.
P.S. They have just told me, and the thing is not unlikely, that Napoleon, seeing himself abandoned by the English Ministry and handed over to the sole direction of Sir H. Lowe, wishes to complain of him to Parliament.

No. 5

March 18, 1819.
The French Commissioner has just received a despatch in cipher from the Duc de Richelieu expressly enjoining him to increase as much as possible his relations with Bertrand, Montholon, etc. He has had the kindness to inform me of this. If such an order were sent me, how I should make Mr. Lowe dance!

Dr. Baxter, to whom his disgrace at Longwood has given a sort of celebrity, has asked and obtained permission to return to Europe. He has been suffering for two years from a liver obstruction and has lost all hope of being cured at St. Helena.

I have the honor, etc.

No. 6

March 29, 1819.
The Governor has just informed me that he has received orders (1) to enlarge the inclosure of Longwood as much as possible, so that its bounds would include the entire island outside of the coasts, the bottom of the valleys, and the city of St. James; (2) to require positively that Napoleon should be seen by the orderly officer twice a day, morning and evening; and in case of illness, by an English doctor in the service either of the King or the Company, who must moreover be present at all the visits of his private physician and report on them to the authorities. The French have not yet replied to this communication. If the affair is handled tactlessly, as is usual at Plantation House, it will have a bad result.
I have the honor, etc.

No. 7

April 5, 1819.
His Imperial Majesty's frigate Kamchatka, Captain Golovin, anchored at St. Helena on the first of this month and left on the third. The captain spent two days with me, and the Governor was extraordinarily kind, in great contrast with his treatment of the commander of the other Russian vessel which was here about a year ago. Captain Golovin, famous for his voyages of discovery and his long captivity in Japan, was received here with all honors. The Governor regrets infinitely not having been able to present him to Napoleon, who without doubt would have been charmed to see him and perhaps would have wished to give him a letter for our August Master.

Among the distinguished travelers whom the Company's fleet has brought us this year there is only Mr. Ricketts, member of the Council of Calcutta and a near relation of Lord Liverpool, who has seen Napoleon. 2 In order to obtain an audience, he applied, like all his compatriots, to the Grand Marshal, and was presented on the second of this month. Nothing of what happened between them has as yet transpired. The Governor, as well as his staff, are most mysterious about it, and for two weeks I have met nobody at Longwood. Bonaparte received Mr. Ricketts in a darkened room. After a quarter of an hour's conversation he had some light brought and said, "Now I want to see you." He was in bed, wearing a flannel dressing-gown, with a scarlet turban, was unshaved, and from time to time sat up in bed. The object of this masquerade - for it was hardly anything else - was to touch his visitor by presenting an extremely feeble appearance. I do not know if he is really well or ill. But I am sure that he might have put on trousers, and stood up or sat down, without passing away.

I have the honor, etc.
No. 8
April 12, 1819.
Yesterday I saw Count Montholon and to-day Count Bertrand. Both spoke of Mr. Ricketts's visit to Longwood, and this is in substance what they told me of it. Napoleon charged him with reporting to Lord Liverpool the deplorable and lamentable condition in which he saw him; (2) to beg him, with all the insistence possible, to obtain for Napoleon from the Prince Regent a change of Governor and of exile; (3) to remind him that the wretched inhabitants of Longwood had need of a French or Italian doctor, or even an Englishman who would be their doctor; he asked it on conditions like those imposed on Drs. O'Meara and Stokoe; (4) to state to him very clearly that Napoleon would never live in his new house, which they might save themselves the trouble of building. "I wish," he cried, "to die within the four miserable walls and on the miserable cot where for three years they have made me languish pitilessly." It seems that Mr. Ricketts avoided contradicting him and giving any very decided opinions of his own, for Bertrand and Montholon praise him highly and congratulate themselves on having met one honest man among the English.

My Lord Bathurst's new orders have been badly received at Longwood. They deign no reply. They loftily refuse to submit, and for two weeks Napoleon has not shown himself to the orderly officer. The Governor is alarmed and does not know what to do. All indications point to a quarrel.

