I HAVE been accused of having been the satellite¹ of
the Emperor, and of being so still.
If by this charge is understood my having discovered that
the convulsions which shook the world were only the struggles of the principles
of the revolution against those of the aristocracy of Europe; if by this charge
is meant, that I have set no limits to the sense of my duties, I confess myself
to have been the satellite of Napoleon.
If the recollection of former benefits in the time of
calamity; if the refusal to abandon my sovereign after his fall; if endurance
of personal exile for wishing to share his captivity; if fearlessness in having
the hatred of his enemies, who had once been his slaves; if honouring his
memory now that he is no more is to be a satellite, I am proud of the title of
Satellite of Napoleon.
That great man honoured me with his confidence: I was near
his person in the field of battle; I was in the secret councils of his cabinet;
he has given me the highest proofs of consideration, I might almost say of
affection; and could I, or ought I, to have acknowledged all this otherwise
than by unbounded devotion to him? Loaded as I was with his benefits, and
intrusted with his secrets, was it possible for me to assume the office of
censor in the moment of danger, and blame instead of aiding him ? It is
convenient and easy, though not very honourable, to act the part of a censor.
But this is not the office I have selected; and my readers need not therefore
expect to find in these Memoirs long critiques, or grave political
disquisitions; I have endeavoured to write simply as I have acted.
Some persons have endeavoured to calumniate the fine and
noble character of the Emperor; and the reason is plain he has no longer
any gifts to bestow: but if in eulogizing him, they could at the same time
court individuals now in power, how many would gladly compile their
recollections of him, and recover the memories they seem at present to have
The Emperor has been represented as a man greedy of war; and
this notion, which will soon be found to be false, passes for true, even in the
minds of many unprejudiced and thinking persons: I trust that the perusal of
these Memoirs will tend to enlighten them on the subject. Napoleon required
peace above all things: he was the chief of a dynasty which had sprung out of
conquest, and which peace alone could consolidate.
I have endeavoured to represent the Emperor as he was, and
as I knew him to be; but it has been my more especial aim to make known the
motives of his political actions.
I have passed rapidly over the details of battles and other
military operations; not because I thought them destitute of interest, but
because several able officers have already accomplished that task with a talent
and genius worthy of the Illustrious Name, which sheds its lustre over all the
I know not whether an author is obliged to state to the
public his motives for writing : but I have no objection to declare mine.
While the Emperor was a captive at St. Helena, I was a
prisoner at Malta : and on my return to France, I found that many of my
generous friends and public functionaries, guided by the best intentions, had
found it convenient to justify themselves at my expense. Calumny must surely be
a very fine thing in itself; for although people may despise it, they are
always obliged to reply. I thought I could not do this better than by the
publication of my Memoirs.
As soon as I declared this intention, the greatest
uneasiness was manifested: many persons thought themselves compromised; the
alarm spread, and not a few consciences were troubled. Doubtless no one is
better qualified than I am for writing a scandalous chronicle, for I have
forgotten nothing that I have ever known; but the world may be easy on the
subject. I hope my moderation, at least, will be acknowledged; for if I had
made a more extensive use than I have done of the numerous secret documents in
my possession, I could not have been blamed.
Some of my friends have endeavoured to persuade me to leave
the publication of my Memoirs to my children. Though sensible of their good
intentions in giving me this advice, I do not share their opinion; and I
therefore publish them during my lifetime, while I am capable of acknowledging
my errors, if I have committed any, and of replying to any calumnious attacks
which may be made upon me. Besides, it appeared to me that it was more
honourable and courageous to choose a time for publication, when so many
witnesses survive to refute me, if I have not spoken the truth.
I have occupied high stations; I have received distinguished
honours; I have enjoyed an immense fortune. All this one may be content to
resign; but it is not easy to submit to attacks upon the points which every
honest man holds most dear. I flatter myself that the perusal of these Memoirs
will prove, that if I have been honoured with the confidence, and loaded with
the favours of the greatest man in modern times, I have merited them by my
services, and acknowledged them by an honourable devotion to him.
I shall only add one word more. I have not tried to compose
a literary work; and the reader will consequently discover many faults in my
style. But for these I shall not be held responsible; I relate facts, not
elaborate a composition: and my military friends know that my talents for
writing have never been very remarkable. I might have borrowed the assistance
of another and a more practiced pen, and so far the public would have gained;
but its judgment would not in that case have been so rigorously exercised, as
if I had presented myself to my readers as I was, and as I am.
¹ - This word is in the original séide: but as
there is no equivalent term in English, it has been translated by the word
satellite. The French term is borrowed from the name of a character in
Voltaire's tragedy of Mahomet, in which Seid is the enthusiastic and
unhesitating instrument of the plans of hatred and vengeance projected by the
prophet of Mecca.TRANSLATOR.