Mme. de Montholon is dangerously ill with a liver obstruction. Every day they give her ten grains of mercury. Her doctor urges her to return to Europe and assures her that there is no hope of cure at St. Helena.

I have the honor, etc.
No. 9
April 22, 1819.
Sir Hudson Lowe, having learned that the Marquis de Montchenu had received orders to enter further into relations with Counts Bertrand and Montholon, has thought best again to protest against any such communications, which according to him are illegal, contrary to the spirit of his regulations; and in that sense he has just sent me two official notes. I have explained on so many occasions the secret motives which actuate him, and furnished so many proofs of the falseness of his statements, that I do not need to say anything further. His real object is to displease the Emperor with me and to have me recalled. He has a perfect mania for writing, and his restless, nervous mind loves to debate and argue, the more trifling the objects the better. If his Imperial Majesty decides to send me a successor, he would be unable to stand all these vexations. My position is no longer bearable. I have been fought for three years without making any trouble or running foul of anybody, but I have no peace or rest, nor any strength left to oppose the ridiculous and unjust pretensions, which are renewed every day.
I have the honor, etc.
*      *      *

Balmain in a brusque note invites the governor to lodge any complaints of his conduct with the English government. In a foot-note to his letter he adds: "One day, when his mental distress was evidently strong, he said to Montchenu that I was a Bonapartist, and at St. Helena it was necessary to be ultra-royalist. My colleagues fell in with this idea and agreed never to see Bertrand, condemned to death by his King, and Montholon, a child of the Revolution. A short time afterward he was ordered to cultivate their society."

"In order to put an end to this interminable correspondence, and to live at peace with him during the last two months of my stay at St. Helena, I have decided to discontinue seeing his prisoners."

Balmain reports on May 4 that the result of Lowe's fourth note on this subject was to patch up their friendship. So perhaps they served some purpose after all.

*      *      *

No. 11

May 6, 1819.
Pursuant to his Imperial Majesty's orders, I shall not fail to establish official contact with General Baron de Tuyll, his Envoy at the court of the King of Portugal and Brazil. I am delighted to have nothing disturbing to communicate to him. The activity of the enemies of general peace has not made itself felt on our shores. Bonaparte, as I have already said, demands a change of Governor and of exile, but nothing else. If he is transferred nearer Europe, or to some civilized country, perhaps his ambition will grow, But at St. Helena that is all he is aiming at. And I believe that what was determined regarding him at the last meeting of the Sovereigns will cause his hopes to fade. My opinion on the affairs of Longwood is and always will be the same.
I have the honor, etc.
No. 14
June 18, 1819.
I take very great pleasure in being able to announce to your Excellency that my personal relations with the English authorities are peaceful and friendly, that I go continually to Plantation House, where they receive me with open arms, that dinners, balls, and soirées are becoming much more numerous since the arrival of the last news from Europe; and all this detracts from the boredom of my exile. However, it pains me to have to say at the same time that, since I no longer see Bertrand or Montholon, I am completely ignorant of what is happening at Longwood. I have asked the Governor: "How is Bonaparte; what does he say about the protocol of Aix-la-Chapelle; is he sad, or resigned?" He answers, "I can only certify to you his mere existence."

They say in town that consternation reigns among the French, that all they can say is: "The Emperor Alexander has been deceived by false reports. The English, profiting by the carelessness and apathy of the Austro-French Commissioner and the absence of the Russian, have made the Allied Sovereigns believe what they wish, in order to justify their barbarous conduct. There is absolutely no conspiracy or criminal correspondence."

It would be my duty to go to Longwood at least twice a month, and they would give me innumerable details regarding all these facts. I know that I am expected there, that they are on the watch for me night and day when out walking, and that Bonaparte, in spite of the decisions taken toward him at the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, is still well disposed toward me. But I can do nothing further just now without breaking with Sir H. Lowe.

I have the honor, etc.
No. 15
July 1, 1819.
To-day Countess Montholon left for England. Her liver obstruction has apparently become incurable, and the doses of mercury have not dissolved it. She is a woman of heart and head, very charming, and of great use to me at St. Helena. My sense of loss is very great. Her husband remains with Bonaparte. Your Excellency will find inclosed a note which Sir H. Lowe has written the Commissioners to acquaint them with Mme. de Montholon's departure. He nowhere mentions her health.
I have the honor, etc.
*      *      *

Balmain again shows his anxiety to live on good terms with both sides, for, being once more assured by Lowe of his readiness to have him see Napoleon, he answers him, somewhat tartly, on July 25, that he will not fail to give the governor ample notice at any time when he desires to assure himself, with his own eyes, of Napoleon's existence on the island.

*      *      *

No. 18

August 4, 1819.
. . . On the first of this month the seven to eight hundred Chinese workmen, kept here by the India Company, began a very bloody riot which seems to have been caused by some religious dispute. Formed near Plantation House into three or four bands of about 150 each, armed with bamboo sticks, spears, knives, etc., they rushed upon each other with frightful ferocity. The army of Confucius, uttering piercing cries, gave the alarm to the post at High Knoll. Instead of sending over a strong patrol of dragoons, which would have dispersed them in a moment, they despatched some St. Helena sharp-shooters, for the most part drunk, all young lads who were impatient to finish the affair, and who, without waiting for anybody's orders, started shooting wildly. There were some killed and a good many wounded. The commanding officers will be courtmartialed.
I have the honor, etc.
No. 20
August 16, 1819.
On the fourteenth, when the orderly officer had as usual approached the Longwood windows, in order to assure himself of Bonaparte's existence, the latter, who had been for some time in his bath, suddenly left it, with tremendous scorn and anger, and showed himself in naturalibus to Capt. Nicholls.

I have no other news to send the Imperial Ministry.

I have the honor, etc.
No. 21
August 25, 1819.
For about two weeks Bonaparte has discontinued his walks, appears no longer at his windows, and shows himself rarely to the orderly officer. The Governor, whom the forty-second protocol of Aix-la-Chapelle seems to have put into a good humor, avoids disturbing him. They know he is at Longwood because they hear him talking and singing; moral certainty is as good as legal evidence. I have just learned that last February, desiring to send to Europe - unknown to the English authorities - a simple letter, he offered six hundred pounds to a captain of a merchant vessel if he would take it. But the latter refused.

The battalion of Island Sharp-shooters, who were tried for murder of the Chinese, have all been declared not guilty.

Surgeon Stokoe has been sent back to St. Helena by the Admiralty, to be brought to trial here on ten counts. They are now drawing up the acts of accusation. I shall not fail to keep you posted.

I have the honor, etc.
No. 22
September 2, 1819.
The trial of Surgeon Stokoe took place this morning on board the Admiral's ship by a council of war. After four sessions he was unanimously declared guilty of the accusations brought against him, and was condemned to be dismissed, but, in consideration of his former services, recommended for half-pay. The authorities of the island naturally made a great sensation of this affair and almost persuaded people that he would be hung. He could not get any one to act as his counsel and had to conduct his own defense, which he did with considerable skill and presence of mind, acknowledged that he had been insubordinate, confessed being the dupe but not the accomplice of the enemies of Plantation House, and moved all who heard him to compassion, so that public opinion to-day holds him merely a weak, imprudent, and unhappy man. Every one is wondering why Surgeon O'Meara, who Sir H. Lowe says is much guiltier, is not likewise tried either before an ordinary jury on board the Conqueror or before an extraordinary tribunal at London. 3

No. 24

September 22, 1819.
. . . The transport Snipe, leaving England on July 9, arrived at St. Helena on September 20. She had on board Messieurs Buonavita and Vignali, priests; Antommarchi, surgeon; Coursot, maitre d'hôtel, and Chandelier, cook, all intended for Bonaparte's service. These people, by giving him some news, insignificant as it is, of Europe, have sensibly diminished his boredom for a while. And if Father Buonavita, who has the reputation of being most devout, succeeds in detaching him from the petty concerns of this world, he is the one of the five who will have been the most useful to him. . . .
I have the honor, etc.
*      *      *

The last sentence in the preceding report was much truer than Balmain could have suspected. It was indeed a strange group of new arrivals who are mentioned in this report. They were all selected by Cardinal Fesch (Napoleon's half-uncle), who lived, always suspected of intriguing for the Bonapartes, under the watchful eye of the Sacred College at Rome. The papal policy decreed that after the original band of followers no Frenchmen should be sent to St. Helena; Napoleon was to be isolated to the utmost extent. A case in point is the application for the Position of medical attendant from an eminent French doctor, Fourreau de Beauregard. It was declined on the plea that he was not a surgeon . 4 At length Fesch, with the support of Madame Mère, who always espoused the claims of her compatriots, decided upon a young Corsican, Francesco Antommarchi. The amazing thing about him is that he was neither a physician nor a surgeon, but simply an anatomist; he had never practised upon the living. It would have been difficult to find a technically qualified man more unsuited to a post where by this time skill and experience and tact had become so vitally necessary. He had not even the social qualities required, being merely an ignorant provincial from a village in a wild and remote corner of Corsica.

The choice of the two priests is hardly less amazing. Buonavita was also a Corsican, at this time more than sixty-five years old. While acting as chaplain to Pauline Bonaparte at Rome, after Waterloo, he had experienced an attack of apoplexy, which left him a permanent difficulty in his speech. Clearly he needed an assistant. This was provided in Vignali, yet another Corsican, only about twenty-five years of age, who could hardly read and write. Nevertheless, thinking no doubt that it would come in usefully, he had begun a course of medical study. Fesch thought so much of the attainments of this semi-savage that he intended him to act as Napoleon's consulting physician. Says Norwood Young, "there is a grim touch in the suggestion. With Vignali as adviser, Antommarchi's qualifications as dissector would soon come into use."

These three were approved by the church precisely because none of them could speak idiomatic French. With them Napoleon would be tempted to fall back upon the Corsican patois, and he would be encouraged to forget that he had ever been regarded as a Frenchman.

*      *      *

No. 25

October 1, 1819.
Yesterday there was a horse-race at Deadwood. The inhabitants and the garrison were there in large numbers. The Governor and his family also honored it with their presence. And off to one side I saw Bonaparte's suite, sullen and dejected.

His surgeon Antommarchi has lost no time in making my acquaintance. He is a subtle and clever Corsican, who, I believe, will soon make himself disliked and feared by the English. He assured me that the Emperor Napoleon, his most Illustrious Patient, had an obstruction of the liver, already hard, and that the climate of St. Helena would kill him.

Mme. Bertrand tells me that she expects to return to Europe next March; that boredom, melancholy, and nerve trouble had ruined her health. Early every Sunday, she says, Father Buonavita says mass at the Emperor's, and at noon Father Vignali officiates in her rooms. She asked me to attend each of these services regularly.

M. de Montholon, who is Bonaparte's emissary to the Commissioners, asked me if I had any news of my successor. "None," I answered.

"What," he cried, "you don't know that you are replaced? That you are out of favor with your Minister and even with your Sovereign?"

"An invention: believe nothing of it," I replied brusquely.

"Well," he said, "this is what I have been ordered to tell you. 'If you see Count Balmain at the Deadwood track,' the Emperor told me this morning, 'tell him from me that his successor was at Paris on the twentysixth of last July. That he is a general officer, recommended by his services and good qualities. That this officer, speaking of Count Balmain in Paris society, said positively that his quarrels with the St. Helena authorities had caused his recall. That Count Nesselrode, or rather the Cabinet of St. Petersburg, disapproved of his conduct, but that the Court was entirely satisfied. That all Europe had recognized in him that unvarying and well known maxim of the Russians - and of all men of honor - "Generosity and delicacy with a conquered enemy." Tell him that the Emperor Alexander has continued friendship for me, together with personal sentiments which are and always will be entirely independent of his political attitude. Thank him for the interest which he has taken in my health. I am a captive and so cannot prove my gratitude. Let him not abandon me forever. Try to get along with my assassin.' "

Sir Hudson Lowe, to whom I repeated word for word this conversation with Montholon, was immensely surprised and believes it either entirely a figment of the fertile imagination of Longwood, or the beginning of some new intrigue, or an attempt to lay a snare for me. I am not of his opinion.

I have the honor, etc.
No. 26
October 25, 1819.
Since the conclusion of the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, the affairs of Longwood have progressed regularly, and, like those of Europe, peacefully. Bonaparte is less unhappy. Occasionally, from temper or grief, he shuts himself up, refuses to show himself to the orderly officer, etc. But, since these caprices no longer seem to disturb any one, they are disappearing of their own accord. His arguments with Sir Hudson Lowe have entirely ceased. Mme. Bertrand has asked and obtained permission to see more people. Fathers Buonavita and Vignali preach to their flock the virtues of unity, patience, and the practice of good works. They have already married three servants who were living in concubinage. Everything presages the end of intrigues and squalls and the beginning of a state of things at St. Helena such as the Allied Powers could entirely approve. Nevertheless I do not dare to answer for the future. It is very possible that this is only the calm before the storm.
I have the honor, etc.
No. 2 7
November 5, 1819.
. . . The spring equinox has again brought us its toll of dysentery, liver troubles, and inflammatory fevers. The great hospital in town is filled with patients from the Twentieth Regiment. There is no news of Napoleon's health. From time to time he walks up and down before his door, in hunting costume.
I have the honor, etc.
No. 28
November 26, 1819.
The number of sick, especially among the soldiers of the Twentieth, is increasing every day. The average is twenty per company (of sixty men). It is a kind of grippe, which has come upon us suddenly and affects principally the liver or the abdomen. The Admiral has had all the convalescent men of his squadron taken up to a hilltop, where the fresher air contributes to their complete recovery. Captain de Gors has been dangerously ill. I myself have been suffering for five weeks from my liver.

They say that Bonaparte's health is excellent. He has just converted his dining-room into a chapel. Perhaps he will end by becoming devout.

I have the honor, etc.
No. 29
December 1, 1819.
This morning Count Montholon told Sir Hudson Lowe that Napoleon's health was becoming better every day and that he might decide to ride horseback. For some days he has been amusing himself with gardening and puts his whole suite hard at work - men, women, even old Father Buonavita.

Lord Charles Somerset, Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, is expected at St. Helena toward the end of this month. He is en route to London, on leave.

I have the honor, etc.


1.  Matthew Livingstone, superintendent of the East India Company's medical establishment in St. Helena, was frequently called to attend the Bertrands and the Montholons. He attended the post-mortem examination of Napoleon, and when asked by Lowe whether he observed anything abnormal in the liver, he replied in the negative. Return to paragraph text.

2.  Ricketts was a cousin of the prime minister. The account which he gave of the interview confirms Balmain's impression that it was a masquerade. On this, however, as on other occasions, the good manners of a visitor raised hopes at Longwood which were doomed to disappointment. In a despatch to Lowe Lord Bathurst wrote: "Nothing could have been more fortunate than Mr. Ricketts's visit. He has given the most satisfactory reports concerning the real state of the business, and saw through all the maneuvers which were practised to impose upon him." Return to paragraph text.

3.  0'Meara's name, however, was struck off the list of naval surgeons early in the year 1819, without pension.  Return to paragraph text.

4.  When a surgeon was precisely what was needed. Neither O'Meara nor Antommarchi entertained the slightest suspicion that Napoleon was suffering from cancer. At the post-mortem "no unhealthy appearance was observed in the liver." At that time, of course, very little was known of cancer of the stomach.  Return to paragraph text.

a.  ["Error of date, the Instruction received by me being dated the 28th Sept. 1818." Signed, H. Lowe.] Return to paragraph text.

(If you surfed directly to this page, please go to the Napoleonic Literature Home Page to see the wealth of information that's available on this website.)